Vol. 8 No. 12
March 19, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American rail and transit update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKay
European Correspondent - David Beale
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

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

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

  This week…
Rail’s future being determined as technologies begin to merge
Bulletin from Train Riders Association of California:
    Major infrastructure break in Northern California rail network
US public transport usage hits fifty-year high
  Commuter lines…
From Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports: Maine State Senator proposes
   $40 million bond issue to bring Amtrak service to Brunswick, Freeport
  Safety lines…
CSX wreck lights up Oneida sky; Schumer calls for rail safety probe
  Selected rail stocks…
  Business lines…
Anne Hoey Witt returns as Amtrak Vice President of
    Strategic Partnerships and Business Development
eTicketing expected to bolster customer service
Internet sales channel passes milestone. Further enhancements
    in the works
  Across the pond…
News media focus on carbon emissions targets air and
    highway transportation
France celebrates completion of LGV Est high speed rail corridor
    from Paris to German border
  We get letters…
  End notes…


NEWS OF THE WEEK... This week’s feature...

Rail’s future being determined
as technologies begin to merge

By Jim RePass

CAMBRIDGE ---You may not have heard about “Hydrail”. But soon, you will.

“Hydrail” is a neologism for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Rail, as in a Fuel Cell Locomotive, and the race to be the first nation to introduce commercial passenger service using this new technology is on, with France and Japan both pushing for deployment of real-world passenger rail use of fuel-cell technology in 2007.

Nuvera Fuel Cell

Photo courtesy Nuver   

Nuvera Fuel Cell similar to that which powered test locomotives.
How far along is this technology? The industry has already spawned two international conferences, the first in Charlotte, NC in 2005 driven by American engineer Stan Thompson, and a second in Denmark in 2006.

General registration opened this week for the Third International Hydrail Conference at the Centro Congressi Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo, Italy on June 25-26, 2007. This annual conference is the only one of its kind dedicated solely to the advancement of hydrogen railway (hydrail) technology. This year’s conference is being sponsored by Nuvera Fuel Cells of Cambridge, MA (for more information visit www.Nuvera.com.)

As many readers know, fuel cells were first developed for use in the space program, powering Gemini 5 in 1965 (the third manned Gemini mission) and all subsequent manned missions to the present day, permitting an immediate doubling of mission length from the previous maximums imposed by battery technology.

Over the past 40 years hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in research money has been spent trying to commercialize the technology, first in stationary applications and then in buses; the deployment has been slow, but steady, around the world.

The advent of microprocessor based controls and the development of new materials has brought the technology to the point that many rail systems are at least investigating the technology, if not building actual prototypes for testing, including BNSF and UP.

A current project by Vehicle Projects, LLC, and supported by the US Department of Energy, Department of Defense, the Government of Japan, and the National Automotive Center, involves retrofitting a diesel yard switcher locomotive with fuel cells. The DoD is interested in locomotives that could also serve as power providers during an emergency.

Spectrum, the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, reported that Vehicle Projects “…is also playing a role in the race to build the first commuter fuel-cell locomotive. It has supplied a 150-kW fuel-cell power plant, consisting of eight fuel-cell stacks and ancillary equipment like a water pump and an air compressor, to Tokyo’s Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI). The institute is battling Japan Rail East for the honor of running the first fuel-cell locomotive on a passenger line. The winner is likely to come forward in the next year or two.”

The Tokyo Railway Technical Research Institute said: “A feasibility study showed that railway vehicles driven by fuel cells can reduce energy consumption by at least half compared to current diesel cars, while CO2 emissions can be reduced by approximately 30%, including the effects of idling stops and reuse of braking energy.”

“To investigate the basic characteristics of fuel cells, a 30kW-class fuel cell system prototype was built, and its output characteristics were checked in a stationary power generation test using pure hydrogen and air (Fig.1). A driving test was also performed using the above fuel cell system as a power supply after setting up an electric train bogie (equivalent to that used for an actual electric commuter train) on a vehicle test bench (Fig.2)…In the future, the applicability of fuel cells will further be investigated by running actual vehicles with larger-capacity fuel cell systems.”

Other sources state the France is also trying to be the first in Fuel Cell Locomotion.

Power vs. Voltage chart

Output characteristics of 30kW-class fuel cells

Trucks

Two Images courtesy of Japan’s Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI)

The Spectrum also said: “RTRI is planning a two-car locomotive — one carrying electric motors, a transformer, and a battery charged by regenerative braking, and the other holding fuel-cell stacks and a hydrogen storage cylinder. The train’s top speed will be 120 kilometers per hour, and it will travel 300 to 400 km before its hydrogen needs replenishing. Officials say they hope to have the train ready by 2010, and a prototype, with one-fourth the propulsion power of the proposed final version, is already being tested.”

“Japan Rail East says a hybrid locomotive that it is designing will get about one-third of its propulsion power from two 65-kW electric motors driven by onboard fuel cells and the rest from a diesel engine. It will start traversing the mountainous Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures west of Tokyo by the summer of 2007,” wrote Spectrum reporter Willie Jones.


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Bulletin from Train Riders Association of California

 

Major infrastructure break in
Northern California rail network

trestle fire in CA

Photo: CBS  

Firefighters battled an enormous railroad trestle fire Thursday that sent a dramatic wall of thick, black smoke thousands of feet into the air above the state capital.
Alan C. Miller, Executive Director of the Train Riders Association of California (TRAC), reports the following:

There has been a major infrastructure break in the northern California rail network. Last Thursday, March 15, a huge fire consumed a 1/4-mile trestle section of the American River Bridge NE of Sacramento just north of Elvas Junction. The Auburn portion of the Capitol Corridor line as well as the California Zephyr line is severed. The rest of the Capitol Corridor is intact as is the Sacramento San Joaquin line. Major delays may be expected on the Starlight line as freight detours through Marysville could lead to congestion on the single track lines Roseville-Marysville-Sacramento. A UP track worker speculated the line could be out for weeks if not months.

Train #5 was approaching the bridge when the crew saw the smoke and stopped. The eastbound Auburn Capitol had just crossed the bridge. Train #5 was backed to Roseville and loaded onto four buses to Sacramento. The last Capitol West Bound, the 9:10 p.m. departure, was held a little over an hour to wait for the passengers off the busses. The Auburn Capitol set made it to Auburn on time, but is on the wrong side of the bridge. The set was apparently to detour up to Marysville and back into Sacramento to be part of the fleet while the bridge is rebuilt, with buses substituting for the duration Sacramento-Auburn.

Official TRAC Website: http://www.trainriders.org/


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US public transport usage
hits fifty-year high

From Railway Age

MARCH 16 -- The number of passengers using public transport in the United States has topped 10 billion for the first time in 49 years, according to the latest figures from the American Public Transportation Association (Apta). Apta says public transport use rose by 30% between 1995 and 2006, more than double the rate of population growth (12%) and greater than the increase in car journeys, which rose 24% in the same period.

Light rail witnessed the highest percentage increase of all modes in 2006, with passenger numbers increasing 5.6%. The highest increases occurred in San Jose (36.6%), Minneapolis (18.4%), and New Jersey (20.1%).

Passenger numbers on the country’s metro networks also saw healthy growth, with an increase of 4.1% nationally. Los Angeles saw a 10.8% rise in passenger numbers, New Jersey had a 10.1% increase, and Atlanta carried 6.3% more passengers than in 2005.

Commuter rail posted the third largest increase at 3.2%. The largest increases were recorded in the Miami (21.3%) and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (18.9%) areas.


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COMMUTERLINES...  Commuter lines...

From Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports

 

Maine State Senator proposes $40 million bond issue
to bring Amtrak service to Brunswick, Freeport

FREEPORT--- Maine State Senator Beth Edmonds (Freeport) has proposed a $40 million bond issue to fund extension of Amtrak’s DownEaster service to Brunswick, ME.

In a process conference here, the Senator proposed that Maine’s Department of Transportation (MDOT) would use $1 million for capital improvements to the Lewiston Lower Road, and $39 million for capital improvements to the Springfield Terminal (ST) rail line from Portland.

Edmonds said she had conferred with Governor John Baldacci about her bill; she and he are “going in the same direction” but she did not know how much the governor would propose in his bond bill, due the following week.

Comments about freight

Asked whether state funding to upgrade track might be coupled with an agreement by ST to provide service to Grimmell’s scrap yard in Topsham or Knight-Celotex in Lisbon Falls, or better service for Dragon, Edmonds characterized the bill as “step one in a set of steps” leading toward that goal. Gordon Page of Maine Eastern RR (MERR) said the bond issue would “open more doors” so that freight could improve.

Page also told the press conference that Maine Eastern had hired a freight specialist in 2006, “and that is bearing fruit.”

Questions about dollars proposed

Asked why she is seeking $39 million when Maine’s Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) reports it needs only $31.5 million, Edmonds said that by the time the work started, possibly in 2009, costs may well have risen.

Officials from Edmonds’ office said $1 million for Lewiston Lower would go to MDOT, for use as it sees fit. Your editor and others exhorted them to list the money for the Lower Road to Augusta, where it would garner more votes.

However, MERR General Manager Jonathan Shute said despite the dollars devoted by MDOT to the Lewiston Lower, once freight started running it would need further upgrading. {ANR&P interviews and coverage}

NNEPRA study of two routes

In 2006, NNEPRA conducted a study of the two possible routes for the Downeaster. It held extensive discussions with representatives from MaineDOT, Pan Am Railways, Amtrak, St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, and the Federal Transit Administration; stakeholder groups including but not limited to: TrainRiders Northeast, Maine Tourism Association, GPCOG; and station community representatives from Lewiston, Auburn, Freeport, Brunswick, Yarmouth, Falmouth and Portland.

The report of December 2006, examines costs, timelines, benefits and funding issues for the two prospective routes to extend Downeaster passenger rail service from the Portland Transportation Center (PTC) to Brunswick: either ST tracks or St. Lawrence & Atlantic RR (SLR) tracks to Yarmouth Junction, and then ST tracks. The SLR alignment would require a new trestle across Back Cove SLR’s current terminus in East Deering.

The report put the cost of the ST alignment at $31.5 million, and the SLR alignment at $53 million. The service would consist of two to three daily round trips.

ST route: The train would stop in Freeport and Brunswick. The work, as estimated by ST and done under a force account agreement by its track crews, would cost $15 million to rehab the 15.1 miles from PTC (Portland) to Yarmouth Junction. For the 14.2 miles between Yarmouth Junction and Brunswick the estimated cost is $16.5 million. Estimated trip time: 50-55 minutes. [Auto time 30 minutes. Editor]

SLR route: The Downeaster would stop in Bayside (Portland), Falmouth, Yarmouth, Freeport, and Brunswick. [This did not include the proposed state purchase or lease of the SLR between Bayside and Yarmouth Junction, as required for the I-295 alignment. MDOT has previously estimated this purchase at $5 million. ]

Possible commuter service

The SLR or ‘I-295 alignment’ provides infrastructure for commuter rail between Yarmouth and Portland Bayside via East Deering. The study argued the ST alignment precluded commuter rail because of lower population density along that route. Additional infrastructure for commuter, at 22 round trips daily, would cost $8 million.

Commuter rail equipment is estimated at further $10-$12 million plus $7 million for a new rail maintenance facility to share with the Downeaster. The report outlines a system alternative: Phase 1 would use the ST alignment until the I-295 alignment can be funded and built. Phase 2 would shift Downeaster operation and add commuter service via Bayside. The extra cost would come to the $15 million for the ST alignment between PTC and Yarmouth Junction. However, this investment would have continuing value to the state’s economy through permanent improvements to the ST freight main and the Brunswick Branch west of Yarmouth Junction.

Service to Auburn

The report notes that rehabilitation of SLR track to extend passenger service from Yarmouth Junction to Auburn will cost an additional $27.3 to $31.4 million.

Funding

The report suggests state pursuit of non-Federal Transit Authority (FTA) funding to complete the Phase 1 ST rehabilitation, and pursuit of FTA funding for the future I-295 alignment and a Yarmouth Junction to Auburn connection, provided any future funding for the I-295 alignment will not be compromised by the state’s initial investment in the ST route. {Summary of report in March 2007 MRG/Downeast Rail newsletter}


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SAFETYLINES...  Safety lines...

CSX wreck lights up Oneida sky; Schumer and Clinton
call for rail safety probe

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- Investigators are focusing on a defective switch track on the CSX main line near Oneida, NY, as a possible cause of the spectacular train wreck this past week that sent flames from burning propane tank cars soaring skyward.

In response to the accident, New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton are demanding an inquiry into CSX maintenance practices, which were blamed for a number of accidents, some fatal, on the CSX system over the past several years.

In a letter to Federal Railraod Administrator Joseph Boardman, Sen. Clinton (D-NY) said: “Today’s accident was just the latest in a series of recent rail incidents in New York. In early December of last year, two train derailments occurred in the cities of Cheektowaga and Buffalo. On January 16, 2007, a freight train transporting 30,000 gallons of liquefied propane was derailed in Maspeth, Queens. As a result, local businesses and homes were evacuated and a Long Island Railroad train was forced to divert its operation onto a different track. On the very same day in East Rochester, several cars carrying tractor trailers derailed, some of which ended up on locals lawns.”

Business Week quoted Sen. Schumer as saying, “Lately we’ve had an accident almost every other week around the state. Enough is enough.”

Sen. Clinton wrote Boardman, “Today’s train derailment in Oneida, New York, is yet another troubling incident in what has become a series of rail accidents across New York. Even more concerning, this incident involved explosive and hazardous materials with the potential to cause widespread damage, injury and even loss of life. Today’s accident should be a wake up call. We cannot continue to treat these derailments as isolated incidents. We need an investigation of railroad safety across the state to prevent the next derailment before it occurs.”

At least eight propane-filled tank cars caught fire, out of 28 that derailed, according to news reports. It was the fifth serious derailment on CSX in New York alone since December.

CSX in the meanwhile found itself the subject of buyout rumors, with Wall Street sources seeing the railroad about to be put “in play” for a leveraged buyout. CSX recently announced a $3 billion stock buyback. The railroad’s stock closed up $2.33, or 6.17 percent, at $40.11 on Friday on the New York.

Friday, in yet another CSX accident, five tank cars containing phosphoric acid derailed in a yard near Alsip, IL, forcing the evacuation of nearby factories and schools. No leaks or fires were reported. The cars were part of a 112-car train.

“Railroad maintenance is becoming a serious issue,” said NCI President Jim RePass, “especially since the freight railroads are chronically short of capital for infrastructure improvements and capacity increases, which they sorely need but can not afford to do with present rates of return.”


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI) 79.8279.06
Canadian National (CNI) 43.5044.51
Canadian Pacific (CP) 54.5954.21
CSX (CSX) 40.1137.85
Florida East Coast (FLA) 57.4358.80
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR) 25.6625.41
Kansas City Southern (KSU) 35.0933.44
Norfolk Southern (NSC) 48.7748.54
Providence & Worcester (PWX) 17.6817.06
Union Pacific (UNP) 99.9598.74


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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

Anne Hoey Witt returns as Amtrak Vice President
of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development

By DF Staff and from Amtrak

WASHINGTON --- Amtrak has announced the appointment of its former executive Anne (Hoey) Witt, as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development.

Industry observers praised the move, noting the depth of management experience she brings to the job.

Witt rejoins Amtrak after serving as Director of the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles and on the board with her state partners in the American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators. Prior to her work at the DMV, Witt held the position of vice president in a number of Amtrak Departments including Service Standards; Service Operations; Reservations, Sales and Customer Relations; Customer and Corporate Communications; and Corporate Management.

The newly formed Strategic Partnerships and Business Development combines the present Contract and Business Development, Corridor Project Planning, Real Estate Development; and Host Railroad Contract Administration groups, and will focus on growth strategy for the company.

Ridership is up considerably across the board at Amtrak, in virtually all corridors and markets.

The department focuses on Amtrak’s growth strategy and is charged with finding synergies and mutually beneficial expansion opportunities to increase ridership and revenue. The department will absorb the Assistant Vice Presidents reporting to Witt: This will include Gil Mallery, spearheading client-focused approaches for developing and delivering state-supported services; Paul Nissenbaum, providing national leadership on corridor expansion; Paul Vilter, enhancing freight railroad partnerships; and Bruce Looloian, maximizing Amtrak’s real estate potential.

Witt received her master’s degree in city planning from Harvard University.


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eTicketing expected to bolster customer service

Source: Amtrak Ink

[ The following two articles emphasize trends in Amtrak to embrace various forms of modern technology and automation. ]

A major program to introduce electronic ticketing, or eTicketing, to Amtrak has officially begun, ultimately affecting everything from reservation systems to station and on-board operations and providing greater customer convenience and flexibility.

Moving from paper tickets, which require handling and controls similar to currency, to electronic tickets presents a variety of important opportunities for the railroad and its customers.

For customers, more control, flexibility and convenience when making reservations or changes to travel plans is one of the primary advantages. Customers will eventually make those changes through self-service channels like Amtrak.com or Quik-Trak kiosks, and will also have the option to print their own travel documents at home or the office, just as they currently do for airline travel.

Reservation Systems Testing and Support Specialist Lisa Banks uses one of 18 new Quik-Trak selfticketing machines at Washington Union Station

Photo: Amtrak Ink  

Reservation Systems Testing and Support Specialist Lisa Banks uses one of 18 new Quik-Trak selfticketing machines at Washington Union Station. The new kiosks will be installed at various stations along the Northeast Corridor with a gradual rollout totaling 197 indoor and 13 outdoor kiosks systemwide through March 2007. Some of Amtrak’s state transportation partners funded the purchase of several new machines, including the California Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Transportation and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority.

For Amtrak, this initiative will provide realtime revenue recognition, more accurate passenger manifests, and address safety and security issues by capitalizing on proven barcode technology to validate boarding documents. It will also increase transactional efficiency, speed processing and reduce manual transactions.

Additionally, the railroad will benefit from increased revenue both as a result of improvements in revenue management due to higher manifest accuracy, and broader sales reach, particularly in remote U.S. locations and overseas.

While the transition to eTicketing is expected to deliver a multitude of benefits, it will also take several years to complete — detailing the specific tasks and time required for the entire program is part of this initial phase.The process will involve altering a variety of components of the railroad’s operations, including legacy computer systems, back-office operations, customer interface technology, such Quik-Trak machines and Amtrak.com, as well as changing the way the company works and communicates with its sales partners, such as travel agencies.

Many of the changes anticipated for the transition to eTicketing will not become evident to customers until 2008, when the new range of booking and ticketing options will start to appear in various sales channels.

This year, significant changes will be made to the company’s computerized reservation systems in preparation for eTicketing. Some of these changes have already become apparent to personnel in the field, such as the introduction of a higher level of automation for ticket refunds and exchanges.

In addition, several pilot projects will be conducted between the railroad and some of its state and regional transportation partners. One such pilot, along the Capitol Corridor, will involve the evaluation of eTicketing’s electronic validation and on-board sales automation.The pilot will test the use of a handheld device aboard trains to reduce the time needed to complete sales and automatically update the passenger manifest. Amtrak will actively work with the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority in this effort.

Amtrak’s is a unique business model in transportation. There are no airlines that serve up to 40 locations with a single departure, with boarding and disembarking opportunities through multiple doors at each station, some of which are unstaffed.

“It may come as a surprise to some in the transportation industry that Amtrak does not already offer eTicketing, given how the ticketing process in the airline industry has moved in that direction,” said Tony Flynn, eTicketing program director. “However, airline boarding presents a natural boarding control that the rail environment lacks.”

“We have a tough task ahead, but we have both the commitment from the highest levels of the organization and high-caliber people from a number of departments that will help make it happen,” Flynn stated.

Although the program’s technical team is located within the Marketing and Product Management department, because of its complexity and importance, eTicketing will involve participation and support from every department.

Like any major program, the challenges of making eTicketing work at Amtrak are real, and during the course of the project, the company will rely heavily on the expertise of its employees to help identify solutions to the kinds of issues an undertaking of this scale will encounter. Some of these solutions may require fundamental changes in how the company does business with its customers, but keeping the interests of the customers in focus will ensure such changes add value both to the railroad and its passengers.


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Internet sales channel passes milestone
Further enhancements in the works

Source: Amtrak Ink

The start of the fiscal year not only marked the onset of a new budget year for Amtrak, but also denoted a significant milestone for Amtrak.com: sustaining — in fact, surpassing — the 40 percent threshold for Internet sales.

This achievement is significant because the increase in sales through the Internet provides significant cost savings, as well as increased revenue, as compared to other sales channels.

Since the launch of online booking through the site in 1997, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of sales generated online, with sales gradually increasing from less than one percent in FY ‘97, to 16 percent in FY ‘02, and 38 percent in FY ‘06.

“Statistics also show that the Northeast Corridor routes are most likely to be booked through the Internet, with 44 percent of travelers booking through this channel,” according to Allen Sebrell, web analytics manager, ECommerce. In addition, 35 percent of sales for state-supported trains are booked online and nearly 29 percent of long-distance train travelers prefer to book through this channel.

Furthermore, a cross-channel comparison of sales from FY ‘00 through the current fiscal- year-to-date shows that while ticketed sales initiated through VRU and Quik-Trak have remained relatively stable (around 3 percent for VRU and between 6 and 7 percent for Quik-Trak), the share of sales through other channels, including travel agents, ticket counters and call centers has declined. At the same time, the overall share of tickets issued through Quik-Trak has soared to 31 percent of all sales.

Senior Director E-Commerce, Kathleen Gordon knows why the Internet channel is so appealing. “Amtrak.com has been designed and is continually refined based on our customers’ and potential customers’ input. It’s easy to use, convenient and open 24 hours a day. Customers can access Amtrak.com from almost anywhere, whether for booking a ticket, researching a trip or checking the train status for their scheduled departure,” she said.

Furthermore, as customers become increasingly tech-savvy, Amtrak.com has remained ahead of most major travel companies in delivering new tech-friendly services, such as the ability to book and retrieve information from PDAs and cell phones.

While the percentage of online sales growth is expected to level off due to market saturation, there are major improvements coming for Amtrak.com that will continue to make the Internet an even more compelling option for booking.

The eventual transition to eTicketing will improve automation and ticketing, bringing Amtrak more in line with the airline industry. “This is the last process the company needs for the customer to have access to fully automated ticketing,” stated Gordon. “This is particularly important for our corporate online customers, who are accustomed to a fully automated process when booking airline travel.”

In addition to eTicketing, several new features and functions are being added to the site. Amtrak Mobile will soon enable PDA and cell phone users to receive automated messages regarding train status.

Moreover, the growth of Amtrak’s international market will likely lead to more foreign language sites. Inspired by the success of the Spanish language site, a German language site will soon be launched. “A decision to introduce more languages will be made following an in-depth review of the potential opportunities in the international market,” according to Craig White, principal marketing officer, ECommerce.

At the same time, the company plans to continue expanding its primary Web site. Roger Seitzinger, E-Commerce creative director, noted that plans are being made to increase the functionality of the site, including enabling customers to book additional travelrelated products like car, hotel and vacation packages.These products can be tailored to a particular customer preference.

The company is also working on a number of initiatives that will provide a greater degree of personalization with regard to individual customer preferences (similar to the Amazon.com model).

“These initiatives and ongoing site improvements will help ensure that Amtrak.com remains a strong competitor in the online travel marketplace,” Gordon remarked.


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

SNCF TGV-POS train set on testing trials near Nuremberg

Photo: Deutsche Bahn  

An SNCF TGV-POS train set on testing trials near Nuremberg, Germany in summer 2006

News media focus on carbon emissions
targets air and highway transportation

 

POTSDAM - With news releases from various government meteorological offices of the USA, Britain, Germany, Switzerland and other countries over the past month which state the winter of 2006-07 will enter the record books as the warmest ever since record keeping began, a significant slice of the popular European news media has made climate change an on-going lead news story since shortly after the start of the new year. In focus are carbon emissions caused by air and highway travel.

Germany took a hit both in the news media and in EU central government circles for unrestricted speeds on much of the Autobahn super highway network. Engineers and government policy makers point to scientific data and well known physical laws that show that all highway vehicles consume energy in far greater quantities per kilometer or per mile when driven at high speeds, especially at speeds well over 130 km/h (81 mph), which is not uncommon for many cars and SUVs on Germany’s autobahn network.

Airlines also landed in the crosshairs of many newspaper stories, TV news segments and magazine feature articles in the past 4 - 5 weeks, perhaps somewhat unfairly, for allegedly producing large amounts "green house effect causing" carbon dioxide. Many news stories featured tables showing how many tons of carbon were released into the atmosphere per person for various airline flights ranging from intra European flights (especially to well known tourist destinations in Spain, France and Greece) to intercontinental flights such as Berlin - New York and Frankfurt - Bangkok. It should be noted that modern airliners such as the B737-800 and A320 achieve similar, if not better, fuel consumption per seat mile as a typical family automobile.

A new opinion poll in Germany revealed that a narrow majority of Germans would be in favor of introducing speed limits on the sections of the Autobahn network which do not already have speed limits due to safety and traffic control reasons. The EU central government has recommended on a number of occasions that Germany introduce nationwide speed limits in order to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. A mandatory 130 km/h (80 mph) highway speed limit would give rail transit an overwhelming speed advantage over automobiles on a number of heavily traveled corridors such as Hamburg - Berlin, Hannover - Frankfurt, Cologne - Frankfurt - Stuttgart and Munich - Nuremberg - Hannover.

Deutsche Bahn , German Railways, has made climate protection and energy conversation one of the central point of its advertising strategy towards travelers for a number of years already. Rail transportation escaped the recent news media barrage concerning carbon emissions, and therefore looks to benefit from policy changes certain to take shape in Europe within the next couple of years regarding carbon emissions and transportation.


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France celebrates completion of LGV Est high speed rail corridor
from Paris to German border

 

With a spectacular fireworks display the French state railroad SNCF celebrated completion of the new LGV Est high speed rail line last Thursday (15th March). The 300 km (187 mile) long line supplements an existing rail corridor from Paris to Strasbourg - just a few kilometers from the German border. The new rail line will reduce travel time from Strasbourg to Paris from 4 hours to 2 hours 20 minutes using TGV train sets, instead of locomotive hauled Corail (intercity) coaches currently in use on this route. The existing rail line will continue in operation for use by freight trains and local passenger trains after the new line begins full service with high speed trains on the 10th June 2007, but the existing locomotive hauled intercity trains on this route will disappear.

The new high speed rail corridor (D:F Vol 8, No. 2) will be operated not only with TGV train sets but also with German ICE-3 trains sets from Stuttgart. The ICE-3 train sets allocated for this service are equipped with French standard cab signaling and train protection systems as well as the ability to operate from the 25 kV 50 Hz power supply in France. Travel times between Paris and Stuttgart will be reduced from 6 hours to 3 hours 40 minutes. These travel times will be shorter than many existing airline flights on this route, when comparing center city to center city travel times. During a test on this line in mid February, a shortened version of the TGV POS train sets to be used on this route set a new speed record of 553 km/h (343 mph). Many rail industry observers believe that the TGV and other similarly constructed high speed trains may start traveling at 360 km/h speeds routinely in revenue service within the next couple of years, something which was considered to be out of reach for steel rail and flanged wheel trains just a decade or so earlier.

The new TGV service to Stuttgart (and later to Frankfurt and Munich) represents the second route of TGV trains into Germany. The other is the Thalys, a slightly modified version of existing TGV train set models, in operation from Paris to Cologne via Brussels and Aachen since 10 years ago. Paris will become the fifth international destination of Germany’s ICE trains, existing international ICE serivces include Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna and Zürich. The TGV network spans from Fance into Switzerland, Italy, Holland and Belgium as well as Germany, plus London, England via Eurostar trains designed and built with TGV technology.

Separately Deutsche Bahn announced last Friday that it would replace existing Intercity trains with ICE high speed trains on the Hamburg - Flensburg - Ahrus and Hamburg - Puttgarden - Copenhagen routes in mid December 2007 as part of a joint venture with DSB - Danish Railways.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor,

You raise an interesting perspective on Jet Blue’s ills in the past few weeks. The problem is certainly not unique to Jet Blue -- United and American also have had similar comedies of errors as overloaded airline systems try to deal with thousands of displaced air travelers whose flights are cancelled and usually have no place to go for up to five days.

The problem, in many ways, is the Wal-Martization of America. Like Wal-Mart, the airlines, Amtrak and a host of other businesses are giving people what they want -- low costs damn the consequences. Americans have become a nation of world class cheapskates -- there is very little we would not do for a so-called “bargain.” The reality is that relatively few people seem to be willing to pay for service and amenities -- witness the death of American Airlines’ “More Room in Coach Program,” or of higher quality department stores.

In the case of the airlines -- any airline -- the system works so long as there is no glitch. You can buy a ticket, check in, check your bags, clear security and walk to a gate and not face a real live airline employee until you actually give a boarding pass to an agent at the gate. Amtrak has little difference in that you can do all of that and not actually see an Amtrak employee until you’re actually moving on the train. That’s been the case for years with Amtrak.

Both Amtrak’s and the airlines’ systems work fine so long as there is no problems, such as broken equipment or bad weather. When either happens, there’s chaos because a system has difficulty rerouting people. A system can’t help a military officer needing to get back to base by a deadline. A system can’t help a mother and two small children find seats -- it takes a personal touch to do that.

We groan when we’re the victims of shoddy service but few of us really want to pay for it.

David W. Giesen
Libertyville, IL
dgies9156@sbcglobal.net

Editor: [You’re right: can we get it back?]


Dear Editor,

Once again this issue is paltry on news of passenger services. What is going on in NY state? What about the second BC Cascade? What’s Texas’ plan for passenger rail or Arizonza? What’s the northeast corridor going to look like in five years?

Surely there are plenty of newsworthy items in transit that can be discussed. I am concerned that we getting more and more “meatloaf filler”.

Thanks,

John Fostik
john.fostik@verizon.net

Editor: Thanks John --- We cover more than passenger trains BUT you are still right. Need to do more. No sleep as it is! If you would like to help, please let me know.


Dear Editor ,

I am trying to locate maps and locations for old abandoned Rail lines throughout the Western half of the US. Is there anyone, or any way you can help provide us connections too that can help us determine what lines lay where and what their current status might be? I have spent hours going through various web sites but have not been able to find much that provides any guideance. Understandably all the information probably won’t be available from one source but anything you can do or offer would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for any time and your efforts.

Respectfully,

David M. Brockes
Global Energies, Inc.
New Harvest Energy, LLC
West Salem, Ohio 44287
419-853-3121 (H/O/F)
406-489-1695 Cell
golfmt@verizon.net

Editor - In many cases the major regional freight railroad will have such information as a matter of direct ownership or through acquisition/merger. Otherwise the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) or various state departments of transportation would or should have historical records for examination. We also pass this on to our readership to assist in your quest.


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