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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April 20, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 18

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 10th Year

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
President Obama Unveils Strategic Plan To Bring High Speed Rail
   To America
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak Adjusts Schedules To Accommodate Track Work
  Off The Main Line…
Northeast Indirect: A Non-Amtrak Journey Along
   The Northeast Corridor
  Commuter Lines…
Medford Transit Project Arouses Hope And Fear Amid Residents
New England Governors Tout Rail Plan
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
TGV Starts Paris – Frankfurt Route
  Editorial…
A Ticket To US Bullet Trains
Changing America For The Better
  Publication Notes …


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

 

Cites Abraham Lincoln’s Support for Transcontinental Railroad

 

President Obama
President Obama Unveils Strategic Plan
To Bring High Speed Rail To America

By DF Staff

THE WHITE HOUSE --- Speaking at The White House to an invited audience of rail professionals, advocates, and key elected officials, President Barack Obama this week fulfilled a campaign promise to begin the rebuilding of America’s transportation infrastructure, starting with the long neglected rail sector of the economy.

Ten major corridors are being identified for potential high-speed rail projects, but the White House stressed that other corridors can be proposed, and considered for funding as well:

  • California Corridor (Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego)
  • Pacific Northwest Corridor (Eugene, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver BC)
  • South Central Corridor (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Little Rock)
  • Gulf Coast Corridor (Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Birmingham, Atlanta)
  • Chicago Hub Network (Chicago, Milwaukee, Twin Cities, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville,)
  • Florida Corridor (Orlando, Tampa, Miami)
  • Southeast Corridor (Washington, Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Macon, Columbia, , Savannah, Jacksonville)
  • Keystone Corridor (Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh)
  • Empire Corridor (New York City, Albany, Buffalo)
  • Northern New England Corridor (Boston, Montreal, Portland, Springfield, New Haven, Albany)

The Obama Plan is the most ambitious rail program announced by any President since Abraham Lincoln announced support in 1861 for a long-proposed Transcontinental Railroad (1862-1869, with most of the work done post-Civil War, 1866-1869). The program was announced by the President with the support of Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican Congressman from Peoria, Illinois who has been active in seeking improved rail service for the Chicago area.

President Obama’s High Speed Rail Plan identifies 10 initial corridors of 100-600 miles in length as potential routes for High Speed Rail, defined officially in the United States by the Federal Railroad Administration as a rail system able to operate speeds above 110 miles per hour.

It allocates $8 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “Stimulus” Act”), as well as $5 billion in the regular budget for the upcoming fiscal year starting October 1, for the act. In addition, Amtrak will have $1.4 billion for capital projects in the coming fiscal year, which it will use to make up for the approximately $6 billion shortfall, identified by the Government Accounting Office some years ago, in capital investments on the Northeast Corridor, which Amtrak largely owns and over which it operates its Northeast Regional (conventional equipment) and High Speed Rail Acela (Euro-style) service. The Acela is capable of 155 miles per hour but reaches those speeds only for short stretches on the Corridor, because capital funds for improvements to allow faster service have not been appropriated by Congress.

Much of the Northeast Corridor infrastructure is 80-100 years old. The overhead wires that power the trains, for example, were put up in 1906-12 (New York to New Haven) and the 1930’s (New York to Washington), and are of an old-fashioned design that can not withstand speeds much above 70 miles per hour without snapping. The State of Connecticut, which through its Department of Transportation owns the heavily-traveled New Haven-New York segment used by Metro North commuter trains and by Amtrak, has been slowly replacing the old catenaries with newer designs for more than 10 years, using Metro North as its contractor, but is still far from finished; Connecticut’s failure to complete this project in a timely fashion is the reason why the Acela train crawls through Fairfield County at less than half the speed of which it is capable.

But the program announced yesterday at the White House goes far beyond the Northeast Corridor, and is designed to be a national program, and will be a competitively run and organized project of the Federal Railroad Administration. The FRA is at present designing the application regulations for the states seeking to build higher speed rail corridors, with the first grants FRA expected some time in August.

“This project is intelligently conceived,” stated National Corridors Initiative President Jim RePass, who attended the White House announcement Thursday. “It was made clear by the President – and we know this to be true from our 20 years of work toward achieving this day --- that America is playing catch-up to the rest of the world when it comes to ground transportation. With European countries investing billions and billions of funds in High Speed Rail since the 1970’s, and with Japan and now the rest of Asia spending over $100 billion, the $13 billion directly related to this program will only be a start. Paying for the system in a way that makes sense – such as by value-capture of a portion of the economic growth that almost always follows intelligent transportation investment --- and other innovative cost recovery systems used elsewhere around the world, but virtually unknown here, will be one way to do that, as NCI has long-proposed,” said RePass.

“By requiring the states to propose competitively, it will be possible to select for initial construction those corridors which show the best payback, not just in terms of ridership --- Americans aren’t used to good train service except on the Northeast Corridor and parts of California and the Pacific Northwest, although where it is available, they do indeed take the train in droves --- but in terms of the economic development that results from rail investment,” said RePass.

The map displayed at the announcement, officials noted, is not prescriptive, that is, the corridors that might be developed, or even developed first, are not limited to those on the map; the map is “aspirational,” FRA official Paul Nissenbaum, who helped make the presentation Thursday along with Acting FRA Administrator Karen Rae, with much of the strategic plan devised by long-time FRA official Mark Yachmetz.

Actual corridors will be built based “on merit”, the President noted. The Obama HSR program is designed to do two specific things, the President said, to 1) improve existing service, and 2) identify and build corridors for high speed service.

To read the entire strategic plan and view the FRA aspirational corridor map, go to: http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/31

The White House Press Office statement on Thursday’s briefing is carried below, in full:


THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release   April 16, 2009

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary LaHood
Call for U.S. High-Speed Passenger Trains

Vision for a New Era in Rail Entails Clean, Energy-Efficient Option for Travelers

 

President Barack Obama, along with Vice President Biden and Secretary LaHood, announced a new U.S. push today to transform travel in America, creating high-speed rail lines from city to city, reducing dependence on cars and planes and spurring economic development.

The President released a strategic plan outlining his vision for high-speed rail in America. The plan identifies $8 billion provided in the ARRA and $1 billion a year for five years requested in the federal budget as a down payment to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future. The strategic plan will be followed by detailed guidance for state and local applicants. By late summer, the Federal Railroad Administration will begin awarding the first round of grants.

Additional funding for long-term planning and development is expected from legislation authorizing federal surface transportation programs.

The report formalizes the identification of ten high-speed rail corridors as potential recipients of federal funding. Those lines are: California, Pacific Northwest, South Central, Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub Network, Florida, Southeast, Keystone, Empire and Northern New England. Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to compete for funds to improve the nation’s only existing high-speed rail service.

With a boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Obama administration launched a competitive process to drive local communities to develop their high-speed rail potential. The President, Vice President and Secretary of Transportation are urging states and local communities to put together plans for a network of 100 mile to 600 mile corridors, which will compete for the federal dollars. The merit-driven process will result in federal grants as soon as late summer 2009.

President Obama’s vision for high-speed rail mirrors that of President Eisenhower, the father of the Interstate highway system, which revolutionized the way Americans traveled. Now, high-speed rail has the potential to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, lower harmful carbon emissions, foster new economic development and give travelers more choices when it comes to moving around the country.

“My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America. We must start developing clean, energy-efficient transportation that will define our regions for centuries to come,” said President Obama. “A major new high-speed rail line will generate many thousands of construction jobs over several years, as well as permanent jobs for rail employees and increased economic activity in the destinations these trains serve. High-speed rail is long-overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways.”

“Today, we see clearly how Recovery Act funds and the Department of Transportation are building the platform for a brighter economic future - they’re creating jobs and making life better for communities everywhere,” said Vice President Biden. “Everyone knows railways are the best way to connect communities to each other, and as a daily rail commuter for over 35 years, this announcement is near and dear to my heart. Investing in a high-speed rail system will lower our dependence on foreign oil and the bill for a tank of gas; loosen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways; and significantly reduce the damage we do to our planet.”

“President Obama’s vision of robust, high-speed rail service offers Americans the kind of travel options that throughout our history have contributed to economic growth and enhanced quality of life,” said Secretary LaHood. “We simply can’t build the economy of the future on the transportation networks of the past.”

The plan identifies two types of projects for funding. One would create new corridors for world-class high-speed rail like the kind found in Europe and Japan. Another would involve making train service along existing rail lines incrementally faster.

Under the plan, high-speed rail development will advance along three funding tracks:

 

A Vision for High-Speed Rail in America
Highlights of Strategic Plan
April 16, 2009

 

This plan outlines the President’s vision to build a network of high-speed rail corridors across America. It is the first high-speed rail requirement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 0f 2009 (ARRA).

Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor (Washington, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Newark, New York City, New Haven, Providence, Boston) to compete for funds for improvements to the nation’s only existing high-speed rail service, and for establishment and upgrades to passenger rail services in other parts of the country.


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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

Amtrak Adjusts Schedules To Accommodate Track Work

Acela Express, Northeast Regional, Keystone, Pennsylvanian, and Vermonter services affected

WASHINGTON, DC – As Amtrak implements a number of track work projects to improve service in the Northeast, some of its most popular routes will see schedule changes beginning in late April. These projects will improve the reliability of train service in the Northeast and will provide passengers with a more comfortable ride.

Acela Express, Northeast Regional & Vermonter Services

Beginning April 20 and continuing through September, Amtrak will carry out an extensive track maintenance project that will result in delays to its Acela Express and Northeast Regional (Washington – New York – Boston) services. The first phase of this project will affect the Washington to New York portion of the route with work being done on one of the four available tracks between Newark, N.J. and Metuchen, N.J. As a result, only three tracks will be available at any one time.

During the project, all southbound trains will depart New York on their present schedules, but will arrive in Washington at a later time than currently scheduled. Similarly, all northbound trains will depart Washington on their present schedules, but will arrive in New York later than currently scheduled. These schedule changes will also affect the Philadelphia to New York section of the Keystone (Harrisburg – Philadelphia – New York), Pennsylvanian (Pittsburgh – Harrisburg – New York), and Vermonter (St. Albans – New York – Washington) services.

Keystone & Pennsylvanian Services

Another track work project will cause an adjustment of weekend Keystone service beginning April 18 and continuing for five consecutive weekends. During this time, track work will result in single tracking – trains sharing the same tracks – near Exton, Pa.

On April 18 & 19, April 25 & 26, and May 2 & 3, most eastbound trains will depart Harrisburg 10 minutes earlier than currently scheduled and will operate 10 minutes earlier to Paoli. Once the trains pass Paoli, they will resume their normal operation, arriving in Philadelphia at their currently scheduled time. A number of trains, including the Pennsylvanian train #44, will depart stations between Harrisburg and Philadelphia later than currently scheduled. Keystone service between Philadelphia and New York will also be affected. During these three weekends, eastbound trains will be using what is normally a westbound track at Downingtown, Pa. and Exton, Pa. As a result, passengers should wait for the trains on westbound platforms (Route 30 side).

Over the two subsequent weekends, May 9 & 10 and May 16 & 17, a number of Keystone trains will depart later than currently scheduled between Harrisburg and Paoli and all trains traveling between Harrisburg and Philadelphia will operate using slightly adjusted timetables. During these weekends, westbound trains will be using the eastbound tracks at Downingtown, Pa. and Exton, Pa. so passengers should wait on the eastbound platforms (opposite Route 30). These temporary changes affect weekend Keystone Corridor trains only.

Timetables

Current published schedules for service in the Northeast will not be valid during the track work projects. As a result of the numerous schedule changes that will occur between April and August, schedules for service in the Northeast will not appear in Amtrak’s 2009 Spring-Summer System Timetable which goes into effect May 11, 2009.

For real-time schedule information, passengers may log onto Amtrak.com, select the “Schedules” tab and print a wallet card of the current Northeast train schedules. Passengers may also call 800-USA-RAIL or speak with a ticket agent at a staffed station for the most up-to-date information. The printing of Northeast train schedules will resume in the 2009/2010 Fall-Winter Timetable. Additional schedule adjustments planned for this summer will be announced later.

About Amtrak

Amtrak has posted six consecutive years of growth in ridership and revenue, carrying more than 28.7 million passengers in the last fiscal year. Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

Northeast Indirect: A Non-Amtrak Journey
Along The Northeast Corridor

By David Peter Alan

One of the initiatives I promote for improved rail travel is to provide service on local commuter trains in the Northeast Corridor (NEC) from one end to the other. South of New York, there is a gap in non-Amtrak rail service between Newark, Delaware, and Perryville, Maryland. North of New York, there is a similar gap between Old Saybrook, Connecticut and Providence, Rhode Island, except for the one train that Shore Line East operates to New London.

Is it possible to travel along the NEC by using local trains and filling in the gaps with local bus service? After enough people asked me that question, I decided to find out if I could go from my home in northern New Jersey to south of Washington, D.C. without using Amtrak. On Thursday, April 2, 2009, I learned first-hand that it is possible, although I would certainly not recommend the journey to anyone else.

For my destination, I chose Fredericksburg, Virginia. It is south of Washington, D.C. and can be reached by local rail. It is a historic town with several attractions from the time of the American Revolution and Civil War, so it is an attractive and interesting town to visit.

I took the Morris & Essex train on New Jersey Transit from my home station in South Orange, New Jersey, to Penn Station, New York at 10:23 pm. I then walked to Port Authority Bus Terminal and took NJT’s #319 bus to Atlantic City ($28.50). It left at 11:30, and arrived in AC at 2:05 am. The train station is within walking distance of the bus terminal, so I took the 2:45 am train to Philadelphia on the Atlantic City Rail Line ($8.00). The train carried about 20 riders, nearly all casino workers. Only one other person stayed on all the way to Philly. I would have preferred to take the train from New York City or Newark, but the combination of NJT trains to Trenton and SEPTA “R7” trains that I would normally have used do not run in the middle of the night. I needed to arrive at 30th St. Station in time to take the first train to Newark, Delaware at 5:30 am ($4.75).

The SEPTA train was just late enough on arrival at Newark that I missed the 6:32 bus on the #65 route to Elkton, Maryland ($1.15). The next bus left at 7:12. By some miracle, I flagged down that bus and was the sole passenger for the entire run. I reached Elkton at 7:30, with five minutes to spare until the departure of “The Bus” (operated by Cecil County) to Perryville ($3.00).

Perryville is a quaint town along the Susquehanna River, with an attractive century-old station built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Rogers Tavern (George Washington really did sleep there) a few commuters and not much else. The 45 minutes I had until the MARC train was enough time to see the town, and I was glad to be on the 9:00 am train for Baltimore and Washington, D.C. ($11.00). The only train later in the day left at 3:00 in the afternoon, which explains why my “morning” started the night before. The train arrived at Union Station in Washington, D.C. at 10:45, so I had two hours to rest and grab a bite of lunch.

The first train to Fredericksburg on Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is an “early getaway” train that leaves at 12:55 pm ($9.75). VRE is essentially a “peak-hour-only” commuter service. My train arrived shortly before 2:30 pm. Total travel time from New York City was 15 hours, and the regular fare for the trip is $63.15. Had I left New York on Amtrak Train #67 at 3:15 am, my fare would have been $76.00, and the trip would have taken 5 hours and 20 minutes.

Had I wished to go further, I could have taken two local buses from Fredericksburg to downtown Richmond in the late afternoon, operated by Richmond’s GRTC. Instead of going to Richmond, I stayed in Fredericksburg for a few hours. I enjoyed my visit, but I was glad to take Train #66 north in the early evening. The trip to Boston took less time than my trip from New York to Fredericksburg, although it was not as adventurous as the southbound trip had been.

With some cooperation on scheduling and fares, the Northeast’s commuter rail providers, from the “T” around Boston to VRE in Virginia, could provide useful and economical service to all points along the Amtrak NEC Line. The trains would not be as fast as Amtrak, but the trip would be much faster than mine with better connections and integrated scheduling. It makes sense to provide such services.. As long as Amtrak fares on the NEC are high, budget-conscious travelers will want a less expensive alternative to Amtrak, even if the trip takes longer.

On today’s schedules, using existing rail service with buses to fill in the gaps, the trip I took was slow and relatively pleasant for a single occasion. If I had to do it again, I am sure that the novelty would wear off quickly. If you plan to duplicate my adventure, you must do it soon. Bus managers in Delaware held a hearing on March 30th on a proposal to discontinue the #65 route between Newark and Elkton. If the line is eliminated, the adventure I had in early April will no longer be available.

If you wish instead to go from one place to another without the time-consuming adventure I experienced, I offer you the same advice I recently gave airline travelers in this column: Next time, take the train!


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Medford (MA) Transit Project Arouses
Hope And Fear Amid Residents

From The Boston Globe

MEDFORD, APRIL 13 -- - “Anna and Mary Anne Adduci embody the group of longtime Medford residents who call themselves ‘old-timers,’ ” writes Scott Helman in a story for The Globe about people’s mixed feelings in anticipation of the proposed extension of the Green Line into their neighborhood.

The Adduci’s have been in their Medford home since 1958 and don’t want to see the neighborhood change. They fear a big increase in population and a rise in the prices of housing along with new, more expensive shops.

A typical Medford newcomer is the family who couldn’t afford expensive housing markets in Cambridge and Somerville and are enjoying some of the new amenities like Whole Foods that they find in Medford along with more affordable housing.

“They flood into the new Whole Foods, loading groceries and babies into Subarus and Honda Civics adorned with Obama stickers,” the story continues.

“The two camps coexist peacefully in this close-in suburb of 56,000, but ask them about the planned extension of the MBTA’s Green Line into their neighborhood and a big rift emerges.”

We welcome newcomers, the older residents say, but we’re not anxious to see the area change . . . we love it like it is.

“I’m almost 63 years old - I can walk - and these 20-somethings are complaining that the bus isn’t at their doorstep,” Mary Anne Adduci said. “What are we gaining for all this money, all this disruption? We’re not gaining anything.”

For others, there’s also an intangible fear that being more connected to Boston will bring crime and undesirable visitors.

But shop owners and young professionals welcome the prospect of increased numbers of local customers and more convenient access to downtown Boston.

“It can get really quiet around here; you don’t have the flow of people,” said Fails, 51, who opened a vintage store called Hope & Glory last fall. “I would love to see the Green Line through here.”

“It will be that much more connected to civilization,” said Elizabeth Bolton, a real estate agent who moved here in 2005. Agents are already using the Green line extension plan as a selling point in promoting real estate.

“I know I would be more apt to do things downtown,” said Paula Lopes, a 28-year-old teacher at a Catholic school. “Now, I have to think about driving and parking, and that’s a pain for me.”

Bolton commented on what the extension of the Red Line did for the Porter Square area of Cambridge. “Without a T stop, it was Siberia, and it’s so amazing to think about nowadays, when the Red Line’s right there,” she said. “I envision the same thing happening to Medford.”

It is no doubt that areas of suburban Boston have been revitalized and turned into bustling centers around station hubs, but for lower income residents and business owners, the fear is that they will be priced out of the area that they have called home for many decades.

If history is any guide, the Green Line’s arrival over the next decade will transform the dense neighborhoods of Somerville and Medford that it reaches. Housing promises to become more desirable - and thus more expensive. New shops, cafes, and restaurants will open.

And that is the kind of change some of the old timers are afraid of.

Hilary Beal, a 66-year-old retiree, said she is on the fence about the Green Line.

“Some of the little stuff would disappear, rents would go up,” she said, gesturing to the square’s stretch of ethnic markets and restaurants. “Maybe some of it would survive, but I don’t know. I just sort of like it the way it is. It’s kind of funky.”


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New England Governors Tout Rail Plan

From The Republican Online

MASSACHUSETTS, MARCH 26 -- For fourteen years, legislators in Connecticut who recognize the need for more rail service to relieve clogged highways and frequent delays, have been pushing to get commuter rail service from New Haven to Hartford and on to Springfield, Massachusetts. Amtrak trains serve that corridor but it is too infrequent and expensive to serve daily commuters.

In March, the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut invited Amtrak to join the states in their efforts to implement the commuter rail service.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell wrote a letter to Joseph H. Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak, following a meeting involving the governors and Amtrak officials. ”The states of Connecticut and Massachusetts have a shared vision of developing a world-class regional rail commuter service along the Springfield Line corridor ... It is our hope that Amtrak shares this vision,” the governors’ letter states.

Patrick and Rell also wrote in the three-paragraph letter that the commuter line “will dramatically improve mobility in the region and improve life and lifestyles. It also offers the catalyst for sound economic development in the region that benefits everyone, including Amtrak.

“We are writing ... to invite Amtrak to partner with us on the establishment and operation of a commuter rail service and to jointly pursue funding for equipment, capacity and infrastructure improvements to bring this vision for rail service to this corridor.”

Clifford Cole, an Amtrak spokesman in New York City, said that Amtrak has been “part of the discussions” regarding the project for some time.

“The meeting between the parties was very cordial, and we’ve agreed to work together with the states to advance the project,” Cole said.

Patrick has had conversations with Rell about the rail service, and Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray last September told a group pushing for the project that the state needs to improve both commuter and freight rail. Murray made the comments at the Springfield Central Library at an event held by the Pioneer Valley Advocates for Commuter Rail.

During the appearance, Murray also spoke about rail service in the context of New England’s geography.

“We don’t have capacity to build new highways in New England,” the lieutenant governor said.

Murray also said he believed there was a growing feeling around America to expand commuter rail service.

“There is a momentum that’s gathering right now,” he said. “This is the way that people are increasingly looking.”


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: .MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)68.1766.16
Canadian National (CNI)41.7640.24
Canadian Pacific (CP)34.5832.10
CSX (CSX)31.3829.75
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.9224.58
Kansas City Southern (KSU)16.8515.30
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.7937.35
Providence & Worcester (PWX)10.7510.74
Union Pacific (UNP)48.2946.30


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor
 

TGV Starts Paris – Frankfurt Route

Assumes Duties for ICE-3 Trainsets Stating on Monday

Frankfurt – Due to lowered availability of the ICE-3 fleet because of the continuing need to perform an exhaustive re-inspection of the wheel axles, a French TGV train set will assume duties for train numbers ICE 9552 and ICE 9553 from Frankfurt to Paris and Paris – Frankfurt as of the 20th April 2009. This will become the third TGV route into Germany, the first being the Paris – Brussels – Cologne service operated by Thalys and the second route being the Paris – Stuttgart TGV service operated by the French state railroad SNCF and Deutsche Bahn (DB) in a joint venture.

Because of the popularity of this new high-speed corridor, which is approaching two years in-service, passenger loads continue to be high. However the TGV-POS trainset to be used on the route has 50 seats less than the ICE-3 trainset it replaces. Therefore DB will reprogram its reservation systems and internet website to re-direct passengers traveling only within Germany to other intercity trains and avoid booking Germany-only passengers on these particular TGV trains.


Photo: Deutsche Bahn AG

An ICE-3 trainset passes an earlier generation TGV Réseau trainset on the approach to Paris Est station in April 2008. The TGV-POS trains in operation between Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Paris have a somewhat different external appearance than the TGV Réseau trainset seen here.

A DB spokesman stated that the one time per day TGV round trip between Paris and Frankfurt will remain in effect until at least December 2010. The remaining four other Frankfurt-Paris daily trains will continue to operate with ICE-3 rolling stock. The one-way trip time is approximately 3 hours 50 minutes. By comparison a commercial flight between Paris and Frankfurt takes 1 hour 15 minutes, but check-in, security clearance and waiting time at the departure airport take at least 60 minutes, along with travel time between the airports and city centers on the order of 40 minutes at each end, thus making the trip by air about 3 hours or more.


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EDITORIALS... Editorials...  

A Ticket To US Bullet Trains

Editorial In The Christian Science Monitor Online Underscores Challenge
US Faces In Building High Speed Rail

APRIL 13 -- The Recovery and Re investment Act of 2009 provides $8 billion for high-speed rail in the U.S. The president himself put that into the Act and his Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made it clear, that was just a down payment.

This is “a strong start,” said the Monitor’s editorial board, “but a vision is needed.” While it sounds exciting for American travelers to have alternative from clogged highways an crowded skies, “it’s a long, long way from Amtrak’s average speed of 40 m.p.h. to the magnetic levitation train in Shanghai, which runs at 259 m.p.h., or to bullet trains in Europe and Japan.”

“Just narrowing this gap will require long-term commitment by Washington,” the editorial continues. Beyond the initial $8 billion, “the administration proposes an additional $5 billion over five years. For comparison, Amtrak’s annual budget is $3.2 billion.”

But Obama is determined. Last year on the campaign trail, he touted bullet trains as the next big thing in US transportation. “I don’t want to see the fastest train in the world built halfway around the world in Shanghai,” he said. “I want to see it built right here.”

The public believes we have a high speed train in Amtrak’s Acela, but that service, which can reach speeds of 150 mph rarely does so because of “curvy tracks and other constraints,” such as being delayed by Metro North commuter trains which use the same tracks.

The strategic plan for the $8 billion unveiled on April 16 by Obama, can “make a real difference in improved track, safety, and capacity – and thus notably improve speed,” continues the editorial. “Much of the delay in passenger rail comes from passenger trains sharing track with freight. Just laying rail in key corridors to separate freight from passenger traffic could go a long way to speedier passenger service.”

“But Americans should realize that these billions are not enough to pay for even one full-fledged bullet line.”

Californians know how expensive it will be. “Voters last year approved a $10 billion bond to start financing a north-south service expected to top 200 mph. – and cost at least $45 billion.”

“Washington needs a strategy not just for the $8 billion, but for a national high-speed rail network. It has a good idea of what such a network would look like (see www.fra.dot.gov for a map showing 11 regional corridors).”

This vision will require creative financing with investment by the private sector. Also, financial planners and rail operators should consider how to cash in on tax revenue from development that springs up along fast-train corridors.

Vision, planning, and dedication are needed to move people between major cities at even 150 mph. “American competitiveness depends on it.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0413/p08s01-comv.html

Full version may include photos, graphics and related links


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Changing America For The Better

By Jim Repass

April 28, 2009 will be the 140th anniversary of the greatest feat of track laying --- and one of the greatest in the building of any kind of infrastructure ---in American history

On that day in 1869, the Central Pacific Railroad, building from West to East, on a challenge from its partner/rival the Union Pacific, building East to West, completed a 10-mile segment of track in just 24 hours.

That achievement has never been equaled, here or anywhere else in the world.

That may soon change.

This past week’s announcement by President Obama of his High Speed Rail for America Program, announced at a White House ceremony, which the National Corridors Initiative attended, marked a demarcation point in American history with a bright line rarely seen in the great warp and woof of national and world events.

Very deliberately referencing President Abraham Lincoln and his decision to build the Transcontinental Railroad, even as the nation was in the midst of a bloody Civil War --- as a way, even in the midst of war, to begin the process of binding America together again --- President Obama has set out on an ultimately unifying course which in our view will do unimaginable good for us today – by putting Americans to work --- and for our children and our children’s children, by restoring America’s transportation competitiveness, which we have lost by building a largely uni-modal, unbalanced highway-centric transportation system which quite simply no longer functions.

It is also both symbolic and substantive that the person he has tasked with executing this project, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is a Republican, because there is no such thing as a Republican traffic jam or a Democratic flight delay: what we have is an America that has lost its mobility, and which, with President Obama’s announcement of his High Speed Rail plan, he has set out to heal.

This project will be costly. The only thing more costly would be to not do it.

April 16th, 2009, is an important date in American history, because it marks the day on which we consciously, as a country, through our elected leadership in both the White House and the Congress, decided to stop our economic decline, and our polluting dependence on the automobile, and to do so in a way that will also lessen sprawl, and not only help rebuild America’s cities, but its democratic (small “d”) civilization. Very few people today understand that fact, nor do they understand how inter-related are transportation infrastructure, economic health, the environment, and quality of life. Well, that will change, because one very important person does understand that, and his name is Barack Obama, and he is the President of the United States.


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