The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

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January 19, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 3

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 20th Year

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
NARP Action Alert - Stimulus Proposal Shortchanges Trains!
The Times Gets It ‘Right’ Re: Infrastructure
  Political Lines…
Vermont Rail Activists, Businesses Fight State Plan To
   Bustitute Amtrak Service
  The View from Europe…
America At A Transportation And Energy Crossroads
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
State Agency Backs Extension Of PATCO Along Freight Corridor
  Corridor Lines…
$1B Wish List Could Fast-Track Railroad Service
 
  Across the Pond…
Deutsche Bahn And Trade Unions In New Labor Dispute
Eurostar Full-Year Traffic And Ticket Sales Rise To A Record
Electro-Motive (EMD) Receives French Approval
  Editorials…
Don’t Blame Vermont
Godspeed, President Obama
  Commentary: An RSVP
Regrets? No regrets
  Corrections…
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

 

NARP Action Alert:

Tell Congress Stimulus Proposal Shortchanges Trains!

From NARP’s Weekly News Hotline

To NARP Members:

Yesterday, House leaders released an economic recovery bill that falls short of President-Elect Obama’s call for a change to a more fuel efficient, green America. It reduces the funding for rail and transit from Chairman Jim Oberstar’s (D-MN) initial proposal. At this critical moment in our economy, we can’t afford more business as usual.

A “Dear Colleague” letter is being circulated by Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-4), who is one of the many voices demanding that the stimulus go to fund rail and transit projects, to restore balance to America’s transportation infrastructure and create long lasting jobs for the American people.

Please ask your own Senators and Representative to urge their leaders to support higher rail and transit funding levels than what was released yesterday. Also, please ask House members also to sign Rep. Johnson’s “Dear Colleague” letter that recognizes the need to fund trains and public transit.

Facts about the House’s proposed recovery bill:

This bill cuts funding for intercity rail and transit below the Oberstar proposal, which has $17 billion in rail and transit funding, compared to $10.1 billion in the leadership package.

The House package has no transit operating assistance, which is essential to protecting thousands of existing jobs, as well as preventing the fare hikes and service cuts that are already going into effect in commuter and public-transit operations around the country. These cuts and fare hikes hurt vulnerable populations that are already suffering in this economic turmoil. Oberstar would provide $2 billion in this area, save thousands of jobs, and help protect those populations most in need of affordable transportation options.

The bill allocates $800 million to Amtrak directly, and $300 million to State DOTs to invest in intercity passenger rail service. While this is progress, when judged against the enormous backlog of necessary rail repairs, upgrades, and expansions that are ready to go-and when compared to the $30 billion for highway infrastructure investment-we believe it is woefully insufficient.

Please, take a moment to contact your Representative and Senators, and let them know how important appropriate investment in rail and transit is for the future of America’s mobility and environment.

You can contact your House members and Senators through the chambers’ respective websites. Both sites have been updated with membership in the 111th Congress.

Thank you for your efforts!

Ross B. Capon
NARP President

For contact links and additional Information see: http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/main/act/


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The Times Gets It ‘Right’ Re: Infrastructure

By DF Staff

The New York Times got it exactly right [“The Stimulus Debate”, Editorial, Jan. 11], more profoundly than even The Times itself fully understands.

All over America, politicians are dusting off ancient highway projects that have never been funded not because of a lack of funds, but because they were and are bad ideas, like the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska, the brain-dead Route 11 extension project in Connecticut, or the ludicrously re-jiggered and now very misleadingly named “Access to the Region’s Core” Hudson River tunnel which as now proposed will dead-end in stub tracks deep under Manhattan, instead of providing the long-promised through-service between Penn and Grand Central Station, on up to New England. The original ARC would greatly enhance Eastern Seaboard rail capacity. This one does the very opposite. There are many similar examples around America, and every Governor is wincing through that list right now.

Bad projects nevertheless remain on states’ project lists, often prominently, because these earmarks-in-waiting “for the district” have powerful local sponsors, even when basic transportation needs have changed. They are the toxic legacy of 90 years of highway-centric funding mechanisms at the Federal and state levels, so long in place that other more cost-effective and less environmentally damaging modes of ground transportation have been either grossly under-funded or largely abandoned, like city streetcar lines, in America, until – thanks largely to the work of the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan of New York --- some small progress has been made in the most recent decade or so. If streetcars are so obsolete, why are more than 100 American cities trying to rebuild them? Why is Europe/Asia exploding with them?

In the face of a terrible economic challenge, should we really indebt ourselves by a trillion dollars to bury ourselves in billions of tons of concrete, thereby literally casting in stone the sclerotic, outdated, dysfunctional transportation system we have built for our nation?

The Times is right. Before we commit one penny in “stimulus” to the tender mercies of the highway lobby, and the vast dollar-sucking apparatus it has built, or any other physical infrastructure, incoming President Obama needs on an emergency basis to block-grant aid to the states, for governor’s to allocate (with mandatory input from state House and Senate leadership, to help keep things fair), to broken state budgets, especially for human services that are so badly needed in these dark and still darkening days that face us.

Human infrastructure is just as important as concrete infrastructure. The highways? Fix them first, before adding a single mile of new capacity. As for our rail system? Lay tracks, baby, lay tracks. But not via the current ARC tunnel plan.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...

Rally at Rutland January 19

 

Vermont Rail Activists, Businesses Fight
State Plan To Bustitute Amtrak Service

From Internet Sources, the Rutland Herald, and By DF Staff

MONTPELIER --- Opponents of a plan to cut passenger rail service between Rutland and New York City are readying for a heated debate over how to balance the floundering transportation budget, Vermont News Bureau Peter Hirschfeld reported this week in The Rutland Herald.

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas’ Administration, which has been largely pro-rail, has “…sought to eliminate a portion of the 241-mile Amtrak route and replace it with a bus service. The move would save an estimated $1.4 million in the fiscal year 2010 transportation budget, which is reeling in the wake of yet another significant revenue downgrade,” the paper reported.

City officials in Rutland, however, call the train a beacon in an otherwise bleak economic picture and have urged lawmakers to reject the cost-cutting move. Eliminating Amtrak service, they argue, will only compound the state revenue problems Vermont is experiencing so acutely, the paper said.

“This train is a major part of our economy,” said Rep. Steve Howard, a Rutland Democrat. “It is one of the few beacons of hope we have in what is increasingly an empty, boarded-up downtown.”

The administration’s proposal replaces the train route with an Amtrak-operated bus service that would run from Albany to Burlington, with a stop in Rutland.

Robert Ide, program manager for the rail division at the Agency of Transportation, said the plan maintains passenger service, albeit via bus, and noted that the proposal would add stops in Middlebury, Bennington and Manchester, none of which have access to the public transit network. While there is no service via Amtrak, municipal transit services offer intercity buses from Bennington to Burlington on weekdays with transfers in Manchester, Rutland and Middlebury, the paper said.

Tourists and other travelers looking to go from Vermont to New York City would have to disembark the bus in Albany and ride the remainder of the trip on a train, the paper noted.

“What we are trying to do is recognize the budgetary situation we are in,” Ide told lawmakers Wednesday. “We’re trying to find a way whereby we can provide an Amtrak-type service to more communities and find a way to reduce our costs.”

A New York City-to-Burlington train route remains a high priority in the agency’s long-range plans, according to Ide, who said he hopes the federal stimulus package will provide occasion to begin a $30 million track upgrade toward that end.

For now, though, Ide said the budget-trimming measure will solve shorter-term fiscal shortfalls without irreparably cutting services.

Christopher Parker, executive director of the Vermont Rail Action Network, is among a number of rail proponents who worry that reinstating the train service could prove impossible if it’s eliminated now.

“I’m skeptical the train will return because once the train goes, the equipment will be sucked into the Amtrak system and it will be very hard to get it back,” Parker said.

[ Parker is correct: Amtrak, drastically underfunded for all of its 38 year life, and operating largely with equipment that is 30 and 40 years old, is short of equipment everywhere due to soaring demand---the editors ]

Parker also said that bus service will push ridership numbers down at a time when Vermont needs more investment in public transit, not less, the paper reported.

“In general, it’s my experience that if you substitute a bus for a train, 60 percent less people will be riding the bus,” Parker said.

Parker, Howard and other Rutland officials are leading a charge to convince lawmakers to scrap the proposed cut. On Monday, at 4 p.m. at the Rutland train station, Parker is staging a save-the-train rally. He also is organizing a car pool for people to attend a public hearing on the matter at 5 p.m. next Wednesday in Montpelier.

“It’s an economic asset to Vermont,” Parker said. “There are millions and millions of people who would never come to Vermont if there were no trains.”

Rep. Rich Westman, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, said he’ll reserve judgment on the proposal until he hears more testimony. But the plan, he said, offers a creative solution to a stark budget problem.

“I think the proposal shows out-of-the-box thinking,” he said. “I think it’s an interesting proposal, and I feel badly for the people of Rutland who don’t want to see this happen.”

Westman said the plan has its supporters: residents in Bennington and Manchester, he said, are eager to see public transit arrive in their towns. And given the scope of previous budget reductions, Westman said, it will be difficult to find more palatable savings elsewhere in the budget.

“All that’s left for state dollars is this and aid to the towns,” Westman said. “If we cut anywhere else, we lose out on a lot of federal money.”


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THE VIEW FROM EUROPE... The View from Europe...

Love is like . . . Hydrogen ?

 

America At A Transportation And Energy Crossroads

By David Beale, NCI

HANNOVER --- Hydrogen: a very light and very flammable gas, the lightest and most flammable there is in-fact. If you breathe in hydrogen it makes your voice sound rather funny. Continue to breathe hydrogen long enough, you will get a buzz and light headed feeling, due to lack of oxygen, that makes everything seem “ohhh….kaaay”. Until you pass out. Hydrogen is the fuel of the future….at least that is what the mass media and many politicians in 2008 would have us believe.

2008 is a year few will soon forget. This was the year that the world’s largest economic and military power changed its direction from a rather right-wing conservative leader who looked to America’s past of the 1920s, 1950s and 1980s as guidance for the future, to a left-leaning but apparently pragmatic political newcomer who broke several historic barriers to become president elect. This was the year that oil and energy prices sky rocketed to levels not seen since the oil shocks of the 1970s, thereby igniting a heated debate in the USA about energy policy as well as how the number one consumer of crude oil, ground and air transportation, should be handled in the future. Skyrocketing energy prices in 2008 in-turn caused the smoldering sub-prime lending crisis, which started as a slow burn in 2006 and 2007, into a raging fire that inflicted massive damage to the American and world-wide economies in a dramatic collapse which became obvious to all by September. As economic activity and spending plummeted during the fourth quarter of 2008 in most of the western world, oil prices dramatically fell back to values that we have not seen since the late 1990s. At the end of 2008 a massive stimulus spending plan was in the works within the new Obama Administration as well within the new Congress – a spending and investment plan that focuses on transportation infrastructure and alternative energy like no other government program has done since America built the interstate highway system during the 1950s and 60s and 70s.

Drill, Baby, Drill

The energy debate and discussion which ensued in mid-2008 after gasoline prices in the USA headed for $4.00 / gallon produced some rather interesting, if not stupefying, statements. Perhaps the most well known is “drill baby drill”, in reference to the idea that all the USA needed to do in order to solve its latest energy crisis was drill for oil in a number of environmentally sensitive areas such as Alaska and the Atlantic sea coast. Those shouting “drill baby drill” apparently cared little about the deepening crisis of carbon dioxide related global warming nor the ever increasing reliance on automobiles and the directly related problems of traffic jams, suburban sprawl, and spiraling costs of devoting evermore real estate, local resources and public space to automobiles and trucks.

The brief energy crisis of 2008 also produced, once again, lofty predictions and proposals for a “hydrogen” economy, in reference to automobiles and busses fueled by clean hydrogen, which emit water vapor and slight amounts of oxides of nitrogen, the later being relatively easy to control with existing catalytic converter technology. CO2 problem solved. Foreign oil imports solved. Drilling for oil in environmentally critical regions no longer necessary. The gee-whiz stories in the mass media about hydrogen fuel multiplied. Relatively few if any of these amazing hydrogen-fuel-of-tomorrow stories in the mass news media paid much attention to or discussed the very real risks, costs and down sides to converting the nation’s automobile and bus fleets to fancy high-tech hydrogen power. The popular news media has fallen in love with hydrogen.

It’s a Gas

The one minor detail left out of much of the media and political hype about hydrogen was that there is no naturally occurring hydrogen to be found in the world. Zero. Nichts. None. Nada. We have to make it. And how do we make hydrogen? Basically there are two widely used methods. One involves converting natural gas (methane) into hydrogen by removing the carbon from the gas compound in a refinery process. The other method involves breaking water into hydrogen and oxygen either with electricity (and lots of it) or with newly developed photosynthesis processes using specially designed solar collectors and photo-chemical reaction. This latter technology is certainly very promising, but it is a very early to call the battle to produce cheap, renewable hydrogen in mass quantities won.

The value or merit of producing hydrogen out of natural gas is very questionable. Natural gas or methane is already a very practical and usable fuel, which can be stored and transported without too much difficulty (unlike hydrogen gas). Millions of homes, schools and countless government and commercial buildings are already heated with natural gas (methane) all over the world. Millions of megawatts of electricity are generated around the world in power plants with reciprocating engine, gas turbine or steam turbine powered generators fueled with natural gas. And the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) in ground transportation is slowly but steadily growing, mostly in the form of busses and train locomotives fueled with CNG. The use of CNG in private automobiles and light commercial vehicles is, on the other hand, quite rare, despite the fact that technology for this has existed for nearly two decades – something that speaks volumes to how quickly hydrogen gas powered vehicles would really be accepted in the medium and long term future.

Methane / natural gas burns very cleanly and the amount of CO2 produced as exhaust is relatively low compared to other fossil fuels such as oil (bad) and coal (the worst). Some methane is actually made from renewable sources, most often collected as a byproduct from rotting garbage and vegetation in a number of cities, however the amount of methane, which does not come from traditional fossil fuel sources remains rather low, less than 10% of the world’s natural gas consumption. Perhaps the most promising development in the works is a process to make ‘green’ or bio-methane / natural gas is from atmospheric CO2 and solar energy via algae or other plants and water, with oxygen as the other main byproduct.

Plug it in

Where does all of this fit in with energy used for transportation? Most likely it means that ground-based transportation will increasingly depend on electricity for its primary power source – electrical energy which is either produced directly from solar, wind, nuclear and hydroelectric dam power, or indirectly produced by generating plants fueled with natural gas from fossil-fuel sources (wells) or from renewable sources such as bio-methane and bio-diesel. An electric motor, which can receive its power from any number of sources, will gradually replace the traditional reciprocating engine and its companion manual or automatic transmission as the means of driving the wheels of busses, trains, and even automobiles.

As I have written previously, rail transit can be (and is) powered with electricity very easily. The technology is now more than a century-old, and benefits from a century’s worth of research and development. High-speed trains around the world are almost exclusively powered with overhead electrification due to the superior efficiency and power to weight ratio of electric trains compared with their combustion engine counterparts such as diesel locomotives and DMUs. Likewise urban rail transit is almost universally powered via electrification, and has been for generations.

ET-424 train set in Haste, Germany in May 2005.

Photo: David Beale, NCI

No Batteries Required – nearly all new EMUs offered on the market since the mid 1990s, such as this ET-424 train set in Haste in May 2005, offer energy recovering regenerative braking, as in hybrid vehicles, but without heavy, expensive and toxic storage batteries, which hybrid vehicles require.

Turbo or Piston Power ?

Bombardier’s “JetTrain” notwithstanding, a half a century of railroad industry experience (both in Europe and North America) with turbine powered trains, which do offer vastly superior power-to-weight and power-to-volume ratios than diesels, has produced the result that the high acquisition cost and maintenance costs of gas turbine engines in railroad operation are simply inferior to electrification. If this were not the case, then we would have seen gas-turbine powered TGV and ICE trains blasting across France and Germany, both of which have tried gas turbine powered high speed trains extensively during the late 1950s, 1960s and early 70s. Another significant issue is the rather high fuel consumption of small gas turbine engines in the 1000 – 5000 HP-range useful for DMUs or locomotives. Although newer turbine engine models developed in the past two decades have far better fuel efficiency than the fuel guzzling helicopter engine and turbo-prop derived gas turbines utilized in the TurboTrain, TEE and Turboliner train-sets of the 1960s and 70s, newer diesel engine models in this power range have also made major improvements in fuel efficiency over the past three decades. Thus the fuel efficiency gap between gas turbine engines in this power range, and the equivalent diesel or electric power sources, is as big as ever. Almost fifty years of experimenting with gas turbines in locomotives and high-speed train sets have made the point that gas turbines are better left to aviation and the stationary electrical power generating industries.

As the use of turbine engines has faded away from rail transit, the use of electric propulsion has expanded dramatically. Today nearly all electrically powered rail vehicles on the market offer regenerative braking, which returns a significant amount of energy back to the electric grid, otherwise lost as heat in conventional vehicle brakes. As most green sources of energy, namely wind and solar power, come if the form as electricity, rail vehicles can use this form of energy directly without the use of hydrogen generation and storage, battery packs, etc. The actual hardware and technology of supplying electrical power to rail vehicles is mature and readily available from numerous suppliers and is more or less “off the shelf”.

Diesel engines are of course still a big part of rail transit and will continue to be in the future. New DMU models in use here in Europe since the late 1990s offer significant fuel efficiency improvements over busses and huge improvements compared to private automobiles, and relatively little modification is required to power modern DMUs with CNG or bio-diesel fuel produced from renewable resources. In-fact some DMUs in certain areas are already running with bio-diesel fuel, while in other areas, CNG-fueled locomotives are used to efficiently haul passenger trains. These state of the art passenger rail vehicles are a quantum improvement over the famous Budd RDC DMUs of the 1950s / 60s and early DMU train-sets common in some parts of Europe and the U.K. during the 1960s and 70s.

As NCI’s Jim RePass has reported, newly developed DMU / EMU dual mode train sets are now in use in several parts of Europe, thus offering the best of both vehicle types in one rail vehicle. The rail car manufacturers are not resting with their current DMU train-set offerings, they are developing and testing hybrid DMUs, which like their automotive and city bus counterparts, store energy recovered from regenerative braking, which is then recycled minutes later to assist the train in acceleration, thus significantly reducing fuel consumption.

Alstom Coradia LINT diesel multiple unit train set

Photo: David Beale, NCI

Diesel Train of the Future – a relatively new Alstom Coradia LINT diesel multiple unit train set operating with Deutsche Bahn subsidiary DB Regio makes a stop in Bad Harzburg in June 2008.

Where the rubber meets the road

Rubber-tired vehicles are a somewhat different story. Electric busses (sometimes called trackless trolleys) powered directly from the electrical grid (examples of which can be found in San Francisco, Seattle, Dayton OH, and Vancouver BC, among other cities) are relatively rare in western Europe and North America and have little or no cost advantage over conventional light rail transit except perhaps in areas with extreme uphill and downhill gradients. The future of “trackless trolleys” looks foggy at best.

Hybrid busses, either diesel or CNG powered, are in service in many areas, including here in Hannover. But these are very complex and sophisticated vehicles, which have a correspondingly high price tag as well as a demanding maintenance schedule. They are equipped with heavy and expensive battery packs, which need periodic replacement and are filled with toxic and hazardous materials. Nevertheless, the use of hybrid power busses looks to increase substantially over the next ten years in North America, Europe, Asia and elsewhere.

Electrically powered private cars and light trucks will take the form of pure battery-powered automobiles (like the General Motors EV-1 or the proposed Chevrolet Volt), or perhaps hydrogen powered automobiles, as hydrogen can typically be produced only with electricity. Hybrid private automobiles and SUVs are now on the market since a few years, but also come with some drawbacks such as a high price tag and potentially dangerous battery systems. Hybrid automobiles on the market today are nearly all gasoline powered, with the hybrid features of electric drive, regenerative braking and storage battery increasing mileage or fuel economy by perhaps 25 – 35% over the same vehicle without hybrid drive. An improvement to be sure, but not a step change that may be needed in the future.

CNG powered hybrid bus, Germany

Photo by GVH (Greater Hannover Transit Authority).

Natural Gas Hybrid Power – Hannover bus and light rail operator üstra / GVH has leased several CNG powered hybrid power Urbino 18 ™ busses from Solaris in Poland for evaluation on Bus Route 124 in the city center.

Purely battery powered vehicles are in the works, but as the rather famous Tesla roadster and GM’s EV1 have shown, there is a whole lot of very expensive and risk intensive work to be done on electric cars before the public can either afford or be convinced to buy such vehicles. There is also the issue of generating capacity in many cities and regions, if in a short period of time, several thousand or more battery powered cars drawing a few kilowatts per each car, are plugged into the grid for recharging. And the ever-present problem of urban blight, highway grid-lock and suburban sprawl that automobiles bring, will not at all be solved just because the 16 valve DOHC fuel injected piston engine is replaced with lithium-ion battery or hydrogen fuel cell powered electric motor.

More Roads or More Freedom?

Now that the American economy is in a major crisis and nearly everyone agrees that a huge stimulus package is needed, where do we go now? Do we shut our eyes and place all our bets on hydrogen powered and battery powered cars that jet-setting Detroit bigwigs tell us is their and our salvation? In the past two weeks we have seen the USA’s only home grown passenger rail car builder, Colorado Rail Car, go bust, gone perhaps forever, while GM and Chrysler began receiving their first of many billions of taxpayer dollars to shore up their failing businesses. The end of Colorado Rail Car leaves passenger rail car manufacturing in the USA entirely to the rail industry’s equivalent of car company “transplants” – the automobile assembly plants in Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and elsewhere owned by Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, Nissan and BMW. For the short and medium term, the USA will have no alternative to passenger rail vehicles manufactured overseas or assembled in the USA by foreign manufacturers such as Bombardier, Siemens, Skoda, Kawasaki and Rotem – no bailout dollars for Colorado Rail Car.

Do we want to just trust Detroit yet again to do what is in the best interest of American taxpayers? Or do we use this crisis as opportunity to take a new course? Do we want to spend $800 billion to $ 1 trillion building even more highways, roads, parking lots and shopping malls even though the USA currently as whole does not adequately maintain and repair the most elaborate, complex and extensive road and highway network in the world? Do we want to give away billions to the Big Three so that they can continue to promote the car culture, albeit with perhaps hydrogen or battery power?

Or do we want to spend this money more wisely than we have spent our tax dollars in the past? Is it time that we look at providing another degree in transportation freedom to our communities, to our sons and daughters, a means of transportation that does not require the purchase of a vehicle costing many thousands of dollars and thousands more in recurring costs such as insurance, fuel and registration fees? Let us all decide to pop the hydrogen bubble, and instead look at the basics: fix and repair what we already have and invested in, fix our crumbling roads, interstate highways and bridges, and invest in expanding alternative transportation, especially new and expanded rail transit, which is renewable-energy capable right now, and will offer all of us additional degree in transportation freedom without heavy use of mass media hyped gee-whiz gimmicks and untested technology. Hydrogen will certainly play an important role in expanding use of renewable energy, but we need to look at it objectively and rationally and not let it distract us from the critically important task of reforming the transportation system. Let the hydrogen honeymoon end, and soon.

[ We think our European editor has a realistic view of hydrogen --- although cross your fingers, who knows? --- What’s your view?---the Publisher ]


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)63.6674.58
Canadian National (CNI)34.3538.74
Canadian Pacific (CP)31.1435.40
CSX (CSX)29.8334.52
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.8028.41
Kansas City Southern (KSU)17.7921.38
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.8146.55
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.1013.07
Union Pacific (UNP)40.4248.12


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...

State Agency Backs Extension
Of PATCO Along Freight Corridor

From Phillynews.com

CAMDEN --- Philadelphia Inquirer Paul Nussbaum reports that “…if PATCO extends its commuter rail service deeper into South Jersey, the best route would be from Camden to Glassboro, along an existing freight rail corridor, a state planning agency says.”

“The Office of Smart Growth, in a non-binding draft recommendation, suggested that route as the one that would do the most to reduce congestion, serve existing communities and limit suburban sprawl,” wrote Nussbaum.

The route would serve Glassboro, Pitman, Mantua, Wenonah, Woodbury, Deptford, West Deptford, Westville, Bellmawr, Brooklawn and Gloucester City, the paper reported

“The Delaware River Port Authority, PATCO’s parent, proposes to extend rail service as far south as Glassboro or Williamstown. Five alternatives, along three different corridors, are under consideration, with price tags of $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion. Federal funding, if approved, could pay half the cost,” the paper said.

The DRPA probably will select a proposed route by the end of March, the paper quoted chief executive officer John Matheussen as saying. The agency would then apply to the Federal Transit Administration for financing, a decision that could take two to three years, the paper reported.

“So it could be nearly a decade before PATCO trains are running into Gloucester County,” reported Nussbaum.

For the complete story see: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/37293399.html, and/or contact Inquirer staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.


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CORRIDOR LINES... Corridor Lines...

$1B Wish List Could Fast-Track Railroad Service

From RRSTAR.COM, By Editor Chuck Sweeny

CHICAGO-DUBUQUE --- On the “kitchen sink list” of $1 billion in projects local leaders in Winnebago and Boone counties sent to federal and state leaders for consideration in President-elect Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan, the first item is a much-ballyhooed pitch for passenger rail service between Chicago, Belvidere, Rockford, Freeport, Galena and Dubuque, Iowa.

Yes, we’ve been down this railroad before, and whenever we write the story, our fearless leaders tell us that the trains are five, seven or 10 years away. But don’t stop reading. I’m cautiously optimistic that the plan sent to the feds is a ready-to-go project that can bring green, mass transportation to northwest Illinois in two years.

As readers of this column know, there’s been a running controversy about potential passenger rail routes through the area. The route chosen by area planners and government honchos to send to Obama & Co. costs $247 million, of which they’ve requested an initial $111 million for Phase I from Uncle Barack. Phase II adds $70 million, and the rest of the money will probably come from local and state matches.

The project would upgrade the Union Pacific tracks from Metra’s Big Timber station on Elgin’s west side, through Belvidere and into Rockford. The trains would switch to the Canadian National near Mulford Road on a new spur line and go on through the city to Dubuque. This line could be used both for commuter trains and for Amtrak intercity trains, the planners say.

“It only makes sense to invest in a corridor where both commuter and intercity can co-locate. It doesn’t make sense to do anything else,” said Steve Ernst, who heads the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

“What we’re saying is to upgrade the infrastructure over the next two years, begin Amtrak service, and then bring commuter service on the route,” he said.

A cheaper line, and one I’ve advocated in the past, would be the old “Black Hawk” Amtrak route on the Canadian National from Chicago through Elmhurst, Genoa and into Rockford, and west on the CN. In 2007, the Illinois Department of Transportation picked the CN line as its priority for restoring Amtrak service to northwest Illinois.

But Ernst believes the UP line serves the region better in the long run because it runs through more populated areas than the CN line. Congestion in Chicago would be a problem on the CN because trains have to enter and leave Chicago’s Union Station from its busy southern tracks, Ernst said. The CN’s pending purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad is expected to add up to two dozen daily freight trains to the CN around Chicagoland. The proposed UP route would use the station’s northern tracks, which are not congested, Ernst said.

“We have been told by the railroad folks that a project of this scope can be done in a two-year construction timetable,” Ernst said.

The dozens of other things in the project list provide interesting, and in some cases humorous, reading. Yes, $501 million worth of road work is included. But did you know we’re requesting $40,000 for a “new pole barn with three doors” in Durand? Or how about $8.3 million to expand Village Hall in Kenny Chesney Park? One I like is Harlem School District’s request for $200,000 to “connect current school buildings to fiber-optic ring.” That’s progressive thinking.

Reach Senior Editor Chuck Sweeny at 815-987-1366 or csweeny@rrstar.com.; Copyright © 2009 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some Rights Reserved; Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license, except where noted.


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ACROSS THE POND... Across the Pond...

Installments from NCI Foreign Editor
Davie Beale

 

Deutsche Bahn And Trade Unions In New Labor Dispute

One Year After Historic Strikes Of 2008 More Threats Of Strikes

Berlin – According to reports in the German news media including NDR Radio and RTL Television News, two key German railway labor unions are again threatening a new round of warning strikes after reaching an impasse with Deutsche Bahn – German Railways – over future wage increases. GDL, which represents train drivers, and Transnet, which represents a number of professions within the rail company including conductors, customer service agents, logistics personnel, maintenance staff and others, are at the center of the latest dispute.

Both unions have assumed a position of demanding 11% pay increase for their members, which senior management at DBAG subsequently and categorically rejected. DBAG has already attributed recent fare increases and higher freight charges to increased labor costs resulting out of last year’s labor dispute with GDL, which staged a number of crippling strikes during early and mid 2008.

Both Transnet and GDL issued statements that they are developing new plans to stage warning strikes in early 2009, which typically last 6 – 8 hours and can cause major operational disruptions to the rail system. Deutsche Bahn management said the company has been squeezed by out-of-proportion increases in charges for electricity, the primary source of power for its trains, as well as diesel fuel price hikes, higher labor costs from last year’s labor agreements, and weakening demand for freight transportation plus unrelenting competition from low cost airlines for intercity passengers.


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Eurostar Full-Year Traffic And Ticket Sales Rise To A Record

Source: Aviation Industry Daily News

Eurostar, the channel tunnel train operator, has said that more travelers than ever are using the new high-speed train link from London's St Pancras International to continental Europe. Eurostar, which runs passenger trains between the UK and mainland Europe, said ticket revenue rose 11 per cent to GBP 664 million (US $978 million) in 2008. Passenger numbers jumped 10 per cent from a year earlier to 9.1 million. This news puts further pressure on London/Paris/Brussels routes as competition mounts between rail and air. In November 2007 the new high speed rail link between London St. Pancras Station and the Channel Tunnel in Folkerstone became fully operational. The new rail corridor, now called High Speed One, was built to current French high-speed railway specifications in-place for the TGV, thus cutting travel time between the English coastline to London dramatically.


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Electro-Motive (EMD) Receives French Approval

Source: Lok Report

Paris – French state rail network operator RFF stated in a press release from the 14th of January, that EMD received approval for its “Class 66” diesel locomotive from the French public safety authority EPSF on the 31st of December 2008, thus allowing the locomotive type, otherwise know by its official EMD model number of JT42CWRM-100, to operate unrestricted within France. The “Class 66” name actually originated in Britain, which bestowed the Class 66 name to the locomotive series, when it began operations in the U.K.

EMD is based in Chicago, IL USA. The “Class 66” locomotives which will go into operation in France are assembled in Ontario, Canada with major components and parts manufactured in both the USA and Canada. Hundreds of units of this locomotive type are already in commercial operation in Germany, Holland, Denmark, Poland and Belgium, plus in the U.K, where Class 66 locomotives first started operations.


Photo: David Beale, NCI

Class 66 at InnoTrans 2008 in Berlin. EMD is close to rolling out a major update of this locomotive type for the continental European market, which will have a radically different appearance to the rather awkward look of the current model. Note the buffers and hook and chain-type car coupling used in continental Europe and the U.K, verses automatic couplers used in North America, Russia, China and elsewhere.


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EDITORIALS... Editorials...

Don’t Blame Vermont

The on-going debate in Vermont over whether, and/or how much, to cut rail service in the state presents a temptation to all rail advocates to lambaste the usual suspects, which in America has generally included any and all state Departments of Transportation, which are usually Highway Departments with a different name.

In Vermont, however, we need to temper that urge with a dose of reality: the Green Mountain State has had a series of good, pro-rail governors, from both parties, and is struggling like all states to balance its budget in this time of starkly dwindling resources.

We agree with Vermont’s rail activists and business community that curtailing Ethan Allen rail service would be disastrous for the state, in both the short and long run. We are entering one of the worst economic depressions of the last 100 years, and people are going to be more dependent on public transportation systems like Amtrak, not less, especially as gasoline prices continue to wildly fluctuate as they will during this period of peak oil-production collapse. Vermont is dependent on tourism for a big chunk of its revenues, and cutting Amtrak service is not so far from cutting its own wrists.

However, given the character and leadership of Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, and the broad support he has in the state (in a very liberal state, this GOP incumbent got 55% of the vote while Republicans elsewhere were being annihilated), it might be better if activists and the Governor could pull together to seek support from Washington for transportation infrastructure, as other states are doing. We at the National Corridors Initiative have known Jim Douglas since he was state treasurer in 1994, and while we don’t take political-party sides, Jim is about as decent and fair-minded a man as one could hope for in public life, and is deeply intelligent.

Vermont needs the Ethan Allen --- indeed, it needs more than that service --- and Vermonters are among the brainiest and most resourceful Americans. The fact that there is no permanent capital source or operating funds pool to support the Ethan Allen train service is symptomatic not of any failure by Vermont, but of the failure of the highway-lobby-dominated Federal government to develop anything but highway funding sources for the past two generations, and more.

Let’s help Vermont, sand the other states facing public transportation crises, by supporting a serious Federal stimulus program, coupled with smart management, that can help Vermont --- and this country --- rise to the occasion.


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Godspeed, President Obama

What can we say, that hasn’t already been said? But of course, to anyone with any sense of history, it is impossible to stay silent, even if over-awed.

January 20’s inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama both is what it is, and is more than what it is.

It is of course the inauguration of a President, America’s 44th since our foundation in 1776, but it is more than that.

It is an inauguration held at the start of the worst economic decline since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, but it is also more than that.

It is the inauguration of a President who will not only talk about building America, but will actually organize the work, and assemble the resources, to make that happen --- but still, it is more than that.

It is the inauguration of a man who will once again consult with our allies on major international issues, not just inform them of our actions after the fact, but it is more than that.

It is famously the inauguration of the first African-American to lead this country, an astonishing event even to us, let alone to a world agape, but it, yes, is even more than that.

The election and inauguration of Barack Obama as President is most of all proof that 233 years after Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress first proclaimed our independence, America still has the capacity, and the will, to re-invent itself.

That unique American ability to organize ourselves and start afresh, first noted by the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville when he visited our new nation in the 1820’s, is what more than any thing else separates us from other countries. Sometimes that fresh start has come about by dint of a Civil War; sometimes by radical yet elective change in the choice of governing parties, as in 1932, but change we have, and in fundamental ways, such as the abolition of slavery, or the creation of the social security system.

To begin anew to right the wrongs of the past, to forge ahead to a future where freedom and justice not only endure, but triumph, is a daunting task. We are all human beings, and are therefore flawed, but in 2009 there is a dauntless young man at our helm, and we are a dauntless people. We must all, all, rise to the occasion.

Godspeed, President Obama. Godspeed.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary: An RSVP...

Regrets? No regrets

 

Dear First Lady:

Thank you very much for your invitation.

Although I regret very much that I am unable to accept your kind invitation to attend the inauguration of your husband, Barack Obama, as President of the United States. Certainly, I wanted to be present. I know many thousands of people received that invitation, and many will attend. I wish I could be one of them.

I can not come, because I am engaged in a series of meetings in Louisiana with public officials, university leaders, and private individuals, on developing a strategy for jump starting the construction of transportation infrastructure projects of my beloved Louisiana, and New Orleans, the city of my birth, which along with the rest of the Gulf South has been so devastated by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and others these past few years.

I have been engaged in this work for more than six months, at the request of Louisiana’s Secretary of Transportation, Dr. William Ankner, who like our brilliant young Governor Bobby Jindal understands the need for speed, combined with innovative thinking, not only in rebuilding what we have lost, but in ensuring against future calamities --- to the extent humanly possible --- in a world whose weather is increasingly volatile.

I must confess, I was tempted to cancel my meetings Inauguration Day and head to Washington, and I even found a seat on the last Amtrak train out of New Orleans, the Crescent, that would make it to DC in time for the swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps, themselves nearly visible from Union Station’s front door. As I was debating with myself my desire to be present on the historic day, vs. my duty to my cause, the seat vanished from the screen on my computer. When I refreshed the screen seconds later, the words “sold out” appeared, helping me significantly with my decision…

And so, instead of being somewhere on the Mall for the Inaugural, I will on Tuesday be in meetings at the University Transportation Center, and Department of Public Affairs, at the University of New Orleans, who like my native city, is in the tough but stirring midst of bootstrapping itself back to life, and like New Orleans and all of Louisiana, despite the odds, is beginning to do so.

I wish I could be in Washington. But on the other hand, I am where I am needed. So, in truth, no regrets. But God Bless you and your family, and God Bless America. After all, your husband and I will have something in common on Inauguration Day. We will both be at work.


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CORRECTIONS... Corrections...

Last week’s edition of Destination: Freedom attributed a number of statements to Mr. Diridon, which are not factually accurate and are erroneous:

The present high speed rail network in China, either in operation, under construction or in planning is 7000 km (3780 miles) in total length. There are a number of other corridors and routes in China under consideration for high-speed rail, the total length of these conceptual or proposed routes is approximately 12,000 km.

The French state railroad, SNCF, did in-fact achieve a one-time record speed of 357 mph during a record-setting attempt under specialized test conditions and with a shortened and highly modified version of the TGV POS train set used for France – Germany operations. However France is not actively working on production series trains which will operate at this speed in every day conditions. France’s SNCF is planning to introduce some TGV trains into daily 360 km/h (225 mph) services, where track and route configurations permit. After a few years of 360 km/h operation and experience, SNCF would like to boost speeds in some areas of the network to 400 km/h (250 mph). SNCF has made no statements so far that they intend to operate beyond 400 km/h speeds in normal revenue services anytime in the foreseeable future.

Germany has built mag-lev trains for both domestic use on a test track in northwest Germay as well as for a high speed mag-lev train route in China between the city of Shanghai and Shanghai Pudong Airport. Germany has not built any mag-lev trains for Japan, the mag-lev trains in test operation in Japan are in-fact Japanese designed and built. The mag-lev train route in Shanghai is currently the one and only high-speed mag-lev train system in commercial operation.

The staff of NCI regrets these errors.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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