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 21, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 16

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
Lowell: An American City Reinvented With Vision And Patience
Amtrak Rail Plan May Get A Boost
Amtrak Feasibility Study Of Passenger Rail Service From
   Quad Cities To Iowa City Released
  Commuter Lines…
Anthony Perl, France Bilodeau Named To Via Board
  Safety Lines…
Feds Announce New Rail Rules For Deadly Chemicals
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Financial Lines…
Nebraska Raises Gas Tax
CSX Posts Record First-Quarter Earnings
  Across The Pond…
Bangladesh-India Train Service Resumes After 43 Years
Deliveries Of New Emus To Mumbai Fall Behind Schedule
Indian Railway Board Chief: High Speed Corridors Will Soon Be Reality
Partial Privatization Of Deutsche Bahn Near To Agreement
  Environmental Lines…
Hawaii Flirts With Letting A Business Bypass Environmental Law
  Publication Notes …


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

Merrimack River and Mill Building

Photo: City of Lowell Web Site  

With the Merrimack River as a prominent feature, several of Lowell’s former mill buildings create a backdrop to a city under revitalization.

Lowell: An American City Reinvented
With Vision And Patience

 

By DF Staff

 

LOWELL, MA. -- Most people have heard of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” but many may not know that this vintage New Orleans streetcar is in service in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Once a mill town in the 19th century, Lowell is located on the Merrimack River and is a 40-minute train ride into downtown Boston.

The city has reinvented itself from a somewhat dreary industrial center into a hot spot for young professional, artists, and entrepreneurs. The key ingredient of Lowell’s success is a downtown core which was never blighted by highway construction that tore through the middle of it.

In the 1970’s, when the urban renewal craze meant knocking down historic buildings and paving over large areas of city centers for highways and parking lots, Lowell leaders had a different vision. They started by building a national historic park.

Former superintendent of schools, Patrick Mogan, led the historic preservation movement. He saw the value in his city’s history and wanted to preserve the Greek, French, and Polish communities which had sprung up during the industrial age. The late Senator Paul Tsongas, a Lowell resident and former Congressman, shared Mogan’s vision and helped bring in the money for the national park. In 1978, the Lowell National Historical Park, which commemorates the early story of America’s Industrial Revolution, was opened.

The city became a magnet for visitors and put Lowell on the map as one of the first cities to have a national park within its boundaries. The National Park Service had not previously considered urban centers as places for national parks. Only places like Yosemite National Park or the Statue of Liberty were on the agency’s radar.


Thanks to APTA and Seashore Trolley Museum, Maine (Orig Photo: John Smatlak)

The Seashore Trolley Museum’s New Orleans 966 operating in Lowell on June 19, 2003 along with Gomaco replica 4131. No. 966 is in Lowell as part of an exhibit, “On Track: Transit in the American City in Lowell and Across America”, as the first offering of Seashore’s planned branch the National Streetcar Museum at Lowell.

Then, instead of resorting to a one-stroke solution by investing in a single massive project, Lowell leaders came up with a gradual, incremental plan to grow the economy. They converted the old mill buildings into attractive mixed-use centers filled with apartments, condominiums, studios, retail, restaurants, offices, and academic and research centers, all of which tie into Lowell’s national park. These centers are now bustling with new activity, and several of these former mill complexes are linked together by a trolley line.

These projects include: Market Mills with offices, retail, and art galleries; the Boott Mill Complex with museums, offices and residential units; and Wannalancit Mills where high-tech and biotech companies are housed along with the UMass Lowell Research Center.

Images: Trinity Financial – Boston, MA

Artist renderings of a revitalized downtown Lowell.

About Lowell’s trolleys:

[ For information and images, we wish to thank Peter Aucella, Assistant Superintendent of Development, Lowell National Historical Park. We also thank Adam Baacke, Assistant City Manager, Planning & Development, for his input to the research for this article. Editor. ]

“We at Lowell National Historical Park operate two open-air cars and an enclosed heated car, all of which are replicas of equipment that operated here around 1900. It is a Visitor Transportation System at our site.

The replicas were accurately designed with the assistance of the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, ME. That group has also formed the National Streetcar Museum at Lowell and runs a museum operation as well as the New Orleans car they have brought here which originally ran on the Desire Line in New Orleans.”

See more info on Lowell history at http://www.nps.gov/lowe.

Lots of information on our trolley system and proposed expansion are available at http://www.heritagetrolley.org/existLowell.htm

For the expanded trolley system being proposed, my recollection is that we would need a total of eight cars.” - Peter Aucella April 17, 2008

The city’s Master Plan, which is still the guide for Lowell’s growth and revitalization, was adopted 27 years ago.

Lowell’s success hasn’t come without setbacks, and there is still much to be done. In an interview with Adam Baacke, Assistant City Manager, Planning & Development, DF staff learned that hard times hit Lowell in the early 90’s. Downtown real estate collapsed when Wang Computer, a major employer in town, closed its doors. Fortunately, because the core downtown was still intact, city leaders worked hard to make Lowell an appealing place to visit. They built the Paul E. Tsongas Arena, a 6,300-seat arena for sports and concerts, and later, an art cultural district. An important partnership between UMass Lowell and the city led to opening a branch of Barnes & Noble bookstore in the downtown. This has helped improve town-gown relations and links the campus to the downtown area.

On the horizon now are two major endeavors:

  1. Make the trolley system a real urban transit circulator, connecting to the MBTA rail station and many other destinations. At present, it is more of a visitor attraction, a pleasant ride on a vintage trolley car that links a few of the old mill industrial sites which have been converted to a mix of uses. It is owned and operated by the National Park Service.

  2. Build the Hamilton Canal District, a ten-year urban infill project which will bridge the gap between the downtown core and the existing MBTA rail station. This 15-acre development will transform the area. Two million square feet of housing and commercial development is planned with a public building, the Lowell Courthouse as an anchor. The city hired Trinity Financial, Inc., to build the project. Big promoters of trolleys, Trinity has planned a right-of-way for the trolley through the entire site in order to connect it with the commuter rail station.

  3. Find a solution to the major challenge of connecting the trolley system to the train station: There’s a highway in the way!!

    Two keys to Lowell’s success are the early and inspired leadership of the late Senator Paul Tsongas and the former school superintendent Patrick Mogan and the wonderful coordination among the city’s institutions. City officials, business leaders, the colleges, nonprofits and art centers all communicate with each other, ask for input and work together.

    In an article for the Hartford Courant, Yale architecture student Nicholas Caruso summed it up: “Lowell is a great example of an American city that preserved its historic core, never implemented a large urban renewal plan and never eviscerated its fabric with highways.[America: take note!- The Editors] Most of the historic fabric has been preserved. Lowell is thriving today as a business and cultural center without any major highways running through its neighborhoods or downtown, with the exception of a small connector on the edge of downtown.

    “Cities have been vulnerable to the “big bang” theory of development: the idea that a big project can turn the city around. Officials should visit Lowell to see a good example of a different approach.”

A unique feature of this trolley is the wheelchair lift device.
For additional Lowell Trolley images CLICK HERE

Both Photos: © Railway Preservation Resources Inc. and John Smatlak
www.railwaypreservation.com

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Amtrak Rail Plan May Get A Boost

By Leo King

The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council may push for Amtrak to consider providing passenger service along Florida’s East Coast.

MIAMI -- Passenger rail service between Miami and Jacksonville on Florida’s East Coast could be closer to reality, according to a story by Chuck McGinness in the Palm Beach Post.

This subject was discussed back in 2001 when Amtrak and the Florida East Coast Railway reached an agreement that would have allowed twice-a-day service along the East Coast, with stops in Stuart, Fort Pierce and Vero Beach.

But Amtrak had to postpone the plan because of financial problems.

The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, which coordinates planning in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties, is expected to urge Governor Charlie Crist and other officials to ask Amtrak to do a preliminary analysis and ridership forecast on providing service along the corridor.

“This is a great opportunity for everyone,” said Kim Delaney, the council’s growth management coordinator. “Transit is a high priority for all of the communities along the Treasure Coast.”

This study would tie in with a state study under way to revive passenger service on the Florida East Coast tracks through Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the story continues. These tracks go through the heart of 28 South Florida cities.

In a linear state like Florida, where commuting patterns run north and south, a better transit system is a must, Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith said.

“For residents today, we have people who commute daily from Martin and St. Lucie counties to Palm Beach County,” Smith said. “If we could take some of them off the road and put them on transit, that would be fantastic.”

At present, Amtrak runs on CSX tracks, which bypass large sections of the East Coast. Amtrak can go between Miami and West Palm Beach, sharing the tracks with Tri-Rail next to I-95. Then it must travel west across Florida to Tampa, returning to the east side up at Jacksonville.

North-south service along the east side would also tie in with expansion of commuter rail in the Orlando area. If details can be worked out, commuter rail along the East Coast could be ready in four to five years.

Statewide ridership in 2007 was up 10% over 2006. Last year, more than 840,000 passengers boarded or got off Amtrak trains in Florida, including 43,643 at the West Palm Beach station.

DF staff thanks Leo King, former Destination: Freedom editor, for providing this story.


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Amtrak Feasibility Study Of Passenger Rail Service
From Quad Cities To Iowa City Released

From Internet Sources

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS and AMES, IOWA , APRIL 18 – A study conducted by Amtrak on behalf of the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) concerning the feasibility of passenger rail service from the Quad Cities to Iowa City on a route originating at Chicago was released last Friday at a news conference in Iowa City.

Annual ridership on the full route is estimated at about 187,000 passengers, based on two daily round-trips and if improvements are made allowing maximum speeds of 79 mph. The states of Iowa and Illinois would share the capital investment costs and the estimated annual Amtrak operating contract expense of about $6 million. The estimated cost to upgrade the railroad infrastructure in this example is $54.9 million.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver said, “Regional intercity passenger rail service is a positive alternative to highway and air travel. Rail service has tremendous advantages in terms of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign sources of oil; slowing the growth of highway congestion and associated pollution; energy conservation; and lifestyle enhancement through improved mobility for persons who either cannot or simply do not want to drive or fly. That’s why passenger rail service has a bright future in America and why we are going to have to give it a higher priority in moving people in Iowa.” Iowa DOT Director Nancy Richardson said, “In light of escalating fuel prices, congested interstates and the environmental impacts of highway transportation, modal opportunities such as rail passenger service needs to be seriously examined.” Richardson also said, “This project is an excellent example of the type of public-private partnership that will be essential to sustaining and expanding this country’s multi-modal transportation network. The Iowa DOT appreciates Amtrak’s interest in expanding rail passenger service in Iowa, and is anxious to join them, the Iowa Interstate Railroad and Illinois Department of Transportation in determining the next steps to making this route a reality.”

Amtrak President and CEO Alex Kummant said, “State-supported routes are the fastest growing part of our business. We look forward to working with Iowa and Illinois to meet with the host railroads and take the next steps to initiate this service.” Amtrak has never operated scheduled trains to Iowa City, which lost its Rock Island Railroad passenger rail service in 1970, or the Quad Cities, which lost its Rock Island Railroad service in 1978.

The Amtrak study released today is an addendum to an earlier study and report issued in December 2007 for the Illinois Department of Transportation, analyzing the feasibility of rail passenger service from Chicago to the Illinois Quad Cities. Both reports are available at: http://www.iowadot.gov/amtrakstudy/ .


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Anthony Perl, France Bilodeau
Named To Via Board

From VIA Rail Announcement

OTTAWA, CANADA---The Hon. Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, today announced the appointments of international rail authority Anthony David Perl, and of insurance expert France Bilodeau, to the board of directors of VIA Rail Canada Inc.

VIA Rail Canada operates the passenger trains serving Canada.

“I am pleased that these individuals have agreed to serve on the board of VIA Rail Canada Inc.,” said Minister Cannon. “VIA Rail provides a vital service to link our communities and I am confident that their combined experience will be a tremendous asset to the board.”

Dr. Perl, who has been a featured speaker at conferences of the National Corridors Initiative, is an Honors graduate of Harvard University and is currently professor and director of the urban studies program, and professor in the department of political science at Simon Fraser University. In addition to his Harvard degree he holds a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Toronto in political science, and a Master of Arts from the University of Toronto in public administration.

Dr. Perl has written several books including Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil and The Integrity Gap: Canada’s Environmental Policy and Institutions. Dr. Perl has also written over 30 articles in scholarly journals. He is currently on a number of boards of directors, and is vice-chair of the Centre for Sustainable Transportation, and chair of the Transportation Research Board’s committee on intercity rail passenger systems. Dr. Perl has been appointed for a term of four years, effective April 21, 2008.

Ms. Bilodeau holds a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science from Université Laval. She was admitted as a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries in 1989, became a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries in 1990 and earned a globally recognized Chartered Financial Analyst designation in 1997.

Ms. Bilodeau is currently senior vice-president for Aon Consulting Inc., a premier insurance brokerage, consulting services and consumer insurance underwriting organization. Ms. Bilodeau is also active in her community. She is a member of the board of directors of Universitas Trust Funds of Canada, a member of the Native Commercial Credit Corporation, as well as a member of the Fondation du Québec pour la recherché sur l’implant cochléaire. Ms. Bilodeau has been appointed for a term of four years, effective April 21, 2008.

VIA Rail Canada Inc., a Crown corporation created in 1977, operates Canada’s national passenger rail service. The board of directors is responsible for overseeing the business activities and other affairs of the corporation. For further information: Karine White, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Ottawa, (613) 991-0700; Transport Canada is online at www.tc.gc.ca. Subscribe to news releases and speeches at www.tc.gc.ca/e-news/ and keep up to date on the latest from Transport Canada.


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...

Feds Announce New Rail Rules For Deadly Chemicals

From Internet sources: Alameda Times Star (Oakland, CA) and CNN

Critics question whether the rules will be effective

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 17 -- The Bush administration announced regulations last Wednesday that require railroads to use the “safest and most secure route” for shipments of deadly chemicals such as chlorine and ammonia. The order states that railroads must compare existing routes that are used for toxic shipments against at least one alternate route and come up with the safest alternatives by September 2009.

Evaluations must begin by June 1. A list of 27 criteria, such as population density, quality of tracks and proximity of iconic targets, will serve as the basis for deciding the best routes.

“The goal of this rule is not to prohibit the movement of these hazardous materials,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters during a conference call with the media. “Moving commodities such as chlorine and anhydrous ammonia by rail is absolutely vital to our national economy.

“The risk of serious train accidents involving the release of the most toxic and dangerous hazardous materials is being significantly reduced, and people living in big cities and rural communities alike will be better safeguarded,” she said.

Pressure has been on the government to address this problem since September 11, but little has been done until now. Nevertheless, even with the new rules, advocates for safety are skeptical.

“Not one city will be protected. Not one,” said Fred Millar, a consultant to Friends of the Earth who has been involved in efforts to prevent hazardous shipment on tracks that transit Washington.

Millar said the rule pre-empts states and localities from taking action to restrict shipments in their jurisdiction.

Many heavily populated areas around the country have freight rail lines close to their communities where hazardous materials are shipped.

“The way they’ve defined the problem is by the individual railroads and each railroad’s route,” said Millar, “That virtually eliminates the possibility of rerouting. For instance, if the Bay Area’s biggest freight carrier, Union Pacific, wanted to bypass the area’s population centers, it would need to use tracks owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The regulations don’t require such cooperation between railroads.”

Randy Sawyer, director of Hazardous Materials Programs for Contra Costa County’s health department, was a little more optimistic. The rules call for railroads to cooperate with local communities in doing their analysis, he said, something that hasn’t been done before.

“If they do a good job, I think that would be great, but I’m not sure what they’re required to do,” Sawyer said.

Dealing with local communities could mean anything from contacting city fire departments to consulting with state wildlife officials on potential environmental impacts, he said. But the rules don’t address substances such as highly explosive liquefied petroleum gas, Sawyer noted, which is ubiquitous in East Bay communities. One county-run preschool in Rodeo is across the street from a regular parking area for strings of LPG cars.

Some critics question whether the railroads should be the ones to decide which are the safest routes.

Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman said these rules, along with others that regulate the strength of tank cars and that limit the speed of trains hauling hazardous materials, will work together to increase safety. Asked about rerouting the trains around cities, he could not say at this stage how that will play out.

One of the ways — short of rerouting — that railroads might improve hazardous shipment routes would be to upgrade tracks and reduce the chance of derailments.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is also working on a set of regulations, proposed in 2006, that would govern how highly hazardous shipments are handled.

Railway Age reported that the Association of American Railroads issued a statement April 17 supporting the new safety rules. But the AAR said the ruling leaves unresolved the need to seek out alternatives to hazardous chemicals and the application of improved technology related to such change.

For more information on AAR’s position, go to http://www.railwayage.com/breaking_news.shtml#Feature1-4-18.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)99.7793.19
Canadian National (CNI)52.2948.24
Canadian Pacific (CP)69.3064.30
CSX (CSX)61.2456.31
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)35.4933.95
Kansas City Southern (KSU)43.4539.67
Norfolk Southern (NSC)61.6454.99
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.0019.50
Union Pacific (UNP)138.08130.21


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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...

Nebraska Raises Gas Tax

From the Sierra Club

Override of veto adds 1.2 cents per gallon

LINCOLN, APRIL 8 – Nebraska lawmakers succeeded in overriding their governor’s veto and passed a bill that will increase the gas tax by an estimated 1.2 cents per gallon beginning July 1.

Some legislators argued that imposing a higher tax would be barely noticeable considering the steep increase in gasoline prices in the past 90 days.

Others said it would add insult to injury for working Nebraskans who are worried about how they will pay for their next fill-up to get to work.

In the end, as reported in the Omaha World-Herald Bureau, the Legislature voted 34-15 to override Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto.

Heineman voiced his disappointment: “With gas and diesel prices at record highs and predicted to go even higher, food costs increasing and health care costs soaring, now is not the time to increase the gas tax.”

The added tax is will put Nebraska’s total tax at 26.7, an amount that will allow the State Department of Roads to pay additional salaries and benefits to its workers without dipping into construction funds. It will restore the $14.5 million that Heineman vetoed from the Roads Department budget

The gas tax debate was part of a larger discussion about how to finance highway construction. With fuel tax revenues declining, construction costs rising, and federal dollars uncertain, lawmakers in Nebraska and other states have been discussing new ways to finance future highway building.

“It’s not easy to stand up and argue for a tax increase,” said State Sen. Lavon Heidemann of Elk Creek. “But this is the right thing to do. It is the responsible thing to do.”

Lawmakers agreed to the 1.2 cent per gallon increase only after the Legislature’s roads backers promised to postpone a second tax increase that could have added another 3.3 cents per gallon beginning Jan. 1.

A tax mechanism still being considered even after the tax increase passed is to base the tax on the price of gasoline rather than on the number of gallons sold.

Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine said she would back off from that proposal and instead ask the Legislature to set aside $15 million in cash reserves to be used for road building over the next three years. The money would be used to match about $75 million in federal earmarks for specific construction projects, such as the Heartland Expressway across the Panhandle.

 Some lawmakers said the gas tax increase comes at the wrong time.

“I live paycheck to paycheck,” said Sen. Mike Friend of Omaha. “I drive a 1992 Honda Accord, and I have trouble filling that up in the morning. I live just like (my constituents).”

Nebraska adjusts its fuel tax rate twice a year to generate no more and no less than the amount budgeted for the Roads Department to spend. The final change to the tax rate could be slightly higher or lower, depending upon how much fuel Nebraskans buy.

(This story, and the one below in Environmental Lines about Hawaii, were sent to us from the Sierra Club’s national transportation list-serv.)


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CSX Posts Record First-Quarter Earnings

From Internet Sources

JACKSONVILLE, FL, APRIL 16- CSX Corp. announced a record first quarter on Wednesday as earnings jumped 63 percent over the same period in 2007, according to a story by David Hunt in the Florida Times-Union.

In the announcement, CSX officials cited earnings of $351 million, which translated to 85 cents per share for stockholders. During the first quarter of 2007, the company posted $240 million, or 52 cents per share.

Stock hit a 52-week high of $61.16 before closing at $59.89 after the Jacksonville-based railroad company released its financial outlook Wednesday.

“We continue to create value, which we’ve been doing significantly over the last three years,” said CSX CEO Michael Ward.


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign correspondent

 

The inaugural “Maitree Express” departs Kolkata Central Station on the way to Dhaka on the 14th of April.


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Bangladesh-India Train Service Resumes After 43 Years

(via The Times of India / AHN)
By Siddique Islam

DHAKA, BANGLADESH - Passenger train service between Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, and India’s West Bengal State capital, Kolkata resumed on Monday, Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangali New Year, after long 43 years.

The train named “Maitree (Friendship) Express”, covered with flowers, whistled off at 8:30 am from Dhaka Cantonment Station with around 370 passengers including a team of journalist on board, officials said.

On the other hand, another train from Kolkata is set to arrive in Bangladesh capital, Dhaka on Monday evening.

The train communication between Dhaka and Kolkata was suspended in March 1965 following the war between India and Pakistan when Bangladesh (officially called East Pakistan at the time) was a part of Pakistan.

Train fares have been fixed at between US$8 and $20 depending on the classes for the 538 kilometers (333 miles) journey - 418 kilometers (260 miles) in Bangladesh and 120 kilometers (74 miles) in India. Fares for each sleeping berth is $20, AC chair coach $12 and non-AC chair coach $8.

It will take around 13 hours for the journey, including 5 hours for immigration.

On April 10, Bangladesh and India signed an agreement clearing the way for cross-border run of trains on the Dhaka-Kolkata route.

Under the agreement, at the beginning there is one train service a week from each side. Two trains from Dhaka and Kolkata will depart on Saturdays and return on Sundays. India and Bangladesh have had bus and airline links for over a decade with Air India, Biman Bangladesh Airways, Jet Airways and others flying from Dhaka to various Indian cities several times per week. India imposes strict immigration and visa rules on Bangladeshi citizens attempting to travel to India for work or for permanent residence, which has had a severe dampening effect on all forms of travel between the two countries.


Photo by ICF. 

New Mumbai suburban EMU train set ready for delivery near ICF’s Chenai facility in southern India.


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Deliveries Of New Emus To Mumbai Fall Behind Schedule

(via The Times of India / TNN)
By Devraj Dasgupta

MUMBAI, INDIA --– Indian Railways, facing criticism for the delay in delivery of new suburban trains, has promised to augment production capacity at ICF Train Works of Chenai to compensate for lost time.

Mumbai is supposed to receive 174 train sets as part of an Rs 31.2 billion (US $ 790 million) Mumbai Urban Transportation Project (MUTP). The new train sets will be used to open up new local and regional services as well as replacing three and four-decade-old EMU train sets which are beyond their useful life.

Mumbai estimated it would receive four to five new train sets from ICF each month starting in April 2008. But a World Bank team found that ICF was nowhere near producing four train sets per month. ICF might be able to produce just one train set per month. Railway Board member Mr. Rajkamal Rao admitted that there was a slip in production schedule, but that the board was taking steps to augment production capacity at ICF. “We are planning various measures to augment ICF’s capacity and adding new assembly lines is just one of them.” Mr. Rao stated.

ICF is currently producing the new train sets for Mumbai with two assembly lines, but is working overtime to install two more lines. Officials said that ICF planned to hire additional workers to install various microprocessor-controlled systems. “The regular workers need a lot of training so there is a plan to hire workers just for this project,” stated an ICF official.

The new EMU trains sets have numerous improvements compared to the current EMU fleet in use in the Mumbai area including air ride suspension, high capacity forced air ventilation for the interiors, IGBT propulsion controls which help reduce power consumption by 30%, in service speed on 100 km/h with quicker acceleration and deceleration, and 12 car length to reduce overcrowding on Mumbai’s heavily used rail network.


Photo by Times of India

An old and extremely overcrowded EMU approaches an intermediate station in Mumbai in 2004. Note the riders on the roof in close proximity to the 1500 VDC traction power lines.

Indian Railway Board Chief:
High Speed Corridors Will Soon Be Reality

India Firms Plans to Join High Speed Train Club

(via The Times of India / TNN)

MUMBAI -- For millions of passengers who travel across the country by trains, there is a good chance that Indian Railways will soon transport them faster with high-speed trains. K.C. Jena, chairman of the Railway Board, reiterated on Wednesday (16th April) the ministry’s commitment to the feasibility of high-speed corridors very soon.

Jena said the (Indian) railways had already identified five corridors to run high-speed trains at up to 350 km/h. “But Railways is open to suggestions of high speed corridors in other states also, provided the local governments share the cost of the feasibility study for such routes” said Jena in Mumbai after attending the 53rd Railway Week celebrations.

Sources said Indian Railways is planning soon to appoint an international consultant to study the hurdles and opportunities of high speed corridors on five identified routes in the north, south, east and west. “As of now the corridors identified are Mumbai – Pune, Mumbai- Ahmedabad, Chenai – Ernakulum via Bangalore, Delhi – Amritsar and Howrah – Haldia”, stated a railway official.

Photo at Left by Thakur Pundir.

Indian Railways “Himalayan Queen” intercity express train in northern India hauled by a WAP-7 locomotive just outside Ambala in November 2006.

Partial Privatization Of Deutsche Bahn Near To Agreement

(via dpa)

BERLIN Germany’s coalition of Conservative and Social Democrats is close to a deal to sell one fourth of Deutsche Bahn (DBAG), one of the largest rail networks in Europe, to private investors.

After an almost five-hour overnight meeting, the Social Democrats (SPD — the junior members of Angela Merkel’s grand coalition government in Germany have agreed to allow private investors to buy up to 24.9 per cent of DB’s passenger and logistics operations. This fell short of the 49.9 per cent that Merkel and leading members of her Conservative bloc had been arguing for.


Photo: David Beale

In state control – track maintenance, network and infrastructure will not be part of the partial privatization proposal for Deutsche Bahn. DB Netz, the network and infrastructure part of DBAG, uses maintenance vehicles, such as this one photographed during a pause in Haste, Germany in April 2008, to repair and replace components of the overhead electrical power system on electrified rail lines.

The new deal would mean that 100 per cent of the track network and 75.1 per cent of Deutsche Bahn’s passenger and freight operations would remain in German state hands, including a number of subsidiary companies such as trucking / logistics firm Schenker, and British train operators EWS and Chiltern Railways which were recently purchased by Deutsche Bahn.

Deutsche Bahn chief Hartmut Medhorn has said he hopes that the company, which is the last major German state-owned company facing privatization, will make its stock-market debut possibly as early as September. Some analysts, however, believe that 2009 would be a more realistic target date for the part-privatization. Germany sold off all state interests in several formerly state owned businesses such as Lufthansa German Airlines, Deutsche Post and Deutsche Telekom in the early 1990s.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...

Hawaii Flirts With Letting A Business
Bypass Environmental Law

Governing Magazine, April 2008
Tom Arrandale

Hawaii Superferry executives didn’t want service suspended for two years waiting for an environmental impact review to be completed which should show how to keep ferry operations from polluting harbors and killing humpback whales.

The ferry executives got their way. Flying in the face of Hawaii’s Environmental Protection Act 1974 that mandates an environmental review when large developments are planned, the state of Hawaii decided to allow the superferry to launch service without conducting the environmental impact statement.

In the summer of 2007, Hawaii’s Supreme Court overturned the state’s decision. The justices agreed with the Hawaii Sierra Club and local protesters that trips should be suspended until the state determined how to keep ferry operations from polluting the waters and harming marine life.

Three months later, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle retaliated. She called a special legislative session last fall to override the court’s decision so that the new, 866-passenger Superferry could stay in service. She won! Her administration persuaded legislators to let the 350-foot-long catamaran keep running — so long as it met 40 interim guidelines — while state scientists review potential environmental damage.

There may be no precedent for a governor and legislature stepping in so openly to give a single business a pass from complying with the country’s landmark environmental statutes. Like the federal government’s National Environmental Protection Act of 1969 and other similar state laws, Hawaii’s 1974 act orders government agencies to take pollution and natural resource damage into account before allowing significant projects to proceed.

Businesses and state highway departments balk at the delays caused by the lengthy reviews and the cumbersome public-participation processes that go with them.

Hawaii Superferry executives insisted that waiting out a full-scale review for two or more years would effectively scuttle the venture by ensuring that financing deadlines would be missed. Governor Lingle and her state transportation department are impatient when faced with delays for faster, more convenient transportation.

The Hawaii case reflects a political conflict that has been going on across the country for decades: the rift between the transportation establishment, on the one hand, and environmentalists on the other. Many transportation departments have had formidable clout with governors and legislators, owing to the advantage of having their own source of money, thanks to the highway trust fund. Often transportation engineers and officials treat environmental impacts as an afterthought. State natural resource and pollution-control agencies have fought many losing battles with DOT engineers.

In a few states, top-ranking engineers have recognized they can save time and money by incorporating environmental concerns in early versions of project blueprints. Florida, Vermont and Montana have redesigned projects to accommodate wildlife and reduce damage to watersheds. In drafting plans for rebuilding heavily traveled Interstate 90 across Snoqualmie Pass, Washington state’s DOT worked closely with conservation groups to integrate wildlife passages and reconnect migration routes up and down the Cascade Mountains.

“It’s the only road project that I know of in the United States,” says Douglas MacDonald, the former Washington DOT secretary, “that has the support of the Sierra Club.”

MacDonald, a lawyer, previously supervised the Boston Harbor cleanup as head of the Massachusetts water resource agency. In six years in the Washington DOT post, he worked closely with the state Department of Ecology regulators to prevent costly delays by incorporating storm-water controls, wetland preservation, and other environmental features early in project designs. MacDonald stepped down last summer, but environmental specialists have started rising through the WashDOT ranks. DOT officials in all states now are being pushed to consider how their transportation plans engender suburban sprawl. Gradually things are changing, as in the case of New Jersey where the DOT incorporates land use plans with transportation projects to combat sprawl and congestion. Still, MacDonald says, “state DOTs have a long, long way to go in building a lasting environmental ethic.”

That’s as true in the middle of the Pacific as it is in the middle of the continental United States.


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