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 28, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 31

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
Amtrak’s Downeaster Reports Record-breaking Ridership
  Commuter Lines…
Rail Future For New Hampshire Brightens
Sound Transit Light Rail Proposal Will Go To The Voters
Mass Transit Benefits Would Exceed Costs After 15 Years,
   Analysis Finds
  Safety Lines…
FRA Proposes New Rules to Protect Track Workers
  Political Lines…
Stimulus Spending On Transportation Will Address Critical Needs,
   Create Good Jobs
House Backs $8 Billion Infusion to Highway Trust Fund
Statement of James L. Oberstar
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Norfolk Southern To Build New Yard In Saratoga County,
   New York
  Across The Pond…
British Parliament Gives Crossrail All Clear
ICE-3 High Speed Trains Back On Track
  Opinion…
Are Bleak Times Ahead For Transit?
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


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

Amtrak’s Downeaster Reports Record-breaking Ridership

 

PORTLAND, Maine – A story in the Boston Globe from Associated Press reports the Downeaster’s announcement of record-breaking increases in ridership during the latest fiscal year.

The 28% gain was the biggest of any Amtrak train in the period ending June 30, and revenue for June set an all-time record of more than $590,000, said Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

On average, 947 more passengers rode the Portland-to-Boston train every day, and ticket revenue grew 33 percent for the year, Quinn said.

She attributed the gain to high gas prices and the addition in April of a fifth daily run and a fifth passenger car.

“People are viewing public transportation differently than before,” Quinn said. “It’s been phenomenal. All trains are up.”

The rail authority is negotiating for a sixth daily run with Pan Am Railways, formerly known as Guilford, who owns the rail between Portland to Plaistow, New Hampshire. Quinn is worried that soon the fifth daily run and additional rail car will not be enough to meet demand.

“What’s going to happen is we’re going to get maxed out,” she said. “The early train out of Portland each morning is running at 90 percent of capacity, and the 5 p.m. train out of Boston is typically 95 percent full.”

The passenger rail authority board is considering options for expanding capacity again on all trains and service northward to Brunswick.

Governor John Baldacci of Maine is supportive and has committed state funds to make up for the loss of a $6 million federal grant that’s due to expire, said Mark Latti, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation.

Also, the Legislature has dedicated 50 percent of revenue from car rental sales tax - or about $3 million a year - to help the passenger rail authority pay off the debt service on the loan needed to expand the rail service northward.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Rail Future For New Hampshire Brightens

Governor Lynch And Others Are Committed, But No Funding Yet

From Nashua Telegraph On The Internet

CONCORD, NH, JULY 21–The first project on the table is rail service from Boston to Concord.

Gov. John Lynch, state Department of Transportation Commissioner George Campbell, and Senator Peter Burling, D-Cornish, the chairman of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority, met recently to talk about the authority’s efforts to establish the Boston/Concord rail service and to set up a budget for the rail authority in next year’s state budget. Right now the authority is a volunteer organization.

“We had a very productive discussion about the future of the rail authority,” Lynch said.

The governor’s offer of state funds for the authority was limited (perhaps one salary) but at least it was a start.

Burling said he would like to hire an executive director and a secretary.

The rail authority is working on a plan to spend an estimated $200 million to upgrade about 35 miles of existing railroad tracks between Concord and Lowell, Mass., build three train stations and fund a passenger rail service that would run between the capital and Boston.

The trains would stop in Manchester, Bedford, Nashua and Lowell along the way and would be an invaluable kick-start to local economies in those towns and all along the route, according to proponents.

Lynch called for a rigorous analysis of all the costs and potential sources of revenue for the service.

“With the capital costs alone, we’re talking in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, and he indicated he did not know where those funds would come from.

Lynch urged Burling and Campbell to work together merging DOT’s alternative transportation initiatives with the rail project, but said the authority must still remain an independent, separate entity.

Until a formal budget is established, Campbell said he’s offered the authority money from his budget to pay for some of its administrative and operational costs.

Campbell said a few factors have given this project momentum despite decades of talk about bringing passenger rail service to the state’s southern tier.

One hopeful sign is that the legislation that established the rail authority directed it to implement rail service to Boston, not just study it as a concept.

Also, the gigantic price tag of the I-93 widening project has prodded people to consider alternatives to future widening projects.

But most importantly, he said, “the energy crisis clearly makes for a different world. I think more important than anything is that the energy crisis has made it clear . . . that we don’t have the full range of transportation options that we really need.”

Nashua hasn’t had passenger rail since the late 1960s, according to the Nashua Regional Planning Commission.


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Sound Transit Light Rail Proposal Will Go To The Voters

By DF Staff from Seattle Times and Post Intelligencer

SEATTLE--Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound. It has been struggling for years to advance the cause of light rail in and around Seattle; to date it has succeeded in offering a service from Seattle to Tukwila that will open in July 2009 and another line from Seattle to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport which will open in December of 2009.

In November, things could change. It will be put to the voters to decide if they want to commit to an $18 billion plan for 34 miles of light rail in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties.

The proposal voters will be voting on in November is a 15-year plan involving a sales tax increase of 5 cents per $10 purchase. The plan calls for completing the 34 miles of new rail by 2023, with some stations opening a few years sooner. Service would go to Lynnwood, Redmond, and north Federal Way.


Photo: Sound Transit:

Light rail in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel - This Link light rail train recently joined buses in a successful test of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel's signal system. It was the first time ever that trains and buses ran together in the tunnel. The test took place in the evening, when the tunnel was closed. When light rail begins service next summer, trains and buses will both run in the downtown tunnel.

There is money in the plan to add express buses linking Everett and Lynnwood to Seattle and Bellevue with headways of 15 minutes during peak times.

One resident of Bellevue, Susan Smith, interviewed by DF has complained bitterly about the highway congestion and the almost complete absence of any transit in her community. “The addition of express bus service at least would be better than nothing,” she said.

Ron Sims, a King County executive says the plan has too little bus service and therefore he does not endorse it.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels thinks the voters will go for it. And based on accounts of dramatic increases in ridership in 2007 on all forms of transit, he could be right. “Each year more and more people discover that taking transit is better than dealing with rising congestion and high gas prices,” said Nickels, who is chairman of the Sound Transit board. “We will continue focusing on keeping those ridership numbers climbing. ... There is a lot riding on our success.”

Dramatic increases in transit ridership

In a related story for Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reporter Levi Pulkkinen wrote, “Seattle-area commuters turned to mass transit in record numbers in 2007, boosting local ridership well above the national average, according to a study released last Monday.

“Light rail ridership accounted for much of the increase nationally, a fact that has some Puget Sound transportation planners anticipating even greater increases locally when the region’s first light rail system comes online in 2009.”

“We think this region is really ready for light rail,” said Linda Robson, a spokeswoman for Sound Transit, the three-county transit agency building the light rail line.

Ridership overall on Sound Transit rose 12.5% in 2007. The national average, according to the American Public Transportation Association, was 2 %. In numbers, Sound Transit riders took 1.5 million more trips on express buses and commuter trains.


Photo: SounD Transit / Photo by Eagle Eye Aerial Photography.

Station under wraps. - Work is progressing well on the Mount Baker Station on the Link light rail line. This photo shows the east portal of the Beacon Hill tunnel and the elevated trackway and station that will help serve Seattle's Rainier Valley. Link light rail is scheduled to open for service next July from downtown Seattle to Tukwila.

In King County alone, the Department of Transportation reported an increase of 7.5 million transit trips, amounting to a 7% increase over 2006.

Officials are convinced that once the light rail service to the airport is running, ridership numbers on Sound Transit could double.

The agency also expects to begin work later this year on a rail extension connecting the University of Washington with the airport-bound line. About $100 million for the project, which would come into service in 2016, is included in the Bush administration’s proposed budget for fiscal 2009.

WHERE SEATTLE RANKS AMONG OTHER MAJOR CITIES

COMMUTER RAIL, BY PERCENT INCREASE IN RIDERSHIP SINCE 2006:

1. Nashville, Tenn. -- 258 percent
2. Santa Fe, N.M. -- 97 percent
3. Harrisburg, Pa. -- 41 percent
4. Seattle -- 27 percent
5. Oakland, Calif. -- 14 percent
National average -- 5 percent

BUS SERVICE

1. Seattle -- 8 percent
2. Denver-- 7 percent
3. Minneapolis -- 5 percent
National average -- 1 percent

LIGHT RAIL AND TROLLEYS

1. New Orleans -- 129 percent
2. Denver -- 66 percent
3. St. Louis -- 27 percent
4. Philadelphia -- 26 percent
5. Kenosha, Wis. -- 19 percent
Seattle -- 4 percent*
National average -- 6 percent

*The 1.6-mile Tacoma Link streetcar was the only light rail operating in the Seattle area in 2007.

Source: American Public Transportation Association, ridership report for 2007.

See the full report: http://goto.seattlepi.com/r1300.


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Mass Transit Benefits Would Exceed Costs After 15 Years, Analysis Finds

From Internet Sources

A cost-benefit analysis of the economic benefits of transit by Parsons Brinckerhoff for Sound Transit would be music to any official’s ears who wants to convince the public a transit investment will pay off in the long run.

Projects costing more than $100 million are required by the Puget Sound Regional Council to have a benefit-cost analysis

“Within about 15 years of completion,” the report states, “new mass transit expansion options currently undergoing public review would pay off with quantifiable public benefits that exceed the costs of building them. After 15 years, those public benefits — mainly from time and energy savings — would continue to accumulate for decades more, exceeding costs by a ratio of two to one.”

The impacts of new transit on travel patterns in the region were assessed in five categories:

The study compares expanding transit with taking no action. Anticipated regional population growth will cause significantly more congestion on existing highways by 2030. The study finds that expanding the rail system will yield significant mobility benefits, resulting in time savings of between 13 million and 34 million vehicle-hours from reduced vehicle delay per year, depending on the expansion option.

Three options were analyzed in the report: a 20-year plan developed last year that would add more than 50 miles of light rail service to the region, and two new 12-year options adding 18 to 23 miles of light rail and increasing commuter rail service.

The studies rely on the assumption that people will take transit when the cost is less than or equal to the benefit, and consumer costs are considered in terms of both time and money.

Once the initial transit investment is made, consumer travel costs will fall. As transit expansions are completed and more options are offered to the consumers, transit becomes even more economically attractive, and more people will use it.

“This confirms that investing in mass transit makes sense for the bottom line,” said Greg Nickels, Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor. “By expanding Sound Transit and giving people more alternatives to sitting in traffic, we’ll save both time and money.”

As more people shift from cars to transit, the resulting decline in highway congestion is a benefit to drivers; travel time and mobility improve. In addition to individual, the region benefits from few highway accidents and reduced air, noise and water pollution.

The full analysis is available at http://future.soundtransit.org/documents.aspx


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...

FRA Proposes New Rules to Protect Track Workers

JULY 24 ---The Federal Railroad Administration last week announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to protect roadway workers from train or equipment movements on adjacent track. FRA proposes to amend its regulations on railroad workplace safety to reduce further the risk of serious injury or death to roadway workers.

Since May 2004, four rail workers have been killed while working on track adjacent to approaching trains.

The proposal would require railroads, their contractors and roadway workers to adopt additional on-track safety procedures.

The new rules would cover work groups using certain maintenance equipment when the centerline of an adjacent track is 19 feet or less from the centerline of the track being worked on. These on-track safety procedures would be required for each adjacent track when a roadway work group with at least one of the roadway workers on the ground is engaged in a common task with an on-track roadway maintenance machine or coupled equipment on an occupied track.

The FRA also proposes new requirements for job safety briefings, training and record keeping to ensure compliance with the new procedures.

Under existing roadway worker protection rules, work groups doing maintenance or construction use train approach warning systems. The proposed regulation would require the warning systems for a wider range of operational conditions.

A copy of the proposal can be viewed at www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/321 under the subheading “Roadway Worker Protection.”

Written comments must be received no later than August 18, 2008. Comments received after that date will be considered to the extent possible without incurring additional expense or delay.

Contact: Warren Flatau, FRA, (202) 493-6019.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...

Stimulus Spending On Transportation Will
Address Critical Needs, Create Good Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following statement was offered by Edward Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, anticipating a second stimulus bill to spur the nation’s economy:

“Economic stimulus spending on our nation’s aging transportation system is a win-win. Not only would it go a long way to spur our stumbling economy by creating and supporting thousands of good jobs, but it would make lasting improvements to a transportation network in ill-repair.

“Americans are suffering in a failing economy that is not producing good jobs. We urge the House and the Senate to include an infusion of transportation funding in any stimulus bill – the type of sensible, targeted investments that will put people to work.

“Public transportation authorities have documented more than 3,000 highway projects, worth $18 billion that could be started in 90 days. The mass transit industry has compiled a similar project list totaling over $3.6 billion in ready-to-go transit needs. Amtrak has years of backlogged maintenance, infrastructure and equipment upgrades, and bridge, tunnel and track repair projects that need to be addressed. This nation’s congested airports are ready to build new runways and add capacity to help avoid aviation traffic jams. The same is true of our country’s seaports, where additional capacity and infrastructure improvements are in dire need to keep commerce moving.

“There are billions of dollars required to address transportation needs. And for every billion dollars of federal spending in transportation and infrastructure, upwards of 35,000 good paying, family-supporting jobs are created.

“The Bush Administration has been the biggest stumbling block for investment in our country’s crumbling infrastructure. Congress must reject any Administration opposition and enact a real stimulus bill – one that invests in our transportation system and puts Americans to work. Just saying no is no longer an option.”

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit www.ttd.org.

[Editor’s note: We agree that a major infusion of investment in transportation infrastructure must be made if America is to have a world class system. But this proposal is far too heavily weighted toward highway construction. Given the drastic decline of our rail system in favor of highways over the past sixty years, the major portion of stimulus spending on transportation must be to rebuild our rail and transit infrastructure, and for highways, we must adopt and follow a Fix It First policy nationwide]


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House Backs $8 Billion Infusion to Highway Trust Fund

From The US House of Representatives Website

WASHINGTON, JULY 24 - The House has approved H. R. 6532, the bill that would restore $8 billion to the highway trust fund, restoring temporary solvency to the federal account essential to keeping the nation’s roads and bridges safe, functional, and in good repair.

An Associated Press story by Jim Abrams reports that without this infusion, the shortfall could reduce federal highway aid for state infrastructure projects by more than 30 %, leaving much-needed maintenance jobs undone and endangering hundreds of thousands of construction jobs.

“This is not the time to begin to reduce our already pathetic and inadequate investment in our transportation infrastructure,” said Representative Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, chairman of the transportation subcommittee on highways.

The White House said President Bush would be urged to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, but supporters of the legislation passed it by a veto-proof vote of 387 to 37.

The trust fund, created in 1956, relies on the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon, or 24.3 cents for diesel. Just three years ago it had a surplus of more than $10 billion, but the balance has deteriorated as higher gas prices have reduced vehicle miles traveled and induced people to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles. Another factor is that the gas tax has stayed the same level since 1993 despite inflation and rapidly rising construction costs.

It is currently estimated that the trust fund will run a shortfall of more than $3 billion next year. Representative John Mica of Florida, top Republican on the Transportation Committee, said new estimates about to come out will bump that up to $6 billion.

Because highway money is paid out over a number of years, a shortfall in the $4 billion range would result in only about $27 billion being available to state and local governments next year for new infrastructure projects. The current highway act calls for federal aid of $41 billion in fiscal 2009.


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FLOOR STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JAMES L. OBERSTAR
H.R. 6532, HIGHWAY TRUST FUND RESTORATION ACT
JULY 23, 2008

 

Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 6532, the Highway Trust Fund Restoration Act.

This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Rangel, ensures full funding of the highway and public transportation investment levels authorized by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (“SAFETEA-LU”), and prevents a possible devastating cut in each State’s Federal highway funds.

SAFETEA-LU provides $41.2 billion for Federal-aid highways and $10.34 billion for public transportation in fiscal year 2009.

Unfortunately, Highway Trust Fund revenues are falling behind what was anticipated when SAFETEA-LU was enacted in 2005.

If this situation is not proactively addressed, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has estimated that the shortfall in the Highway Account of the Trust Fund could lead to a devastating $14 billion, or 34 percent, cut in Federal highway investment in FY 2009. A 34 percent cut in each State’s Federal highway funds would lead to a loss of nearly 380,000 family-wage jobs, at a time when we are attempting to revive the U.S. economy.

Under current funding for the highway and highway safety programs, outlays from the Highway Trust Fund are projected to exceed revenues and balances by more than $4 billion by the end of FY 2009.

H.R 6532 addresses the upcoming shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway Account by restoring $8.017 billion in highway user fee revenue that were transferred to the General Fund by the 1998 surface transportation reauthorization law, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (“TEA–21”).

As part of the TEA 21 conference agreement, section 9004(a) of TEA 21 required that the balance of the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund be reduced to $8 billion as of October 1, 1998. This figure was based on an estimate of the minimum prudent balance for the Highway Account assuming the funding levels in TEA 21.

The Bureau of Public Debt executed this provision by transferring $8,017,355,427 from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund on October 1, 1998.

While these funds were thought to be “excess” at the time, the Highway Trust Fund is now facing a significant shortfall in FY 2009. Earlier this year, the President’s Budget estimated a shortfall of $3.2 billion by the end of FY 2009. Since then, gas prices have risen dramatically, and Americans are driving less. In fact, Americans have driven 20 billion fewer miles overall this year.

As a result, gas tax revenues are down -- $2 billion less was collected during the first eight months of FY 2008 compared to the same period in FY 2007. This unexpected and severe decline in revenues makes it even more critical that we take decisive action now to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

This bipartisan bill restores the $8 billion that was taken from the Trust Fund in 1998, thereby ensuring the Trust Fund remains solvent through the current authorization period.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)98.0594.50
Canadian National (CNI)53.2851.10
Canadian Pacific (CP)62.0867.50
CSX (CSX)63.3460.80
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.50
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)41.5539.48
Kansas City Southern (KSU)48.0046.48
Norfolk Southern (NSC)70.1163.42
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.4818.99
Union Pacific (UNP)77.4972.54


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...

Norfolk Southern To Build New Yard In Saratoga County, New York

By DF Staff from Internet Sources

JULY 24 --- With a vision of expanding its freight rail service and becoming more competitive with CSX Transportation in New England, Norfolk Southern Railway is making a major investment to build a new intermodal yard in upper New York State. The $40 million facility will be built on the site of a former rail yard located within the borders of Mechanicville, Halfmoon and Stillwater in Saratoga County.

This project is part of a plan announced last May for Norfolk Southern to purchase a 50 percent stake in the Patriot Corridor, a rail line owned by Pan Am Railways which links the Albany region with Ayer, Mass. and Boston. Pan Am Railways and Norfolk Southern formed a new company called Pan Am Southern in order to put together this joint venture. Besides the Patriot Corridor, Pan Am Southern also includes 281 miles of secondary and branch lines, including trackage rights, in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.

Norfolk Southern paid $140 million for its stake in the rail line.

At the time of the announcement last spring, Senator Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) committed $3 million in state funding to help support the purchase.

“As soaring energy costs have forced businesses to re-think how to transport consumer goods, the rail industry has once again become an increasingly viable and affordable option,” Senator Bruno said. “The announcement by Norfolk Southern and Pan Am Railways to invest in constructing a new facility in Southern Saratoga County is great news for the local economies in Mechanicville, Halfmoon and Stillwater.”

“This is exactly the sort of smart investment in our transportation infrastructure that we need to make during these tough economic times, and one that will spur further economic development,” said Governor David Paterson, when he thanked Senator Bruno for his efforts in getting the two railroads to locate in New York State.

The new rail terminal will anchor the western end of the Patriot Corridor, which will be a high-speed freight rail route between the Capitol Region and the Boston area once track and signal improvements are complete. Construction of the facility is expected to begin in the first quarter 2009 and be complete by April 2010.

Norfolk Southern planned the new facility to take advantage of rising diesel prices, which are making more shippers switch from trucks to rail. It will be used primarily to carry more automobiles and intermodal trailers.

The Pan Am Southern joint venture is subject to the approval of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which is expected to issue a decision on the transaction in October 2008.

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serving every major container port in the eastern United States and providing superior connections to western rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is North America’s largest rail carrier of metals and automotive products.


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AACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

British Parliament Gives Crossrail All Clear

London To Build Vital East-West Rail Link – Better Intercity Train Services Will Result

Source: QS Week With Additional Material From D:F Contributor Jim Lashmer

LONDON -- London’s Crossrail project cleared its last Parliamentary hurdle on the 23rd of July as the bill to enable works to start gained Royal Assent. MPs in the House of Commons approved minor amendments made by the House of Lords to the Crossrail Bill, and in doing so established the Crossrail Act.

This legislative development means that Cross London Rail Links, client for the GBP 15.9 billion (US $31 billion) project, can now begin awarding revamped design contracts for the scheme in earnest.

“Royal Assent is the most significant milestone in the history of Crossrail,” said Cross London Rail Links executive chairman Doug Oakervee. “After years of planning and discussion, we are ready to move into the delivery phase of a project that will benefit London, the south east region and the UK as a whole.”

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly added: “Crossrail has been talked about for decades, so I am delighted that now we have secured both the funding package and parliamentary approval, work can finally begin to deliver this fantastic project.”

Due to be operational by 2017, Crossrail will run from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west through tunnels under central London - with new stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Isle of Dogs (Canary Wharf) - then out to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Artist concept of Crossrail train, Paddington Station and Liverpool Street Station.

Images by Crossrail.

The Crossrail Act grants powers to acquire land and for Crossrail to be built and maintained. Enabling works are due to start next year, with main construction works set to begin in 2010.

Despite clearing all the necessary hurdles, there are still concerns however, that funding problems could yet derail the project. In response to the Royal Assent, London Chamber of Commerce policy director Helen Hill said she was relieved that the project was still on track. “London businesses will be relieved that the Crossrail Bill has now passed through Parliament,” said Hill.

“Crossrail is worth GBP 30 billion to the UK economy and is essential to increase capacity on the capital city’s overstretched transport network.”, stated Hill. “The government’s continued commitment to this vital scheme will be a boost for business confidence during these difficult times.”

London is perhaps unique among the top European cities insofar that the city is served mostly by stub-ended passenger rail terminals with no significant conventional rail lines running through the city center aside from the highly loaded and restrictive Thames Link bridge / tunnel route. Other major cities in Europe such as Milan, Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Brussels have long ago constructed cross city rail corridors which can handle at a minimum a large number of regional and commuter trains, and in many cases long distance intercity trains as well.

The north-south Thames Link rail corridor in central London runs across a bridge over the Thames River and through the Snow Hill Tunnel from Blackfriars Station to Kings Cross Station. Thames Link has a change in traction power from 25 kV AC overhead lines at its northern end to 750 VDC third rail power at its southern end, thus limiting use of the route to EMU train sets equipped with both AC pantographs and DC third rail shoes. The British rail network north of London uses 25 kV AC overhead power almost exclusively on electrified rail lines, while the rail network south of the River Thames is nearly all 750 VDC third rail power.


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ICE-3 High Speed Trains Back On Track

Sources: Deutsche Bahn Press Release and ZDF Television News

Emergency Inspections of Wheel Axles Completed Without Findings

FRANKFURT – Deutsche Bahn / German Railways (DBAG) reported last Tuesday (22nd July) that it had completed special inspections of the entire ICE-3 fleet after an ICE-3 train set derailed close to the Cologne (Köln) central rail station due to a cracked wheel axle.

View of severed wheel axle on ICE-3 train set in Cologne.

Photos by ZDF Television

German authorities ordered the ultrasound inspection of the axles in the ICE-3 fleet after the incident in Cologne. DBAG stated that the special inspections required a total of 100 extra shifts in ICE-3 maintenance bases in Dortmund, Munich and Frankfurt.

Meanwhile investigators in Cologne continued their efforts to find out who noticed what and when on the train set which derailed. A number of passengers have provided statements that suggest the axle was already seriously cracked as the train began the high-speed segment of its trip after stopping in the Frankfurt Airport intercity train station. Apparently one passenger and a train conductor, separately but nearly simultaneously, activated the emergency brakes seconds after the train partially derailed just beyond the Cologne central station.


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OPINION... Opinion...

Are Bleak Times Ahead For Transit?

By: David Peter Alan

Many transit advocates today are predicting great times for transit in the future, mainly because of the price of gasoline. But, at the same time, some transit authorities are cutting service while drastically raising fares.

Gasoline now costs $4.00 plus a gallon, and the price at the pump will probably continue to rise. According to many of my colleagues in the transit advocacy community, this is the best thing that ever happened to both local transit and intercity rail. They cheer about a decrease in automobile use (about 4% since last year) and increases in transit use (5.7% since last year, according to APTA) and in Amtrak ridership which has been going up every year even when gas was cheaper.

I’m not convinced. There still is no evidence of a mass exodus from the highways despite the skyrocketing costs of gasoline. The sad truth is -- most Americans don’t have much transit available, and many have none. For them, the only alternative to racking up road miles is to stay home more often.

My view of the overall situation is not just guarded but moving toward grim. My concern is due in part to the tragic history of September 11, 2001. Airliners were taken out of the skies and Greyhound was taken off the highways. Amtrak shined as it never had before. It got through, and nobody else did. Rail travelers reached their destinations in comfort, and nobody else went anywhere for a few days. Amtrak’s reward for such stellar performance was such strong antipathy from the Bush Administration that the Executive Branch did everything it could to kill the railroad. Their commitment to Amtrak’s demise and the zeal with which they worked toward that goal was astonishing. Amtrak’s enemies did not fully succeed, but we have fewer trains now than we did then, on-board services have been cut, and the rail travel experience has been downgraded. That was Amtrak’s reward.

Today, many motorists say that the price of gasoline is keeping them near home. If transit is available, more people are trying it. As we have always expected, many of them come back and become regular riders. In the short run, that is great news for transit. In the long run, it may not be if other forces don’t change.

The price of fuel for locomotives and buses is going up as quickly as the price of fuel for automobiles. I was shocked when a senior manager at New Jersey Transit complained about the cost of fuel and reminded me that it is far more cost-effective to move a peak-hour train crowded with commuters than to move a train during the mid-day or late evening with fewer riders. To management, the decision was simple. The off-peak trains, with fewer bodies per gallon of fuel or kilowatt-hour of electricity, had to be eliminated. Yet, people who depend on transit for their basic mobility need those trains. Many off-peak riders do not have high-paying jobs, and many cannot afford cars. They need those off-peak trains. Many transit-dependent people moved to communities where rail service had been frequent for decades, only to find themselves stranded by drastic cuts in service.

New Jersey Transit cut off-peak rail service on the Morris & Essex Line almost in half this May, without advance notice to the riding public, their citizen-advocates, or their elected representatives. The statute that governs NJT requires them to hold a hearing prior to an “abandonment or substantial curtailment” of service, but management acted with total indifference toward that mandate. The previous level of service, which for decades contributed greatly to the economic vitality of the people and communities along the M&E line, instantly became just a memory. Now management has announced that there will be further cuts on other lines, although they refuse to disclose which ones. My fear is that if New Jersey Transit can get away with this, the oil and highways interests will use that strategy effectively elsewhere. Once again, alternatives to crowded highways and high gas prices will be taken away.

Transit agencies in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities have raised fares drastically during the past year or two. Many of us remember the downward spiral of the 1960s and 70s, when fare increases and service cuts fueled each other and the riders were always the losers.

Improving mobility for transit riders in the present political and economic climate will not be easy. It will require new ways of thinking, concerted action and cooperation between parties who would prefer to ignore each other or treat each other as adversaries.

The answer is to shift money away from highways and automobiles and toward transit and intercity trains. As the keepers of our nation’s mobility, transit officials and managers have a duty to educate political leaders about the urgent need for adequate funding for both the capital and operating needs of their transit systems. And managers must learn to work in partnership with rider advocates. Many corporate managers had to recognize a union as the representative of their employees, even though they did not like it. Transit managers need to make a similar attitude adjustment, and some do. If managers and advocates work as partners, we can start winning.

Transit management, the advocacy community and other organizations like the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) have the potential to work together to produce genuine improvements in mobility for all transit users.

Swiftly rising fuel prices are presenting all of us with a daunting challenge and a great opportunity. If we all work together for the changes we need, mobility may improve for everyone in the nation. If we do not, higher gasoline prices may force more transit riders than motorists to stay home.

 

(Editor’s note: Mr. Alan’s piece illustrates just how grim the reality is for many Americans. The end of cheap oil has hit this country like a flash fire, and the consequences are painful and unfair. Alan’s call for all of us, on both sides of the aisle, to work together for fair and equitable funding for transportation, is a daunting task that must be done if we are to succeed as a global leader and a democratic society.)


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...

To the Editor of the Destination: Freedom Newsletter:

I am writing to express my disappointment with the inclusion of the guest editorial in the week’s issue of the newsletter. I have been reading Destination:Freedom nearly every week for about the last three years, and I was under the impression that the organization’s focus is the development of rail corridors--passenger and freight--with the ultimate goal of improving transportation for the betterment of commerce and the public. With that said, I found the decision to include this week’s guest editorial by former Vice-President Al Gore extremely questionable. In his piece, the former Vice-President focuses on energy and carbon emissions. He provides his opinions on the national economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, climate change, and recommends that the United States find alternatives to carbon-based fuel.

However, it seems that Mr. Gore says nothing in regards to rail transportation and development. There are a few instances in which he mentions cars, highways, and gas prices, and he ends with an anecdote on seeing the Apollo 11 launch that started the United States’ expedition to land on the moon. All are relevant to transportation, but there is nothing whatsoever about rail in any way whatsoever.

Mr. Gore is entitled to his opinions as much as any other American citizen regarding the topics about which he writes. However, with the understanding that Destination:Freedom abides by the same mission statements as the National Corridors Initiative--in which the focus is to promote the development of rail corridors--Mr. Gore’s editorial has no place in the newsletter. With that said, it would be appreciated if Destination:Freedom could be kept true to its focus as a newsletter reporting affairs in rail transportation and advocating its development rather than turn into a general political advocacy newsletter with pieces tangential to its focus at best.

Michael A. Zekas
Washington, D.C.

We are always glad to hear from readers, and thank them for their comments, pro or con. It helps us do our job. In the case of the Al Gore editorial, I disagree that zero-carbon arguments are irrelevant to D:F or its readers; the type of transportation technology we have chosen to dominate in America, the automobile, has a massive impact on health, wealth, and the general welfare of the country, and our lack of transportation alternatives is at the root of that. - Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination:Freedom.


Dear Editor:

The 7/21 National Corridors was exceptionally “thin“ on passenger rail subjects. Quite frankly the Big Dig, and the role of the Mass Turnpike, don’t seem appropriate.

As much as I like Al Gore, I've seen and heard his message before. While political advocacy is important to advancing the cause of passenger rail improvement, the improvement should start in the newsletter itself.

How about editorializing for Amtrak to repair its fleet of damaged cars so that some new starts can have a realistic chance of service? How about a plan to re-engine the sidetracked Turboliners so they might be competitive instead of being fuel eaters? Rather than focus on Air France and KLM rail plans with Veolia why not advocate what could be done in our country. Having an article on the cost of parking a car in Manhattan is a waste of space. It seems to me like there are plenty of rail topics of interest out there. Thanks

John Fostik

That issue was a bit thin on rail, but as readers may have noticed, while we are primarily concerned with rebuilding the nation’s rail infrastructure, we are and must be aware of the context in whch we are working; we are NOT a rail fan publication per se, even if we do seek to promote that transportation choice. --- Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination:Freedom


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2008 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

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