Vol. 8 No. 27
July 2, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American transportation update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

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

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

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

  News Items…
New England governors, Eastern Canadian Premiers meet
   at Prince Edward Island to renew cooperation
  Off the main line…
Illegal blockade of rail line causes CN to halt rail operations
   in Toronto-Montreal corridor
  Selected rail stocks…
  Freight lines…
Genesee & Wyoming shuts Mexican line: Unrepaired ’05
   hurricane damage is blamed
  Commuter lines…
Chicago’s METRA threatens fare hikes, service cuts
  Across the Pond…
Rail and highway suspension bridge will link
   Denmark and Germany
  Commentary…
CSX begins NJ-MA container freight service
  End notes…


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News items...

New England governors, Eastern Canadian Premiers
meet at Prince Edward Island to renew cooperation

By DF Staff

ROSENEATH, CARDIGAN, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND --- Governors, premiers, and top appointed and elected officials from the New England states and Eastern Canadian provinces met this past week at Rodd Brudenell River Resort at a session that included a dues-paying Massachusetts governor for the first time in years.

Newly elected Gov. Deval Patrick, greeted warmly by his colleagues at the start of Tuesday’s main meeting, said, smiling, “I am Deval Patrick, and Massachusetts is back in your company.”

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and NCI President Jim RePass

Three Photos: NCI

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and NCI President Jim RePass

Former Governor Mitt Romney had declined to pay Massachusetts’ dues to the non-profit Governors’ conference for the last several years, effectively crippling its activities and causing some other states to consider pulling out. That danger ended this week for the only region-wide organization that gathers governors and premiers together on a regular basis, along with key officials, to discuss and debate issues of regional significance.

This year’s theme was energy and the environment, although the discussion, led by conference co-chairs Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont and Premier Robert Ghiz of Prince Edward Island --- who took office only two weeks ago --- returned again and again to transportation, and its impact on the economy as well as the environment: the bulk of air pollution in the region, it was noted, results from greenhouse gases/pollutants emitted by the transportation sector, so addressing the environment without considering the region’s transportation is unwise.

Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri, last year’s NE Governors’ chair, reinforced the conclusion of the Ministerial Forum on Energy and Environment held earlier this year, which called for the creation of a regional mechanism to build and operate the power line system needed to balance the energy usage between the regions: the Southern region is summer-peaking in terms of KW of demand, and the Northern region is winter-peaking. “We need to look out 35-40 years, and develop a partner” to buy and distribute the power, noted Carcieri.

Sharing energy between the northern and southern regions, especially from new windpower installations in Prince Edward Island, a new nuclear plant in New Brunswick, and other energy generators, would help balance the region’s electrical usage, the governors and premiers agreed, but that entity was not defined. It would be similar to the New England/Northeastern Infrastructure Authority proposed by the National Corridors Initiative, which was represented at this conference by NCI President Jim RePass.

Next year’s conference will be hosted in Maine by Gov, John Baldacci, incoming chair of the New England Governors’ Conference, and the strongest rail advocate among New England governors for many years. Maine is the home of the DownEaster, the most successful train in the Amtrak system in terms of customer service and on-time performance. It is operated by Amtrak under a contract from Maine’s Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, headed by Patricia Quinn.

The conference report on infrastructure construction was augmented by suggestions that the region impose tougher, and more uniform, building construction and equipment standards, so as to aide in conservation of energy.

A report released by a group of environmental organizations, timed to be made public as the conference was meeting on Prince Edward Island, also called for more to be done in terms of alternative energy and conservation, relying less on conventional utility solutions such as large power plant construction or new transmission lines.

Premier Jean Charest of Quebec called for creation of a “Bourse de Carbon” (Carbon Credit Exchange) to facilitate conservation. Gov. Baldacci noted that his state attorney general’s office has developed a study to do just that.

In addition to govs. Patrick, Carcieri, Baldacci, and Douglas, all five of the Eastern Canadian premiers attended, including Robert Ghiz of Prince Edward Island, Rodney McDonald of Nova Scotia, Shawn Graham of New Brunswick, Jean Charest of Quebec, and Danny Williams of Newfoundland Labrador. New Hampshire Gov. Lynch was represented by Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Thomas Burrack, while Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell did not attend, and sent no official representative.

Prince Edward Island is the home to a 30-MW wind farm built by Danish company Vesta Prince Edward Island is the home to a 30-MW wind farm built by Danish company Vesta
Prince Edward Island is the home to a 30-MW wind farm built by Danish company Vesta on the Eastern end of the island province, shown on a tour for delegates to the 31st annual New England Governors-Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference June 24-27 at the Rodd Brudenelle River Resort in Roseneath, Cardigan, PEI. Each of the 10 wind turbines in the installation produces 3 MW of electricity. Visitors were awestruck by the beauty of the windfarm, and its whispering “whoosh” of the fan blades. More next week.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE...  Off the main line...

Illegal blockade of rail line causes CN to halt
rail operations in Toronto-Montreal corridor

From the Internet

MONTREAL, QUEBEC --- Canadian National Railway Company announced last Friday that they have halted freight operations and embargoed all traffic on its Toronto-Montreal main line because of an illegal blockade on their tracks near Marysville, Ontario.

First Nations protesters, reportedly armed, erected the blockade which was scheduled to start at 4 PM on June 29 and end at 4 PM the following day. The dispute involves land claims.

Last April, CN obtained a court order issued by Justice Campbell of the Ontario Superior Court barring illegal occupation of the rail corridor by the natives, but the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) refused to enforce the order. First Nations protesters are again blocking CN's rail corridor and the OPP continues to refuse to intervene.

CN, in the interest of ensuring the safety of its employees and operations, will indefinitely halt all rail operations on its Montreal-Toronto main line, including VIA Rail passenger trains, until the company has received assurances that the OPP will remove protesters and guarantee such safety.

CN's Toronto-Montreal corridor is the busiest on its system, accommodating an average of 25 freight trains and 22 VIA Rail trains on a daily basis. VIA Rail cancelled passenger service in the corridor for June 29.

CN - Canadian National Railway Company - spans Canada and mid-America, from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the Gulf of Mexico, serving the ports of Vancouver, Prince Rupert, B.C., Montreal, Halifax, New Orleans, and Mobile, Ala., and the key cities of Toronto, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Duluth, Minn./Superior, Wis., Green Bay, Wis., Minneapolis/St. Paul, Memphis, St. Louis, and Jackson, Miss., with connections to all points in North America. For more information on CN, visit the company's website at www.cn.ca.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)85.1486.15
Canadian National (CNI)50.9351.02
Canadian Pacific (CP)68.8269.74
CSX (CSX)45.0844.79
Florida East Coast (FLA)82.9883.09
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.8430.40
Kansas City Southern (KSU)37.5438.45
Norfolk Southern (NSC)52.5753.91
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.3419.11
Union Pacific (UNP)115.15116.09


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Genesee & Wyoming shuts Mexican line:
Unrepaired ’05 hurricane damage is blamed

By DF Staff and from Internet Sources

GREENWICH --- The Genesee & Wyoming company, an important international operator of freight railroads, has announced the closure of its Mexican rail operations.

The company reports that the G&W will take a charge of $12 million, or 30 cents per share, to stop operations and terminate its 30-year operating concession with the Government of Mexico.

On June 25 G&W said, “Mexican subsidiary, Ferrocarriles Chiapas-Mayab, S.A. de C.V. (FCCM), is formally notifying the Mexican Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transporte (SCT) of its intent to cease its rail operations and to terminate its 30-year concession from the Mexican government. FCCM expects to wind down its operations and to discontinue rail service over the next four weeks.”

In October 2005, FCCM was struck by Hurricane Stan “…which destroyed or damaged approximately 70 bridges and washed out segments of track in the state of Chiapas between Tonala and the Guatemalan border, rendering some 175 miles of the rail line inoperable. For the past 21 months, FCCM has been working with the SCT and other agencies of the Mexican government in an attempt to develop a reconstruction plan for the damaged portion of the rail line,” the railroad said.

“Without the reconstruction of the hurricane-damaged Chiapas rail line, FCCM is not a financially viable business. In addition, due to the uncertainty of FCCM's future, its rail traffic volume has continued to deteriorate, resulting in an unsustainable situation,” said G&W. “The uncertainty of the Chiapas reconstruction combined with the deterioration of our rail traffic means that we can no longer justify absorbing financial losses or making incremental investments,” said GWI President and CEO John C. Hellmann. “We do not take this decision lightly, and we will ensure that the transition for our customers and our employees is as fair as possible given the limited financial resources of FCCM.”

As of March 31, 2007, FCCM had $17.5 million of assets consisting of $6.6 million of non-current assets, primarily locomotives and cars, and approximately $10.9 million of current assets, primarily receivables and inventory. Under the terms of FCCM's concession, the Mexican government may acquire or lease FCCM's equipment based on fair market value. Absent acquisition or lease by the Mexican government, GWI intends to repatriate and/or sell the equipment in the United States.

GWI made its initial investment in FCCM in August of 1999. In the third quarter of 2006, GWI recorded a non-cash impairment charge of $34.1 million after tax, reflecting the write-down of non-current assets and related effects resulting from Hurricane Stan. FCCM currently has 407 employees.

GWI is a leading operator of short line and regional freight railroads in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Bolivia. Operations currently include 48 railroads organized in 10 regions, as well as service at 12 U.S. ports, contract coal loading and industrial switching. GWI operates more than 6,800 miles of owned and leased track and approximately 3,700 additional miles under track access arrangements, the company said.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Chicago’s METRA threatens
fare hikes, service cuts

By DF Staff and from Internet Sources

CHICAGO --- The region’s METRA transit service will be cut back, and fares will be raised, unless the Illinois legislature allocates funds to cover the agency’s $60 million-plus budget shortfall, reports the Chicago Daily Herald and other news outlets.

“After months of warnings, the [Chicago area] RTA board voted without dissent Thursday to authorize Metra, Pace and CTA officials to move toward planned fare hikes and service cuts,” reported the paper. “Pace leaders might cut 13 percent of service, including all Metra feeder routes, express service to Chicago and several suburban mainlines. Agency heads also are considering a fare hike between 25 cents and 75 cents a ride.”

CTA officials are also planning to cut service on elevated lines to the near North suburbs, slash 63 bus routes and raise rush hour fares to as high as $3.25. Metra officials will put off track repairs and locomotive upgrades that could result in more late trains. They are considering raising fares 10 percent next year and eliminating night and weekend runs, the paper reported.

“Bus and train operators took a first step Thursday toward slashing services and drastically hiking fares, moves that would make Chicago-area transit among the worst in the nation,” the paper reported.

“This isn’t some scare tactic,” said Jim Reilly, chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees Metra, Pace and the CTA.

The service cuts and fare increases are aimed at bridging a $260 million budget gap by the end of the year. Most of the doomsday measures will take effect in September if lawmakers don’t approve tax hikes to bring in extra cash, the paper said.

The quarter-cent sales tax residents now pay makes up just less than half of Metra’s income, with about 55 percent coming from fares. It has steadily generated $1.5 billion a year in revenue for the RTA but has not kept up with soaring fuel, insurance and maintenance costs.


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

Rail and highway suspension bridge
will link Denmark and Germany

Suspension Bridge will be longest in Northern Europe

Sources: Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung, Danish Transport Ministry, NDR Info Radio

Two Photos above: Danish Ministry of Transport  

Artist’s conception of the new Fehmarn Belt Bridge

 

Photo: HAZ/dpa  

Ferry terminal in Puttgarden, Germany
BERLIN --- The transport ministries of Germany and Denmark announced last Friday, June 29, that they have agreed to construct a huge double deck suspension bridge over the Fehmarn Belt, a 16 km (10 miles) long straight of water in the western Baltic Sea which separates Puttgarden, Germany from Roedby, Denmark.

The bridge will be similar to the Oresund and Great Belt bridges built in the past decade in Denmark in so far that the proposed bridge will have a toll highway on the upper deck with a double track rail line on the lower deck. The EUR 5.5 billion (US $7.4 billion) project is expected to open for traffic in 2018.

The project, which has been studied and discussed for more than two decades, was delayed several times due to difficulties in defining a viable financing scheme. The announcement from Friday indicated that the financing has been resolved, with Denmark assuming approximately EUR 4.5 billion of the cost and Germany the remaining EUR 1.0 billion. The project will be financed with private and commercial capital backed up by German and Danish government guarantees. Revenue collected from highway tolls and rail access charges in the next 20 – 25 years of operation are projected to cover the construction and financing costs of the project.

Photo: HAZ/dpa  

View of Roedby Haven, Denmark and the Fehmarn Belt

The 18 – 19 km (approx. 11.5 mile) long bridge will replace a ferry service currently operated by Scandlines between Puttgarden and Roedby. The ferry ships carry autos, trucks and trains between the two terminals, with trains traveling on the lower deck of the ships. The new bridge will reduce the travel time on the Hamburg / Luebeck-Copenhagen corridor by approximately 60 minutes compared to today’s ferry service. It will also permit much longer trains to operate on this route, which are currently limited by the ferries’ lower deck to 6 passenger coaches or 8 freight wagons length.

The project will also include double-tracking and electrification of the existing rail line on both sides of the Fehmarn Belt. Currently the line is mostly single track from Luebeck to Puttgarden and from Roedby to Naestved. The only part of the line currently electrified is the last 45 km of the route into Copenhagen. However in a separate project Deutsche Bahn is electrifying the Hamburg – Luebeck corridor, which is expected to be completed in late 2008. D:F readers may recall that Germany uses a 15 kVAC 16.7 Hz electrification standard, while Denmark uses the European standard of 25 kVAC 50 Hz for rail electrification.

When completed, the new bridge will create a new high-speed rail corridor, which will connect Copenhagen to Hamburg and therefore to the rest of the mainland high-speed rail network in Europe. The project is the latest in a series of new multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects undertaken across Europe in the past two decades, including the three other road/rail suspension bridges in Denmark, the French-English “Chunnel,” several new trans-Alpine railroad tunnels, the new north-south rail connector in Berlin and Berlin central train station, as well as more than a dozen new high speed rail lines built in Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Italy and Austria.


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COMMENTARY...  Commentary...

A selection from this week’s
Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports e-Bulletin
By Chalmers (Chop) Hardenbergh, publisher and editor
e-mail: C_Hardenbergh@juno.com
To subscribe go to: www.atlanticnortheast.com

 

CSX begins NJ-MA container freight service

 

WORCESTER --- CSX Intermodal will begin offering rail service between Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey and “Stackbridge” Terminal in Worcester, ANRP reports, effective mid-July.

“Stackbridge” is CSXI’s name for its Worcester intermodal facilities.

The service will operate six days per week and provide customers with convenient access to the New England market directly from the pier. The start date of the service will be announced once the final details of the operating plan are finalized.’

CSXI moved the Worcester shuttle from ExpressRail to South Kearney in 2005, requiring the steamship companies to hire drays. Before then, about 1200 boxes per month moved in both directions between ExpressRail and the two Intransit Container terminals in Worcester.

Where will the traffic come from?

At this point, the Worcester shuttle will move only out of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s ExpressRail Elizabeth terminal, located on the Elizabeth Marine Terminal between the Maher and APM port operations. Carriers may move boxes by drayage for the other two PANYNJ container terminals: Port Newark (just north of the Elizabeth Terminal) and New York Container Terminal (Howland Hook, Staten Island).

In 2004, the Port Authority Board authorized a 10-year agreement with Millennium Marine Rail LLC [not the railroad management firm Millennium Rail-editor], under which the firm will operate and maintain ExpressRail Elizabeth. Created especially to operate the new facility, Millennium is a joint venture of APM Terminals North America, Inc. and Maher Terminals, Inc., the Port's two largest tenants.

Per its website, as of November 2006, it charged $51.75 per container to load or unload at the terminal. Millennium will also charge and collect the Port Authority tariff for use of the terminal.

Per PANYNJ spokesperson Steve Coleman, CSXI moved the shuttle back to ExpressRail because: “…we now have more infrastructure/capacity in the system as result of recent projects completed, and arriving /departing from ExpressRail is more efficient for the Port's shippers....The newly-rebuilt ExpressRail Elizabeth facility is ‘operating well.’

CSXI soon serving Staten Island

The railroad will soon serve New York Container Terminal (NYCT) at Staten Island directly, it announced on 20 June. “The service will connect customers to Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit operating five days per week,” but boxes landing at NYCT for Stackbridge will apparently move via another route.

Impact on Intransit in Worcester

Steve Cotrone, president of Intransit Containers which operates the two Worcester terminals for PW (called ‘Stackbridge’ by CSXI), labeled the move “very positive, because it eliminates the dray and should reduce costs” to the steamship lines. He estimated the cost to dray boxes to and from South Kearny at $175. At this time, boxes for Stackbridge are drayed from NYCT and Port Newark, Cotrone said. But given the CSXI announcement, “we’re hoping to get some volume” out of NYCT via rail.

He rated CSXI service as “very good, though the business is soft. We’re expecting a pick-up shortly–the ships are all full.”


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NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

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