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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July 6, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 28

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

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

  News Items…
RailTrends 2010 Conference To Honor BNSF’s Matt Rose
Homeland Security And Amtrak To Partner In Vigilance-Sharing
  News From Amtrak …
Amtrak’s New Board Members Sign On To Build The System
Amtrak Assumes Full Operations For Metrolink Service
Update On NEC Business Travel
  Restoration Lines…
Locomotive Rolls In For Rail Grand Opening
  Transit Lines…
Statement By APTA President William Millar On The
   Senate’s Public Transportation Safety Act Of 2010
  Stimulus Lines…
FRA Ready To Receive Applications For Next $2.4 Billion
   In ObamaRail
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Siemens Mobility Rolls Out Latest Locomotive Offering
  Editorial…
By Making Its Funding Permanent Make High-Speed Rail
   A Success
  Opinion…
How Independent Is America Really?
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


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

Railtrends 2010 Conference To Honor
BNSF’s Matt Rose

From Internet Sources

NEW YORK CITY ---- BNSF Railroad’s Matt Rose, one of the nation’s most-respected Class I (i.e., large) railroad CEOs, is to be featured at the sixth annual “RailTrends” conference to be held this year September 28-29, 2010 in New York.

RailTrends 2010 will honor BNSF CEO Rose with its “Railroad Innovator Award.”

Presented by Progressive Railroading magazine, the award “ recognizes Matt Rose’s outstanding achievements in the rail industry: his role in bringing customer focus to the railway; his work with the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission and the OneRail Coalition; and his contributions to legislative and regulatory matters.”

BNSF was recently acquired by investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, one of the most successful investment firms in history. Rose will continue to run the railroad; one of Warren Buffet’s practices is to identify companies that are already successful and well-run, and then buy them, keeping in place the management responsible for that success; in the case of BNSF, that person is Matt Rose, and the highly skilled team of executives he has assembled over the past decade to run the company.

RailTrends bills itself as “… the rail profession’s reliable source for industry insights, innovations and advancements, executive elbow-rubbing, and intelligent investment information.”

Presented by Progressive Railroading magazine and Senior Transportation Analyst Tony Hatch, “…this two-day summit was carefully crafted to address the issues that matter most to rail professionals. Facilitated by some of the rail industry’s most-respected authorities, RailTrends presentations will address all facets of the industry,” the magazine stated.

Included subjects will be:

RailTrends’ conference announcement states that provides attendees “… with an amazing opportunity to connect with the best of the best from all areas of the rail industry: shippers, suppliers, banks and financial organizations, lessors, short-lines and Class I railroads.”

The cost to attend RailTrends is $1,299, but those registering by August 13 will pay the Early Bird Discount price of $1,099. Three or more people registering from one organization can receive a deeper discount; registrants staying at the Affinia Manhattan, the show venue, will receive special rates.


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Homeland Security And Amtrak To Partner
In Vigilance-Sharing

From Internet Sources

NEW YORK --- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a visit to Penn Station this past week announced a new national ground transportation system “see something, say something” vigilance drive, part of a national information-sharing partnership with Amtrak.

The slogan was inspired by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s admonition to traditionally mind-your-own-business New Yorkers. Since 2002, posters encouraging, “If you see something, say something,” have become a daily sight for New York subway riders, the Boston Globe reported.

“The phrase took on additional power after the foiled Times Square bomb plot. On May 1, street vendors in Times Square noticed a smoking sport utility vehicle with its blinkers on, engine running, and no one inside, and said something to a police officer. Police dismantled a crude but dangerous homemade bomb inside the SUV and cleared the square. The vendors were hailed as heroes for taking action,” The Globe reported.

Napolitano called “If you see something, say something” one of the most successful public efforts to date. Security requires the public’s cooperation, she said.

At the Penn Station appearance Napolitano swore in John Pistole as administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. The former deputy FBI director was confirmed last week by the Senate.

In making the announcement, Secretary Napolitano launched the first phase of DHS’ nationwide “See Something, Say Something” campaign and announced a new national information-sharing partnership with Amtrak as part of the Department’s nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) initiative during a whistle-stop train tour—highlighting the public’s role in keeping our country safe and the Obama administration’s commitment to bolstering surface transportation security.

“Implementing a national suspicious-activity-reporting partnership with Amtrak and expanding the ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign strengthens our ability to guard against terrorism and crime,” said Secretary Napolitano. “These initiatives enable us to provide frontline security personnel with the latest information and intelligence to recognize behaviors and indicators associated with new and evolving threats.”

Today’s announcements came during a multi-stop train tour through New York City, Newark, N.J., Philadelphia and Washington. Secretary Napolitano was joined by Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor as well as law enforcement leaders and elected officials. New TSA Administrator John Pistole, joined for the remainder of the tour.

The “See Something, Say Something” campaign—originally implemented by New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and funded, in part, by $13 million from DHS’ Transit Security Grant Program—is a simple and effective program to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats and emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.

In the coming months, DHS will expand the “See Something, Say Something” campaign nationally with public education materials, advertisements and other outreach tools to continue engaging travelers, businesses, community organizations, and public and private sector employees to remain vigilant and play an active role in keeping our country safe.

The “See Something, Say Something” campaign complements the national SAR initiative—a partnership among federal, state, and local law enforcement to establish a standard process for law enforcement to identify and report suspicious incidents or activity and share that information nationally so it can be analyzed to identify broader trends.

The SAR initiative announced today is a new national information-sharing partnership with Amtrak in which DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) work with Amtrak to utilize the latest intelligence in law enforcement trainings on how to identify suspicious behaviors associated with new and evolving threats. Amtrak officers will also utilize an upgraded reporting system—made available by the Transportation Security Administration—to refer suspicious activity reports to DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis and follow-up.

“The Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative establishes a unified approach at all levels of government to gather, document, process, analyze, and most importantly share information about terrorism-related suspicious activities,” said Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor. “The Amtrak Police Department is pleased to become a part of this network of law enforcement agencies and we look forward to working closely with federal, state and local authorities.”

DHS will continue to work with Amtrak and DOJ to expand the Amtrak SAR effort to regional railways, freight rail carriers and other mass transit agencies. The SAR initiative and “See Something, Say Something” campaign are designed to generate thorough and responsible reports of suspicious activities and behaviors. The reporting system does not and will not focus on the gender or ethnicity of individuals. The law enforcement personnel who receive and respond to these reports under the DOJ National SAR Initiative (NSI) are trained officers and analysts. The NSI program has rigorous privacy and civil liberties safeguards, including a requirement that privacy protections are met before access to information is granted, as well as multiple levels of independent review. Training for Amtrak personnel on how to report suspicious activity is consistent with NSI guidelines, TSA announced.

For more information, visit www.tsa.gov or www.dhs.gov.


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

Amtrak’s New Board Members Sign On
To Build The System

From Amtrak and Internet Sources

WASHINGTON--- “The three newest members of the Amtrak board of directors recognize that Amtrak, and its national network of high-speed and intercity passenger trains, are key to the future of passenger rail transportation in America,” Amtrak announced this week.

Anthony R. Coscia, Bert DiClemente and Jeff Moreland were nominated by President Obama and recently confirmed by the United States Senate. They are expected to assume their new responsibilities guiding and overseeing America’s railroad very soon.

“We welcome our newest board members with confidence they will contribute their considerable knowledge and experience to advance Amtrak’s growth strategy and efforts to make the nation’s railroad safer, greener, and healthier,” said Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper.

“I am excited about serving as an Amtrak director because I strongly believe that a vibrant, competitive, and comprehensive passenger rail system is a critical component of a 21st Century multimodal transportation system,” stated Mr. Coscia.

“I am a believer in the critical role that Amtrak plays in the national transportation fabric of our country. I believe to the core of my being that Amtrak’s best days lie ahead of us,” said Mr. DiClemente.

“Amtrak has made progress in recent years and I believe these positive trends will continue. I also believe it is important to the U.S. transportation system that Amtrak maintain a nationwide rail system and develop high-speed rail corridors in many areas of the country,” said Mr. Moreland.

Chairman Carper noted that with the arrival of these new members, eight of nine director positions will be filled. They will join him, Donna Mclean, Nancy Naples, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray La Hood, and Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman on the Amtrak board.

Anthony R. Coscia

Mr. Coscia was appointed Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in April 2003. As Chairman, Mr. Coscia has broad oversight responsibility in connection with the agency’s varied transportation businesses and its $6.7 billion annual budget. From February 1992 to March 2003, Mr. Coscia served as Chairman of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (“NJEDA”). Mr. Coscia is also a Partner at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, LLP. He has specific experience in the area of redevelopment finance and has worked extensively on corporate governance issues. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service (B.S.F.S., 1981) and he received his law degree from Rutgers University School of Law (J.D., 1984).

Bert DiClemente

Mr. DiClemente recently retired as the Vice President of CB Richard Ellis, Inc., which is the largest commercial real estate company in the world. He has been serving in this capacity since 2003. Prior to this position, he worked for Insignia/ESG and Jackson Cross & Associates as Director and Associate Director. He was responsible for the leasing and selling of commercial real estate and represented a number of Fortune 500 Companies. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a B.A. in political science.

Jeffrey R. Moreland

Mr. Moreland was most recently executive vice president for Public Affairs at BNSF Railway Company. He had previously served as executive vice president, Law & Government Affairs and Secretary; executive vice president law and chief of staff; senior vice president law and chief of staff; and senior vice president law and general counsel. From 1970 to June 1978, Moreland was employed at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in positions of increasing responsibility. His last position at the SEC was branch chief in the division of corporation finance. Mr. Moreland received his B.S. from Georgetown University, a J.D. from Catholic University School of Law, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

About Amtrak

As the nation’s intercity passenger rail operator, Amtrak connects America in safer, greener and healthier ways. Last fiscal year (FY 2009), the railroad carried 27.2 million passengers, making it the second-best year in the company’s history. With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day—at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph)—to more than 500 destinations. Amtrak also is the partner of choice for state-supported corridor services in 15 states and for several commuter rail agencies.

For more information visit www.Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares.


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Amtrak Assumes Full Operations
For Metrolink Service

JUNE 28 --- Amtrak Train and Engine crews today began operating all seven lines of the Los Amtrak has taken over the operation of all seven lines of the Los Angeles-area Metrolink commuter rail service. The official take-over started on Saturday, June 26, when started operating the four lines that provide weekend service. Under the terms of the four-year contract, Amtrak will provide Train and Engine crews along with management and support staff to operate the 512 route-mile network that covers six counties in Southern California.

The Southern California Regional Rail Authority selected Amtrak to provide operating service last fall and the two organizations signed a formal contract in March. The contract includes two additional three-year extension options. Amtrak previously operated Metrolink from 1992 to 2005.

Expanding commuter and state-supported operations service is a key element of Amtrak’s growth strategy. Amtrak will continue to seek new partnership opportunities where it can leverage its expertise in rail operations, safety performance, business support functions and other competitive advantages.


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Update On NEC Business Travel

From Amtrak This Week – Employee News

With the strong increase in demand for Acela Express service and subsequently selling out occasionally frequently in recent months, Amtrak employees are reminded to use Northeast Regional service for business travel whenever possible in order to protect revenue space on the Acela, unless there is a compelling reason to use the high-speed service.

Additionally, contractors and vendors should not be provided travel vouchers for Acela Express unless their work is directly related to that service or there is some other clear, compelling reason to do so.

“We understand that many employees have to travel frequently along the corridor on Amtrak business, but where employee travel occurs on a peak-period Acela departure, which is often sold out, we risk displacing paying customers and diluting ticket revenues,” said Emmett Fremaux, vice president, Marketing and Product Development.

Unlike other corridor services, business or personal pass travel on Acela Express requires tickets. No flash pass travel is allowed. Detailed information on employee pass travel rules is available on the intranet under “Employees”_ “Policies.”


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UP Locomotive RESTORATION LINES... Restoration Lines...  

Big Train A-Comin’

 

Locomotive Rolls In For Rail Grand Opening

 

Once Abandoned, Restored Rail Raises Hopes Of Economic Benefits

 

Henderson Daily News, Writer Matthew Prosser

 

HENDERSON, TX -- JUNE 28 -- Just one year ago, Union Pacific Railroad abandoned a rail spur through Rusk County, Texas, but last week a celebration gathering was held in Henderson to cheer the reopening of that line. Instead of ripping up the tracks, Rusk County had purchased the 133-mile rail spur.

“Residents from Overton and out to Tatum, Kilgore and down to Mount Enterprise were in attendance, with the crowd cheering as a locomotive slowly chugged toward the Depot station for the first time in as long as anyone can remember.”

For the last 40 to 50 years that line has been used by freight railroads, but the spur going in to Henderson had not been used.

County leaders believe bringing back the rail will revitalize local businesses and help create jobs. The cost was $1.2 million, but Rusk County Rural Rail District Board President John Cloutier believes the rail line will earn far more money than that.

“Right now, our region has about a 10-precent unemployment rate,” said state Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, whose district includes Rusk County. “But the hope is that old businesses expand and new businesses will take root because of the rail line.”

Ray Mitchell, general manager of West Fraser Mills, added that the spur would also cut a substantial amount from the company’s transportation costs.

“We intend to have everything from frac sand to saltwater disposal,” Cloutier said. “You could even see coal on that thing some day.”

“It’s just strange to see a train on these tracks,” said Ross Jennings of Henderson. “I drive this way to work every day and it’s just wild to see it here and to hear the horn going off [...] it’s awesome!”

Led by Cloutier, the program featured historical background on the rail such as the fact that food used to be shipped in from surrounding cities, including Palestine and Nacogdoches. The line also was used for passenger service up until World War II.

Researchers have learned that people often met loved ones at the rail station when they returned home from World War I and World War II.

The county has contracted with Blacklands Railroads of Sulphur Springs to operate the line.

Company president Wayne Defebaugh operated the locomotive into the grand opening site. Defebaugh said the Sulphur Springs’ line was in a similar situation, and his company helped to revitalize the track’s business.

“When we started in Sulphur Springs and Greenville, we were running about 200 carloads a year,” Defebaugh said. “Now we are running about 5,000 carloads a year.”

Officials and business leaders are hoping to see the same success come to Henderson.

 

At Left: Photo by the Henderson Daily News
Making his Christmas List early for a new trainset maybe? Maybe not this big!

Union Pacific’s UPY 1042 is an EMD SW1500, 1500 horsepower yard switcher unit.

 


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Statement By APTA President William Millar On The Senate’s
Public Transportation Safety Act Of 2010.

Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON, DC, JUNE 29 -- On behalf of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), I applaud the Senate Banking Committee for its work on the Public Transportation Safety Act of 2010 which was approved by the committee today.

Safety is the number one priority for the public transportation industry and we welcome the effort to make one of the safest modes of transportation – rail transit -- even safer. We are encouraged that the Senate Banking Committee worked closely with the public transit industry as it developed the bill. We look forward to continuing this dialogue as the legislation advances in the Senate.

The bill also recognizes the importance of having capital assets of transit systems in good repair and of having asset management programs that track capital assets. However, in order to ensure that transit operators have the most up-to-date vehicles and facilities, we urge Congress to do several important things. First, it needs to increase federal investment in public transportation and second, Congress needs to pass a six-year, surface transportation authorization bill as soon as possible. The longer we wait for authorization legislation to pass, the longer it will take to put into place new capital improvements that will provide greater safety for the millions of people who take public transportation every day.

Safety is all about continuous improvement, and we look forward to working with Congress on this important legislation.

APTA is a nonprofit international association of more than 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne passenger services, and high-speed rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.


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STIMULUS LINES... Stimulus Lines...  

FRA Ready To Receive Applications
For Next $2.4 Billion In ObamaRail

By DF Staff and from the Federal Railroad Administration

WASHINGTON, DC --- The Obama Administration’s Federal Railroad Administration has announced the next phase of grant applications for high(er) speed rail projects across America, adding to the $8 billion already committed.

In its announcement, the FRA said: “The Obama Administration today (June 28) took the next step toward realizing its vision for high-speed rail in the United States. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will begin accepting applications for $2.1 billion in grants to continue the development of high-speed intercity passenger rail corridors. In addition, FRA will make another $245 million available for individual construction projects within a corridor.”

Funds for both come from the FY 2010 DOT Appropriations Act.

“This important step builds on the $8 billion for high-speed rail that President Obama announced last January,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The President’s bold vision for high-speed rail is a game changer for U.S. transportation. It will not only create good jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing base, but also reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.” “We are excited to move the President’s vision on high-speed rail forward and are working quickly to get money in the hands of states,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “These new funds will allow the states to further advance their high-speed rail plans and represent a commitment to developing a world-class transportation network.”

The FRA said that applications and proposals for these latest funds will be due back to FRA by August 6, 2010. Grant awards, including the $2.1 billion and $245 million from the FY2010 appropriations, are expected to be announced by September 30, 2010.

The announcement comes at a time when the freight railroads, over whose rights-of-way most of the improved rail corridor service will be built, and the FRA, which is in charge of administering the President’s ambitious corridor-driven program are struggling to complete the negotiations that will actually allow work to begin, to put shovels in the ground on the $8 billion in Phase I grants already announced, and thereby put to work tens of thousands of unemployed construction workers, track engineers, and railway suppliers.

The pressure to get contracts executed using money already committed is also mounting because of recent negative economic reports which hint at a double-dip continuation of the current Great Recession, because of the failure of the private sector to begin hiring workers in any large numbers. This reluctance to staff up has continued despite improvements in demand for products and services that have begun to show up in the statistics at America’s ports and on its major freight railroads, a leading economic indicator that should signal the easing if not ending of the current economic crisis.

The present collapse was brought on by the banking sector’s massive production of what turned out to be illusory profits, whose evanescence in September 2008 behavior, months before President Obama was sworn in. The President’s attempt to re-start the economy “Stimulus” programs is beginning to succeed, as it has to a lesser extent in European countries which have been less bold, and to a greater extent in Asian countries, especially China, who have been more bold than the West, and which is using the current economic crisis to greatly improve its ground transportation infrastructure, including more than $100 billion committed to high-speed rail.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week (*)
Canadian National (CNI)56.8660.47
Canadian Pacific (CP) 53.2956.47
CSX (CSX)47.7052.25
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)36.8838.31
Kansas City Southern (KSU)34.9439.29
Norfolk Southern (NSC)50.9156.68
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.0012.80
Union Pacific (UNP)68.3772.72


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

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Siemens Mobility Rolls Out Latest Locomotive Offering

Vectron Series Targeted at Highly Competitive European Mid-Upper-Range Locomotive Market

via Siemens press release and press information kit

Erlangen, Germany – Siemens Mobility, the rail transport division of the Germany-based multinational conglomerate which makes products and services ranging from consumer appliances, telephones, huge steam and gas turbines, solar energy collectors, medical scanners and hospital equipment and various parts and components for automobile and truck manufacturers, introduced its line-up for upcoming InnoTrans rail industry convention during a pre-InnoTrans press conference on the 29th of June. The headline of the event was a introduction to the press of its new Vecrton locomotive series.

The Vectron series of locomotives is aimed at capturing a share of the booming mid- and upper range locomotive market in Europe, North Africa and Asia, currently dominated by Bombardier Transportation's TRAXX series but also contested by Alstom with its PRIMA series. Some versions of the Vectron will replace certain versions of Siemens 'EuroSprinter' series of electric locomotives, which have sold well in Austria, Germany and a couple of other countries in central Europe, but have not sold well in other regions of Europe.

Vectron electric locomotive

Photo: Siemens Mobility GmbH

Vectron electric locomotive on display – the Vectron shares many design similarities to some of the Siemens Euro Sprinter series and a general similarity to its competitors from Alstom and Bombardier. The roof is dominated by four pantographs, each one of somewhat different width, contact material and contact pressure due to non-standardization of pantograph design specifications in Europe. Siemens has, however, been able to fight-off attempts by Austria and other European countries on a requirement for external rear-view mirrors. Instead the locomotive has rear-view video cameras (located just aft of the entry / exit doors just below the roof line) which display the view behind the locomotive on multifunctional digital screen displays on the locomotive driver’s control console at the touch of a button.

The Vectron will be initially offered in electric-only configurations with top speed of 160 km/h or 200 km/h, depending on application in freight or passenger use. The Vectron will be available with multiple power supply capability for those customers who want to operate on two, three or four different power supply standards across the EU (1.5 k VDC, 3.0 k VDC, 15 k VAC or 25 k VAC). The locomotive will also be pre-wired and pre-configured for installation of a wide number of types of Positive Train Control system currently in use across the EU and several eastern European countries, including the eventual single signal and positive train control standard of ETCS. The individual components of each country's unique PTC system can be installed or removed from the locomotive with relative little effort and man-power with a plug-n-play design approach.

The modular design and layout of the Vectron locomotive allows for a high degree of customization during the assembly process, thereby allowing Siemens to compete for low quantity orders from smaller customers, while permitting relatively easy reconfiguration to meet the requirements of other customers or other countries later in the life of the locomotive. The wheel bogies can be supplied in Russian broad gauge (the predominant track gauge in nearly all of the countries which were formerly part o f the USSR) and Iberian broad gauge (Spain and Portugal) dimensions upon customer requirements instead of the 1435 mm standard gauge which is the predominant track standard in most of Europe, much of North Africa, and China.

The locomotive will be offered with various traction output ratings ranging from 4000 kW (5400 hp) up to an eye-popping 6400 kW (8600 hp) for the 200 km/h rated passenger locomotive version. A diesel version is planned for production in a few years time, depending upon market demand development. Bombardier's TRAXX and Alstom's PRIMA / PRIMA 2 are also offered in diesel powered versions,but have had relatively low sales volume compared with their electric powered versions.

As with the existing Euro Sprinter series from Siemens, and the competitors from Alstom and Bombardier, the Vectron is clearly aimed at the growing trend for freight and passenger trains to operate across multiple national borders on a given trip or route with changes in power supply and signaling standards at each border with the same locomotive for the entire trip. In the past it was required to change locomotives at each national boarder crossing due to incompatibilities in the power supply ,cab signaling and positive train control systems unique to each country. But competitive pressures from the highway trucking and airline industries are making this practice economically unsustainable, especially for private rail operators which are not limited to operations in a single country.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

A Declaration of Independence

 

By Making Its Funding Permanent Make
High-Speed Rail A Success

 

The present economic crisis, whatever its cause, has only one long-term solution: the building up of the nation’s infrastructure so that we can begin once again to truly compete on the world stage.

There are two essential elements of infrastructure, intellectual, and physical.

In the case of the intellectual, the United States still has a world-class advantage: we have the best universities in the world, which continue to attract the best and brightest students from every corner of this planet.

It is true that our public primary and secondary schools are lagging badly. We spent much of the 20th century emptying out the cities of their middle and upper classes, eroding the urban tax base upon which the largest school systems depended. We did this by spending our tax dollars on highways to the suburbs, while taxing, regulating and/or bankrupting urban transit and rail systems across America, and leaving many cities a shell of their former selves. Think of Detroit, but they are not alone. We have much to repair, but there is a way.

And we retain still the great university system we began almost at the same time as North America was being settled: Harvard was founded in 1636, less than twenty years after the landing of the Pilgrims, Yale in 1701, and the great public land grant institutions in the 19th century which followed, quite literally, the railroads that opened up the West to settlement. Our university system, public and private, remains despite all a gigantic magnet for the students of the world, and is one of America’s greatest assets.

The other key element of infrastructure is of course the physical, and it is there we are most challenged, yet also there where we will fund the wherewithal to build back the nation’s great cities, and the public school systems which can flourish there.

And it is also here where we had better act, and act fast, because we are so rapidly losing ground to the rest of the industrialized world.

President Obama has taken the right step in launching his American High-Speed Rail Initiative, and we could hardly say otherwise, as he has adopted as his own, wholesale, the corridor-based model of rail development that the National Corridors Initiative has been advocating since 1989. That is one of the reasons we were proud to be the President’s guest at the White House – along with two score of other longtime rail advocates, such as NARP’s Ross Capon --- when the program was announced in 2009.

President Obama may not be the first President who has truly understood the relationship between transportation infrastructure and economic development, but he is certainly the first to act upon that knowledge, at least since Dwight Eisenhower launched the Interstate Highway System in the 1950’s. Unfortunately, that was a mono-modal commitment, and its benefits have now been overwhelmed by costliness and unsustainability.

It is time to undo that damage, and that mono-modalism, by changing altogether the way the nation funds transportation infrastructure.

We propose that there be created, by Congress, a Transportation Trust Fund, to replace the bankrupt, oil-dependent Highway Trust Fund that is no longer adequate to our transportation needs – if indeed it ever was.

This Transportation Trust Fund should be fed by two principal revenue sources: a tax on gasoline, and the revenues from Value Capture that can be developed along the wayside of every kind of corridor built, whether highway, or rail, or bargeway, or in the land surrounding major airports.

Essentially, we need to develop, create, understand, and implement Transportation Infrastructure Investment Zones --- that’s right, TIIZies --- wherein for a fixed distance determined from the core of each corridor or the center of each airport, a portion of all new tax revenues generated within that zone, after a date certain and going forward in perpetuity --- go back to maintain, renew and re-invest in the corridor and/or airport that is enabling the economic growth in the first place. Outside of the core zone, up to a line to be determined, a lesser percentage of future revenue growth should be recaptured for the transportation system, and so on.

Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has proposed the creation of a $50 billion authorization for rail construction, a much needed action that would take President’s Obama’s bold experiment in renewing American rail, and turn it into a legacy.

The way to fund that $50 billion has been the stopper on the debate, and is one very big reason why the transportation authorization bill the nation so badly needs has been languishing in Congress for two years.

If the Congress adopts the TIIZie model we have proposed, we estimate that it would produce not $50 billion a year in revenue, or the additional $50 billion need for roads, but closer to $300 billion every year, and over the years, still more.

It is time to get the country moving again, literally, before the world passes us by altogether. Let’s tackle this problem the way Americans always have when challenged in the past, and get it done.


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OPINION... Opinion...  

How Independent Is America Really?

By David Peter Alan

The Fourth of July seems like an appropriate time to think about America’s independence. The founders of the nation declared it 234 years ago, and then fought a difficult war to win it. They knew that they were squaring off against the world’s only “superpower” of the era, and they knew that victory was not likely. Still, they led the new nation well, soldiers fought bravely and skillfully, and the cause received some much-needed help from abroad. Amazingly enough, they won!

The idea of an independent nation outside Europe, and not tied to a European colonial power, was highly innovative for its day. To thinkers like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, independence was the next step in cultural evolution; a citizenry outside of the colonial system governing themselves.

America had an independent government in its early days, but it was not very democratic by today’s standards. Only white men who owned land could vote. Women, white men who did not own land, and men who were not white did not count. Many were held in slavery or suffered other prejudices. The situation is very different today. Nearly all adults of all heritages and both genders have the vote. This nation has even chosen as its leader a member of a minority group, whose wife is descended from people who were once officially held in bondage. For a relatively young nation, this is an amazing achievement.

This country has come very far in some ways, and yet is doing amazingly poorly in others. America’s addiction to petroleum is a case in point. The brave men (and women) who fought in the War for Independence fought to escape economic and political domination by another nation. Today, because Americans need so much oil, this nation is at the mercy of oil-producing countries, which drive a hard bargain and tend to be more dictatorial than democratic. America’s thirst for oil has also caused this country to engage in drilling that risks the environmental integrity not only of the Gulf of Mexico, but maybe of the ocean beyond. The “worst case scenario” has come to pass. Nobody seems to know how to stop the leak, and the huge reservoir of oil that was supposed to help fuel the nation now renders part of its coastline unfit for living things.

Much of the oil for which this nation risks its political and environmental integrity is consumed by motor vehicles; automobiles and trucks. Most of our “transportation” system is actually a strictly-automotive highway system, and the people who lead this country and its political subdivisions seem to want to keep it that way.

Few of our elected leaders are encouraging people to travel by rail and transit. Amtrak may not be fighting for its life at the moment, but it has no money to expand. Transit is being cut everywhere, forcing more people into automobiles, even if they might prefer to take transit. Transit fares are rising everywhere, as service cuts are implemented in city after city. New Jersey has just implemented massive rail fare increases, while New York City transit service has been reduced sharply. If transit in the New York area is suffering, it seems that no transit can escape the current hard times. Our elected leaders can change this situation by implementing policies that would encourage transit and discourage automobile use, but they never seem inclined to do so.

Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) once told me that my home state of New Jersey is a “poster state” for transit. He said that 10% of the people there ride transit and, if 10% of the whole country used transit, we would not need foreign oil. Maybe it would take a few more percentage points to enable the country to also avoid environmentally-hazardous oil exploration, but this goal seems attainable. Maybe it could be achieved if our political and business leaders started encouraging transit and the public took that advice.

Politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, seem to believe that it is “patriotic” to support American industry by encouraging Americans to buy “American” automobiles and drive them on highways that are built and maintained by American workers. Meanwhile, American transit workers lose their jobs, the environment is degraded, America is confronted by hostile governments of oil-producing nations, and persons who depend on transit or choose to live a car-free lifestyle lose some of their mobility and pay more for the mobility they have left. Frankly, I find it difficult to see what is so patriotic about these policies, even though they are followed at the Federal and State levels by politicians from both major parties.

There are some true patriots among us, including people who use transit voluntarily. They help keep the environment cleaner, our cities and towns more livable, and our nation less dependent on the whims of foreign rulers. So are people who advocate for more transit and increased use of rail. Elected leaders like Congressman Oberstar, who stand up for rail and transit whenever they can, are patriots, too.

We can all take a patriotic path about energy, the environment and mobility. We can use transit wherever it exists and whenever it runs. We can take the train, rather than an airliner or an automobile, when the opportunity presents itself. We can also push for the expansion of transit to new places and for expanded service where it currently exists.

It will not be easy for most Americans to adjust to using transit for basic mobility, but the country’s future depends on it. It will not be easy for our elected leaders to move away from highway and automobile-oriented policies, and in the direction of promoting transit and spending scarce dollars to build and operate it for the convenience of the public. Still, it will be far easier than meeting the challenges that the people who fought to start this nation faced in 1776.


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WE GET LETTERS... We get Letters...  

On The ARC Tunnel (NY)

Dear Editor,

Do we REALLY need S-I-X tunnels coming to and/or bypassing Penn Station?? NYP [New York Penn Station ] is over capacity since all Amtrak trains use it after they were pulled out of Grand Central Terminal. NJ Transit is a victim of its own success as ridership increased 30-35% before the Great Recession and they ran a lot more service. NYP is constrained to 21 tracks. That’s why the ARC [Access to the Region’s Core] tunnels could create more problems as slots are limited. That can be handled, but having the new tracks further away from the two subway lines that run thru NYP is poor logistical practice.

A 10% fare hike didn’t chase too many passengers away as it is truly the best way to get to midtown. GCT [Grand Central Terminal] is running around 60% capacity and has 20 tracks available to run LIRR ESA [Long Island Railroad East Side Access]. The same short sighted thinking is building a separate terminal at the west end of the station. The claim is capacity, but remember all those free tracks? Back in the WW2 era, trains operated 24/7. A schedule from the 1940’s has the last train of the day leaving at 23:47 and the first daily train arriving at 00:15. They ran a true subway interval schedule, and the trains were on time over 95% of the time.

If there’s a silver lining to this situation it’s where the two isolated stations could be connected by only a six-block connection from 40th/Madison to 34th/5th. There’s the missing link.

There’s a problem with incompatible electrical systems. LIRR uses overrunning 3rd rail, which could be addressed by changing the NY Central under running 3rd rail to the LIRR’s. What happens when the trains get to “New Penn” with its catenary power source? The solution is to run M8’s with changeable shoe positioning. The New Haven [ Railroad ] could do it, but this is the 21st century, and we’ll have to find a way to get Kawasaki or some other offshore consortium to build the mechanisms. Then there would be no excuse to not use any tracks in GCT for a terminal in addition to NYP.

What should be done for Amtrak is to build a branch into Farley-Penn Station. For through trains they could keep going through the tunnel and over their classic route, or build catenary through the new connector. Amtrak would get to stop at GCT on its way to connect to the Northeast Corridor thru ESA. Installing catenary and/or 3rd rail is about 1% of the entire cost of the two schemes.

Installing that connector is a golden opportunity IF done right. Imagine getting on a train in, say, Harrisburg and getting off at Montauk or the Hamptons. FANTASTIC!! Of course, interlining will mean juggling the NORAC [Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee ] and LIRR rules, plus don’t forget PTS [Positive Train Separation] before these projects are completed.

Amtrak is the recipient of ARRA [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] funds. The MTA [Metropolitan Transit Authority] is allegedly broke, cutting east end service. This would be a match made in heaven as the tracks would get some upgrading; there already is a new signal system installed, and sidings/double tracking will happen.

I’m NOT pushing HSR [high-speed rail] on the LIRR but 110 MPH is easily accomplished. That’s where PTS will be useful, expensive, but look at the benefits.

P.S. - I’m looking forward to someday going into NYP and NOT have to change carriers to get to Jamaica.

Vincent Reiner
Logistics Operations
Locomotive Engineer
Fort Eustis VA

 

An interesting opinion from someone who is in the business. Please note our brackets for those readers who are not familiar with the acronyms – Ed.


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