The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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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May 17, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 21

Copyright © 2010
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 11th Newsletter Year

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

  News Items…
US DOT Chief LaHood Goes Training In Japan
Union Pacific Opposes California Land Acquisition
   For High Speed Rail
FRA Gives Go-Ahead For Phase I Of Orlando-Tampa
   High-Speed Rail
Top Rail Officials Meeting To Discuss Next Generation
   Equipment And Jobs
  Commuter Lines…
New Jersey Transit Now Has Highest Rail Fares!
Hundreds Of MTA Station Agents Laid Off
Transit Budget Shortfall: A National Crisis
Cincinnati Approves Funding For Streetcar, Increasing
   Likelihood Of Federal Commitment
  Selected Rail Stocks …
  Political Lines…
Senators Kerry And Lieberman Unveil Draft Climate
   And Energy Legislation
  Across The Pond…
Train Ridership Trends Upward In Western Ireland
Russia Interested In Alstom AGV Train Sets
Philip Hammond Takes Over Transport Office In The U.K.
Anniversary Time In Germany
The Petroleum Culture’s Three-Mile Island
  Publication Notes …

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

US DOT Chief LaHood
Goes Training In Japan

From Bloomberg And Internet Sources, And By DF Staff

TOKYO — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rode on a 502 kilometer-per-hour (312 mph) magnetic- levitation train in Japan, stoking optimism that the Asian nation may be able to sell the technology overseas, Bloomberg reporter Chris Cooper wrote this past week.

“We are right at the beginning of an opportunity for American cities to be connected by high-speed trains,” LaHood said after his 27-minute ride at a test track in Yamanashi, west of Tokyo. “I’m delighted with this opportunity to really experience all the technology.”

Bloomberg reported that LaHood visited the Central Japan Railway Co. line as renewed U.S. spending on railways revives optimism about maglev projects, including a possible link between Washington and Baltimore. That proposed line, costing some $5.8 billion, would cut the 40-mile journey to 18 minutes and it could eventually be extended to New York and Boston, according to a Maryland Department of Transport-backed group promoting the project.

“The U.S. Transport Secretary coming to Japan and riding the maglev is significant,” said Masayuki Kubota, who oversees the equivalent of $1.7 billion in assets in Tokyo at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd. “It is a big step forward in getting contracts.”

Japan’s government has pledged to support JR Central’s bid to build the Washington-Baltimore line, possibly including loans from a state-owned bank. Maglev trains float above the tracks and are propelled along by magnetic currents, reported Bloomberg

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Union Pacific Opposes California
Land Acquisition For High Speed Rail

From The Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

CALIFORNIA -- The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s need to obtain land for a transportation corridor is running into stiff opposition from Union Pacific railroad, reports The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal’s David Goll reports.

“Officers the Union Pacific, major hauler of freight in the western and central United States, sent a letter to the Rail Authority in late April. It outlined the railroad’s objections to sharing rights-of-way with proposed high-speed trains through San Jose and southern Santa Clara County below Diridon Station, as well as parts of the San Joaquin Valley,” wrote Goll.

“The Rail Authority plans to build an 800-mile, $45 billion network for high-speed trains to connect Southern California’s major cities with the Bay Area and Sacramento. The passenger trains can reach maximum speeds of 220 miles per hour in rural areas,” the paper reported.

“In the April 23 letter, officials of Omaha-based Union Pacific reportedly said the high-speed passenger trains would interfere with their freight business and could lead to unsafe conditions. They also said they would resist efforts by the state to obtain the land through power of eminent domain,” said the paper.

For the full story and related news go to URL:

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Proposed FL Map

From FRA
FRA Gives Go-Ahead For Phase I
Of Orlando-Tampa High-Speed Rail

By DF Staff


WASHINGTON, DC--- The long [rail]road back to American ground transportation competitiveness vis á vis the rest of the developed world took an important step forward this past week when the Federal Railroad Administration released the first $60 million in stimulus funding for the first phase of the Tampa-Orlando-[Miami] High Speed Rail Corridor.

The FRA in January approved $1.25 billion for the Tampa-Orlando section of the $2.5 billion project; the state of Florida, which has hired Wilbur Smith Associates to manage the project, is seeking the Federal support for the Orlando-Miami segment with the key support of a number of Congressmen, including the influential Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who has said that the Tampa-Orlando-Miami project could serve as a “template” for the building of High Speed Rail in America.

Critics have said that the project, a part of President Barack Obama’s overall $8 billion Rail Stimulus Program, lacks the funding needed, but Florida’s DOT believes the money will be found, and that Florida High Speed Rail, first proposed more than two decades ago but always successfully killed off by oil-industry-paid lobbyists --- most recently former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose family traces its wealth directly to oil, and who undid years of work and millions of dollars worth of planning by terminating the then “FOX” (Florida Overland Express) project in January 1999 within a day of taking office.

Infrastructure advocates believe that this time, a working HSR system can be built, and many agree with Cong. Oberstar that perhaps a template, and at the very least a valuable learning curve, will result that can benefit other regions planning similar rail systems.


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Top Rail Officials Meeting To Discuss
Next Generation Equipment And Jobs

From The American Association Of State Highway And Transportation Officials

CHICAGO --- The key American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) committee charged with helping to shape the future of high-speed and intercity passenger rail manufacturing in America met recently in Chicago, Illinois, with more than 200 domestic and international manufacturers and suppliers of passenger rail equipment.

The next Generation Equipment Committee is made up of members from state transportation departments, the Federal Railroad Administration, and Amtrak. Its primary focus is to develop specifications and procurement strategies for America’s next generation of passenger rail cars and equipment, including more powerful locomotives. 

“Today’s event builds on the highly successful meeting of equipment providers convened by Secretary Ray La Hood earlier this year,” said Bill Bronte, Director of the Rail Division of the California Department of Transportation and chair of the committee. “We are making solid progress to develop the plans and specifications for the kind of rail equipment America will need to realize its goal of creating true high-speed rail for the nation.” 

The committee was created by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) and its initial funding is being provided by the FY 2010 transportation appropriations act. The group of state rail leaders, senior Amtrak managers, and US DOT rail professionals offers a unique blend of both expertise and resources, including those of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. 

“The Chicago meeting is another major step toward the creation of the jobs the President envisions as a key part of his high-speed intercity passenger program,” said John Horsley, AASHTO executive director. “States proved through the Recovery Act that they can deliver projects and paychecks. Now they’re ready to do it again in partnership with Amtrak and the FRA,” Horsley said. 

AASHTO has also created the Rail Resource Center, as the institutional home of the NGEC and a resource for the very latest information on high-speed and intercity passenger rail. You can find the website at

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is the “Voice of Transportation” representing State Departments of Transportation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. AASHTO is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association serving as a catalyst for excellence in transportation.

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COMMUTERLINES... Commuter Lines...  

New Jersey Transit Now Has Highest Rail Fares!

By David Peter Alan

When he was campaigning for the governorship, Christopher Christie promised that he would not increase fees for motorists and truckers on the state’s highways. He has kept that promise. Transit riders are not so fortunate. All transit fares increased two weeks ago, and rail riders in the Northern and Central parts of the state are now paying the highest fares charged on any major commuter rail system.

New Jersey Transit (NJT) raised all peak-hour and commuter rail fares by 25%. In the process, they eliminated the discount for off-peak hours (mid-day and evening on week days; all day on weekends), which resulted in an off-peak rail fare increase average of 47%. The off-peak fare for a local ride on the train rose by 64%.

Fares on most of NJT’s rail lines are now the highest in the nation, according to Lackawanna Coalition member John Bobsin, who compared NJT’s fares for a 30-mile trip with those charged by New York MTA’s Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, SEPTA in Philadelphia, the MBTA in Boston and METRA in Chicago. Bobsin’s findings were first published in the Railgram, the newsletter of the Lackawanna Coalition, last week.

Even before the new fares came into effect, NJT’s monthly fares were the highest of any transit provider studied. Now they are substantially higher. The single-trip peak-hour fare on NJT has pulled ahead of New York MTA, which historically charged the highest fare. MTA’s off-peak fares and NJT’s used to be about the same. Now, an off-peak ride on NJT costs 51% more than a comparable ride in New York State.

A curious disparity:

Only riders in Northern and Central New Jersey are subjected to these higher fares. Fares on the Atlantic City Rail Line between Philadelphia and Atlantic City (referred to as “NJT South” in the accompanying bar chart) are only 57% of those charged for a comparable distance on “NJT North.” NJT management has not explained the reason for this disparity.

NJT Executive Director James Weinstein told reporters last Wednesday, “With the level of service we offer at the fares we charge, transit is a bargain in New Jersey.” Rail riders and advocates claim that NJT and the Christie Administration are discriminating against transit riders. “This Fare is Unfair” was their resounding message at the hearings.

Weinstein also said that preliminary figures from the first week of the higher fares show that “only 2.6% of rail riders were diverted due to the higher fares, well below forecast.”

Rider advocates dispute this number, because some commutation tickets for May were still sold at the old price, and some riders at off-peak hours did not know how much their fare was increasing. They got an unpleasant surprise when they bought their tickets. Riders on week-end trains were overheard saying that they would go to the City in their automobiles in the future, because the new fares are so high.

The money for three off-peak tickets will only buy two today. In a statement to the NJT Board of Directors, Joseph M. Clift, former Director of Planning for the LIRR and now representing the Regional Rail Working Group, cautioned the Board on the much higher off-peak prices, stating that these fares are now far less competitive with taking an automobile into New York City. He gave as an example the very recent experience of two family members. He said that, for the old fare of $19.25, two adults could travel from Denville, New Jersey (on the Morris & Essex Line) to New York City for $46.50. This included $8.00 for two round trips on the New York Subway (using a “bonus” MetroCard). With the new round-trip fare of $28.00, the cost of the train trip for two is now $64.00. Clift compared this price to $44.00 for the automobile; $6.00 for gas, $8.00 for the Hudson River toll and $30.00 for parking. “One person might still take the train into the City, but it’s now $20.00 cheaper for two to take the car, and they can go anytime they want” he said.

Clift is a staunch defender of a deeply discounted off-peak fare. When he was Director of Planning for the LIRR, the off-peak discount was increased from 25% to 33 1/3%. This change induced riders to travel at off-peak hours if their schedules permitted, which increased revenue on off-peak trains. It also shifted riders away from crowded peak-hour trains, which reduced the need for peak-hour capacity. Clift told the Railgram: “Thus, a change in fare policy that helped riders also helped the railroad keep its operating costs down.”

Travelers now will be encouraged to desert the train and take the automobile. The fear now is that only riders who have no alternative will stick with rail during off-peak hours. And some will opt to take the bus instead of rail since that will now cost 75 cents less each way on local trips, adding further reduction to rail ridership. Lower demand will no doubt result in more services being eliminated, as happened in the past when off-peak fares went up by 25% but peak-hour costs rose only 10%.

The present fare increase, will be accompanied by some service reductions, which will go into effect on May 23rd.

The campaign is not over. Advocates plan to press the Legislature to provide money for the operating side of NJT, specifically to restore off-peak discounts. Some legislators responded favorably when advocates expressed their concerns about “discrimination” at legislative hearings earlier this year.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, which objected to the fare increase and is participating in the campaign to restore the off-peak rail fare. For details on Bobsin’s methodology, go to the Coalition’s web site,

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Hundreds Of MTA Station Agents Laid Off

WPIX.Com Writer Lisa Mateo

NEW YORK -- During the first week of May, 478 station workers were laid off as part of the MTA’s plan to save $21 million a year. Almost immediately, security problems worsened.

Criminals have already taken advantage of the situation. According to union officials, in one incident, troublemakers jammed a MetroCard machine in order to force riders to purchase fares from them.

High-profile crimes in the subways are also on the rise. Major crimes were up 2 percent in March compared to the same month last year, the NYPD reported.

MTA officials claim that all stations will have one clerk on duty at all times, and that 2,650 agents will remain in the system. The MTA is facing a $450 million deficit this year.

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Transit Budget Shortfall:
A National Crisis

Op Ed Calls Attention To Need For Feds To Recognize Public Benefit That Is “Too Big To Fail”

Boston Globe On The Internet

BOSTON, MAY 14 --- An op ed by Dan Grabauskas and Paul Regan underscores the dire situation of transit funding and the lack of national attention to the problem.

“RED SOX and Yankees fans can agree on one thing — how to get to the game.” Approximately 50% of ticketholders take public transportation to the games — “a percentage higher than any other professional sports franchise in any city in the country. Yet, even as hundreds of thousands pour into rail cars each season, most are unaware that the trains are running on empty.”

“From sports and entertainment to banking, health care, and higher education, industry sectors in cities throughout the country are dependent on mass transit. In Boston, nearly 60 percent of all workers in the financial district take the T to work. Yet when it comes to valuing these systems, we are a nation in denial, passive about their economic contribution; lacking the collective will to finance them properly; and oblivious to the certainty of their deterioration if their issues are not addressed.”

Nationwide service cuts, huge budget deficits, shutdown of entire lines, and millions of dollars worth of deferred maintenance are putting this great public benefit at risk of further decline.

“According to a 2010 survey by the American Public Transportation Association, 84 percent of all transit agencies have cut service or raised fares in the last year, or plan to do so in the near future. New York City faces a $800 million shortfall, and has implemented a plan to delay maintenance, and cut entire subway lines and bus routes; Chicago, facing a $300 million shortfall, has significantly reduced service on dozens of bus routes, and rail lines; Philadelphia has announced a 6 percent fare increase to help close a $110 million operating deficit; and Washington has a $189 million operating deficit for next year, with plans to balance it by using capital funds to pay for operating costs (thus deferring maintenance), as well as reducing some bus and rail service.”

The MBTA faces a $230 million structural deficit and $543 million in unfunded safety-critical projects, according to a recent report by former John Hancock chief executive David D’Alessandro

While transit systems in urban areas nationwide are being pressured to expand, their budgets are “starved” by and “intractable fixed costs” and fare revenues and government subsidies that nowhere near cover operating costs or capital needs.

“Before we can answer the call for expansion, we need to fix what’s falling down,” say Grabauskas and Regan. “To do so, we must make a national shift toward support for repair work. A country brought up on expansion must embrace maintenance as the new manifest destiny.” [Editor’s emphasis.]

The writers call for “radical new funding formulas” by the federal government to solve this national crisis. One hope is that the reauthorization of the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act this fall will support mass transit in such a way that it will boost economic renewal and energy efficiency.

The federal government and the private sector must respond in a significant way to come up with creative financing strategies and rescue this most publicly beneficial example yet of “too big to fail.”

A national transit summit next week in Boston will examine these issues and demand national strategies for coming up with broadly applied solutions.

“It will also offer a front row seat to the elephant in the room: paying for what we have with what little we’ve got.”

Dan Grabauskas, former general manager of the MBTA, is senior fellow for public policy at MassInc. Paul Regan is executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board.

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Proposed OH Route Cincinnati Approves Funding For Streetcar,
Increasing Likelihood Of Federal Commitment


Transport Politic On The Internet


CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati could be in line to become the first city in the Midwest to have a modern streetcar. Across the country, cities are in stiff competition for federal funds for transportation, so local funding is key to their success. And Cincinnati, with the help of a pro-transit mayor and strong voter support, has put together a promising package of non-federal pots of money.

After approving $64 million in bonds and $2.6 million in direct grants, the city council spurred even more local funding - $15 million from Ohio DOT, $4 million from the OKI Regional Council of Governments, and $3.5 million from Duke Energy, a major local employer.

“U.S. Department of Transportation officials have stated repeatedly that the government will give preference to cities that have allocated non-federal funds to transportation projects,” the article states.

After assembling a substantial base of local support, the city applied for one of the government’s $25 million urban circulator grants planned for release next month. It will also apply for a TIGER grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and is considering putting the project into the Small Starts capital funding process.innati. The article continues, “Cincinnati, lacking local funds for the streetcar project until just recently, had its first request for TIGER grants refused. Dallas, Detroit, New Orleans, Portland and Tucson, all of which had committed local funding, did receive funding for their streetcar lines in that process. Washington, DC, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Seattle, and West Sacramento have yet to receive their grants from Washington, but have assembled revenue from non-federal sources, they will be likely candidates for the federal aid.

Cincinnati’s streetcar will run through the heart of downtown, connect the University of Cincinnati and the Banks riverfront development with the Uptown district; this route is expected to attract about 4,600 daily riders, especially considering the downtown has approximately 100,000 jobs. Other passenger generators are the University, the Over the Rhine neighborhood, and the Banks riverfront $1 billion industrial development.

Plans are in place to adjust the route if the City does not receive all the federal funds they have applied for.

If all goes well, construction for this Over the Rhine line could begin later this year.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Week (*)
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe (BNI)



Canadian National (CNI)59.1255.68
Canadian Pacific (CP) 57.3553.93
CSX (CSX)55.0352.67
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)37.6934.88
Kansas City Southern (KSU)38.8535.93
Norfolk Southern (NSC)58.2955.22
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.3912.25
Union Pacific (UNP)74.1871.07

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

APTA Alert (American Public Transportation Association)


Senators Kerry And Lieberman Unveil
Draft Climate And Energy Legislation

Reprinted With Permission

We Wish Our Readers To Be Aware Of This Important Alert:

WASHINGTON, DC, MAY 14 -- Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) released their long-awaited climate change and energy draft legislation, “the American Power Act” (APA) on Wednesday, May 12.  The discussion draft was released without the endorsement of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the third member of their collaborative effort to develop a bipartisan climate bill.

A significant portion of the revenue generated from the APA would come directly from fees imposed on the production of motor fuels.  These fees would likely be passed onto consumers at the gas pump, having the same impact on fuel prices as an increase in the motor fuels user fee, or gas tax.  Therefore, APTA and a coalition of 26 other transportation organizations joined together to advocate that 100 percent of revenue generated from new fees on motor fuels in the bill should be returned to the transportation sector and invested under a multi-year authorization bill.

The APA bill directs up to $6.25 billion per year for transportation investments from revenues generated from carbon fees and emissions auctions.  Based on APTA’s analysis of the legislation, a minimum of $19.5 billion in funds will be generated from motor fuels production in 2013 (the first year the bill would become effective), with that amount significantly increasing in subsequent years.  This means that at least 77 percent of revenue generated from pollution fees on gasoline and diesel is diverted away from investment in transportation in the first year.   In later years as the price of carbon increases, the percentage diverted could be as much as 91 percent. 

Specifically, the legislation provides for the following transportation investments:

The amounts allocated for surface transportation are far short of the levels that would be required to finance a new authorization bill, and represent a small percentage of the actual revenues derived from the production of motor fuels.   In addition, the $2.5 billion annual allocation to the HTF is not enough money to keep either the Highway or Mass Transit Accounts solvent, nor does the bill contain any language regarding transit formula dollars.



APTA members need to contact their Senators to urge them to ensure that 100 percent of revenues generated from fees on motor fuels production in the APA are invested in transportation in order to maintain and improve our nation’s infrastructure. When you talk to your Senators and their staff, please ask the following:

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

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


Train Ridership Trends Upward In Western Ireland

Galway Rail Route Beats Expectations

via The Irish Times - Gordon Deegan

Passenger traffic on the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor has exceeded expectations, Iarnród Éireann (IE) – Irish Railways said last week. A spokeswoman for the company said 16,000 journeys were made in the first month of the new Limerick-Galway service, which has been restored at a cost of €  106.5 million (US $135 million). The service was reintroduced after 34 years on March 29th.

“The first month’s operations have exceeded expectations, with significant demand experienced from day one,” the spokeswoman said.

Colman O’Raghallaigh of West on Track said the performance on the new rail line “has confounded the critics. We believe that, given the success of phase one, there is now no further excuse for prevarication as far as continuing with the next phases to Tuam and Claremorris.”

New Irish DMU

Photo: Iarnród Éireann

An IE 22000 class DMU train set off-duty in Limerick, Ireland in summer 2009. Electrification not extend beyond Dublin and its suburbs, thus all regional and intercity trains on the Irish rail network are diesel powered, such as this DMU train set built by Korea’s Rotem.

The IE spokeswoman said: “The 16,000 passenger journeys recorded are on top of the existing 14,400 monthly journeys on the Limerick-Ennis service, meaning the through route has seen over 30,000 passenger journeys in its first month. This is a strong and encouraging start for this new service. While the initial interest was a great start, we are now seeing daily demand being sustained. There is little doubt that, as summer approaches, new demand – in the form of domestic and overseas tourists – will also see new rail customers taking to the line.”

The reopened line delivers a direct Galway to Limerick service and serves Limerick, Ennis, Athenry and Galway, and new stations at Sixmilebridge, Gort, Ardrahan and Craughwell.

The passenger numbers comes in spite of an IE business case anticipating losses of €  2.4 million per annum in the new service, while a Government-commissioned study has stated that the line’s “cost-benefit analysis would suggest that the scheme is not good value for money and should not have gone ahead”.

Before the line was opened, IE said the number of passengers anticipated in the business case would be exceeded.

IE stated: “It is an important piece of infrastructure, connecting two gateway and one hub under the National Spatial Strategy. The line will require subvention, but the investment was made on that basis.”

Mr. O’Raghallaigh said: “Clearly we are pleased but not surprised at the excellent performance of the railway to date. Anyone who knew anything about the movement of people in the west of Ireland could easily have predicted this.

“Indeed, the railway is so successful that there is a clear need for an additional evening service out of Galway after six o’clock. And we believe that Iarnród Éireann is examining the possibilities regarding the provision of such an extra ‘commuter’ service.”

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Russia Interested In Alstom AGV Train Sets

France’s AGV Is Direct Competitor To Germany’s Velaro

Moscow – RZD – Russian Railways – Vice President Valentin Gapanowitsch stated that the railway was reviewing a possible purchase of up to 20 AGV high-speed EMU train sets from France’s Alston. The trains would be used initially on the Moscow – St. Petersburg route, where Germany’s Velaro trains, a high speed EMU train set based on the ICE-3 model, recently started revenue services. The Velaro trains in Russia operate with the product name “Sapsan”. Both the AGV and Velaro were considered by Deutsche Bahn for 15 more high-speed train sets back in 2008, but in the end Siemens’ Velaro won the German rail company’s order.

AGV prototype paused in Champagne

Photo: Alstom

Alstom’s AGV prototype paused in Champagne – Ardenne, France back in the summer of 2008.

The AGV is the successor to various models of France’s TGV. The most dramatic difference between the AGV and current TGV models is the elimination of the individual power cars on either end of the TGV train series with distribution of drive motors on nearly all axles on the train – a sort of all-wheel drive. The AGV has also been designed with speeds of 360 – 400 km/h in mind, well above the 300 km/h max speed of most TGV train set models. The AGV is currently undergoing intensive testing in preparation for entry into service in Italy with independent rail operator NTV.

The main reason that RZD gave that the railway is looking at purchasing the AGV, the direct competitor of Velaro, is due to wheel wear far beyond what had been expected. The AGV would also be significantly faster that the current Velaro / Sapsan train sets, if operated on a planned new high speed rail line to be built parallel to the existing tracks on which the Velaro / Sapsan trains now travel on.

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Philip Hammond Takes Over Transport Office In The U.K.

Conservative Minister Now In Charge Of Britain’s Rail Policy And Public Investment

Via James Lashmer

London – The new Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition government has chosen Philip Hammond, a 55 year-old former “shadow” Secretary of Treasury and businessman, to lead Britain’s Department of Transport, thus succeeding Lord Andrew Adonis of the Labor Party.

Mr. Hammond’s views regarding the role of rail in Britain’s transportation infrastructure are not readily known. Past “Tory” (Conservative) governments since World War 2 have generally been regarded by most observers as being extremely unfriendly to rail transit in the U.K. The low-point was the last Conservative government under Margret Thatcher and John Major from 1979 through 1997, when British Rail (BR) was mostly ignored and left to fight for survival as Britain’s European neighbors invested heavily in rail transportation, then in the mid 1990s BR was rapidly split apart and privatized in a hastily written and poorly planned law in the final years of the last Conservative government went into effect. The resulting chaos on Britain’s railways resulted in a dramatic fall in service quality, overcrowding, declining ridership and several fatal accidents. In the past nine years much of the damage from the last Tory government had been reversed, large quantities of new rolling stock came into operation, ridership returned and even increased to post-war records, and system reliability has increased dramatically.

Mr. Hammond comes into office as several rail important rail projects in Britain move forward in their planning and construction phases, most notably Cross Rail in London followed by HS2, a proposed new high speed rail corridor from London to cities in northern England as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Anniversary Time In Germany

175th Year Of Railroading And 10th Year Of S-Bahn In Hannover

Hannover – two milestones will be achieved this year in Germany: 175 years of railroading in Germany (and several other European countries) along with the 10th anniversary of the start of the S-Bahn commuter rail system in the greater Hannover region.

In May 2000 the Hannover area was anticipating the grand opening of World Expo 2000 in June 2000. Planners were anticipating huge crowds of Expo 2000 visitors, with some wildly optimistic estimates pegging crowds at up to 300,000 people per day and 40 million or more visitors during the five-month duration of Expo 2000. Actual Expo 2000 visitor attendance finished at approximately 18 million people, well under half of what had been projected. Entry ticket prices were lowered twice in the last months of Expo 2000 in order to boost attendance, which had been running at just 25% of projections during the first two months of the fair.

With these Expo visitor estimates in-hand, planners decided that a massive upgrade of the transit system around Hannover was required before Expo 2000 opened. At the time the commuter rail network in the greater Hannover area consisted primarily of older locomotive hauled rolling stock with services running once per hour or per every two hours with a few extra commuter trains operated during weekday morning and afternoon rush hours. Hence long dormant plans to create an S-Bahn commuter train network in the Hannover area came back to life, and by May 2000 limited operations began, with most trains funneling into the newly built train station in Laatzen next to the Expo fairgrounds.

Due to a number of technical glitches and snags with the ET 424 EMU train sets ordered for Hannover, services initially began in mid-May 2000 with ET 423 EMUs leased in from the Stuttgart and Munich commuter rail networks, which were designed and built more for the almost subway / metro-like characteristics of those S-Bahn networks with more doors per car, more standing room and less seats than the ET 424 cars for Hannover. In September 2000 the first of the ET 424 train sets, after undergoing a number of modifications and retrofits to fix problems with the doors, cab signaling, propulsion and electrical systems, began to enter into service.

In the past ten years the EMU-based commuter rail system in Hannover has gone from four lines in just two counties into eight lines which span a huge region crossing two German states and six counties from Celle in the northeast to Paderborn some 60 km southwest of Hannover. The fleet has grown from about 30 temporarily leased-in ET 423 train sets to 59 ET 424 and ET 425 train sets on long term leases, with ridership which has increased at nearly 5% annually since services began.

ET 424 train set pauses on Track 31 in Haste

Photo: David Beale

Happy 10th Birthday – A single ET 424 train set pauses on Track 31 in Haste on the 16th of May 2010 with the newly applied birthday balloon 10th anniversary logo. This train set, 424 027, is named after the city of Hannover. Other train sets in the Hannover S-Bahn fleet are named after the towns of Celle, Stadthagen, Hameln (of Pied Piper fame), Wunstorf, Langenhagen, Haste, Bad Pyrmont, Lehrte, Barsinghausen and other locations in the region. The practice of naming locomotives and train sets after cities, towns and famous people is fairly common in Germany and other European countries.

While S-Bahn Hannover celebrates its 10th year of operation, Germany is celebrating the 175th year of railroading in the country. Festivities were kicked-off back in March 2010 in Potsdam with a number of dignitaries and officials from Deutsche Bahn, the rail industry and various branches of government in Germany. An ICE-T train set with a special 175th anniversary paint scheme is now in regular operations around Germany.

A number of rail advocacy groups in Germany, including Allianz pro Schiene, Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD) and ProBahn issued press releases in the past weeks that state there is little reason to celebrate regarding the German rail scene. Allianz pro Schiene complained that the past 20 years have been a step backwards for railroading in Germany since the country has reduced the rail network by nearly one fifth in the past two decades, more than any country in Europe except Poland, where the rail network shrunk by about 26% in the same time period.

Photo: Deutsche Bahn AG

An ICE-T train set on display in March 2010 in Potsdam with a new 175th anniversary of trains in Germany logo to start the celebrations for the next coming months.

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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

The Petroleum Culture’s Three-Mile Island
Or Is It Their Chernobyl?

We didn’t think it could get any worse. It has.

The nearly-month-old BP Blowout in the Gulf of Mexico hasn’t been pumping 5,000 barrels a day into the fragile aquaculture and food chain of the Gulf. It turns out to be between 10 and 15 times that amount, or 50,000-75,000 a day, according to scientists with no stake in the outcome, other than finding the truth.

Of course, at some point, the numbers become meaningless. As Winston Churchill said about adding yet more nuclear warheads to the already staggering US-Soviet Cold-war arsenal, “If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.”

In like fashion, the oil industry’s incredible decades-long hubris that deep-sea drilling catastrophes like the one that is actually transpiring now were so unlikely that mitigation plans needn’t be seriously developed begs the question, because whether it is 5,000 barrels a day, or 50,000, the damage to the environment, let along the economic health of the entire Gulf states region, has already taken a hit that will take a generation to cleanse…if then.

The events in the Gulf of Mexico are further examples, as if we needed them, as to why we cannot allow multi-national corporations responsible to no one but their own pocket-books to devise and enforce (or not) regulations/standards that govern their own behavior. A fox guarding a hen house would be preferable to these characters: at least the fox doesn’t dissemble.

The Petroleum Economy since World War I and even before has used its vast profits to buy off/bribe/corrupt any attempt to govern its behavior. Now comes the whirlwind that that behavior has made inevitable. Hindsight? Not to some of us. A huge chunk of the nation’s economy is about to be destroyed. In New Orleans’ case, the matter is truly rises to the Biblical level, as in the trials of Job, because this is the second man-made disaster to be visited upon Louisiana since Katrina (yes, you read that right).

But whether it is the destruction of the food/tourism/recreation industry in Louisiana and the Gulf States, or the criminally-led collapse of the financial sector that stripped millions of Americans of their homes, or the export of decent-working class jobs and thereby a huge chunk of the American middle class over the past three decades to countries with neither labor nor environmental laws, or the gluttonous petroleum-obsessed development of a highway-only transportation culture that has decimated passenger rail service in America (despite a valiant Amtrak) and until recently with rail intermodal shipping’s resurgence (“double-stacks” etc.) removed most freight, except bulk commodities, from the rails, there is a clear beacon in the wreckage, and it announces: Ronald Reagan was wrong. Government is not the problem. Greed and avarice are the problem, and the Magic of the Marketplace will not only not alter that, it will make it worse) , and unless ordinary Americans get involved with their government again, on a local, state, and national level, we are going to lose what we have, and continue our decline.

The United States Supreme Court recently overturned major campaign reform legislation on the grounds that corporations are entitled to all the free speech they can buy.

Well, they are not, and we had better choose people in our elective future who understand that, as well as the need to make sure that the people who tell you it’s safe to drill for oil 5,000 feet below sea level aren’t the same people who profit from it…until disaster strikes, and we get stuck with the cost.

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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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