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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Aug. 2, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 32

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

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

  News Items…
The House Passes FY 2011 Transportation Appropriations
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak President Joe Boardman Retained
  Funding Lines…
SEPTA Reaps Major Improvements From ARRA
  Freight Lines…
Freight Rail Industry Reports Significant Rise In Earnings
The Economist Frets About American HSR: Could It ‘Ruin’
   U.S. Freight Railroads???
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Deutsche Bahn AG Announces Improved Half-Year Performance
SNCF Grows Financial Performance In 1st Half 2010 Figures
Stuttgart 21 Project Racks Up More Negative Publicity
  Commentary…
Intermodal Transfers Laguardia To Penn Station:
   Welcome To Third-World America (Or Worse)
APTA Conference Attendees Ride Wide Variety Of Transit
   In The New York Area
  Publication Notes …


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

The House Passes FY 2011
Transportation Appropriations

From Passenger Transport Magazine

WASHINGTON --- The full House voted July 29 to approve H.R. 5850, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, increasing public transit funding. The vote was 251 in favor and 167 opposed.

The legislation includes $11.3 billion for public transportation investments, $500 million more than FY 2010 and $575 million above the president’s request, to support bus and rail projects. It also has a provision for $250 million in transit operating assistance grants, if legislation is enacted authorizing such activities. Several amendments were defeated that would have reduced funding for many of the transit and rail programs.

Regarding intercity and high-speed rail, H.R. 5850 provides $1.4 billion—$400 million above the administration’s request—to expand and improve intercity passenger rail and develop a robust national high-speed rail system.

The House also approved $75 million for grants to help deploy positive train control (PTC) systems, to help train operators acquire and implement PTC as required on all lines that jointly operate passenger and freight traffic by Dec. 15, 2015, and $150 million to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for capital and preventive maintenance.

The full Senate still needs to approve the appropriations bill. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee provided $10.8 billion for public transit, nearly the same amount provided in FY 2010. The Senate is not expected to take up this issue before the August recess.


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

Amtrak President Joe Boardman Retained

Excerpts From Chairman Tom Carper’s Special Advisory To Amtrak Employees

“I am extremely pleased to inform you that the board of directors has unanimously agreed to retain President and CEO Joe Boardman through 2013. Since he was tapped for the job in November of 2008, Joe has been a strong and visible leader dedicated to providing Amtrak the vision and stability needed to guide the railroad into this new era of passenger rail.

Joe’s focus on a safer, greener and healthier Amtrak will enhance safety, improve the reliability of our services, reduce trip times and increase speeds, yield targeted and effective infrastructure investments, and ensure the delivery of quality customer service. And as we near the end of the fiscal year, it appears we will rival our all-time-high ridership and ticket revenue record from FY 2008. With the implementation of Safe-2-Safer, he has dedicated himself to creating a safer and more collaborative working environment. 

Through Joe’s leadership, we announced last week the purchase of 130 new single-level cars for long-distance service, the first step in making a long-term fleet plan that was issued in February a reality.

Joe is also strengthening our relationships with state, commuter and other partners to add frequencies to current routes and develop service in new markets. In addition, he is setting the stage for Amtrak to be a competitive force as we expand our role in new markets as America’s only high-speed rail operator.

Joe takes an active interest in the Amtrak workforce, visiting facilities and meeting many of you, [and he] is committed to building and strengthening relationships, from states to labor organizations.”


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

SEPTA Reaps Major Improvements From ARRA

Philadelphia Business Journal

JULY 28 -- SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) had 54 federal stimulus-funded contracts awarded last year from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act reports staff writer Athena Merritt, in a story for the Philadelphia Business Journal. As of the beginning of this month, 14 of the contracts were complete.

Philmont Train Station

Photo: Coemgenus via Wikipedia.Org

Philmont Train Station was built in 1913 by Reading Railroad. It recently underwent major improvements from ARRA stimulus money.

For regional rail riders on SEPTA’s West Trenton Line, that means a $470,000 rehab of the Philmont Station which includes a new roof, construction of an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible path between the inbound and outbound platforms, repairs to exterior facades and improvements to the inbound side to provide greater accessibility.

The new $1.4 million Langhorne Station, which was originally scheduled to be completed this summer, will be finished in September.

Non-stimulus work is also occurring at the Yardley station on the West Trenton Line. The minor maintenance project will add sidewalks and a more accessible path at the station, said Robert L. Lund Jr., senior director of capital construction, said.

Langhorne Station

Photo: Rvenne01 via Wikipedia.Org

Langhorne Station built circa 1881 was demolished this year.

In addition, ARRA-funded work along SEPTA’s Airport Line and all ARRA-funded bridge projects have been completed, Lund said.


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Freight Rail Industry Reports
Significant Rise In Earnings

From Railway Age

Kansas City Southern reported a second-quarter 2010 profit of $34.6 million, or 34 cents a share, compared with $6.5 million or seven cents a share in last year’s second quarter, thus easily beating Wall Street’s consensus estimate of 46 cents for this year quarter. That represents a 35% increase over the same period in 2009.

The company also slashed its operating ratio to 72.4%, a record, from 87.4% a year ago.

Automotive revenue was up almost 300% over 2009 largely due to increased automotive production in Mexico. Multi-modal (rail to truck transport) went up 54% thanks to growth in new business lanes and organic volume.

KCS Chairman Michael J. Haverty commented:

“A year ago, KCS was in the depths of the worst freight recession since the Great Depression. Over the last year, we have seen a steady improvement in traffic levels ... During the quarter, KCS continued to bring on new business and improve operating margins. The reported 72.4% operating ratio is a 15 percentage point improvement from a year ago, and represents a record operating ratio for KCS. Operating expenses excluding fuel were up just 3% on strong increases in volume, demonstrating the continued operating leverage KCS has been able to achieve.

“We raised approximately $215 million from an equity offering during the quarter, and along with existing cash on our balance sheet, we announced plans to reduce our debt levels by $300 million,” Haverty said. “At the end of the second quarter, we had retired approximately $237 million of this debt, and plan to retire the remainder of the announced $300 million during the third quarter. Including the refinancing in January, these transactions significantly improve our financial strength by reducing leverage and lowering our interest expense by approximately $40 million per year. On June 21, 2010, Standard & Poor’s upgraded the company’s long-term ratings to BB- from B and on June 28, 2010, Moody’s Investors Service raised its outlook to positive. Coupled with strong free cash flow being generated by our operations, our financial flexibility has improved substantially.”

Norfolk Southern Corp. reported second-quarter 2010 net income of $392 million, up 59% from the $247 million posted for second-quarter 2009. The railroad’s operating ratio fell five percentage points to 69.8%, a second-quarter record, from 74.8% during second-quarter 2009. Diluted earnings per share were $1.04, beating the Wall Street estimate of 99 cents.

“This is our fourth straight quarter of volume growth, and we are optimistic about continued year-over-year increases in rail traffic,” said CEO Wick Moorman

Supplier Earnings Reports

L.B. Foster Co. reported Tuesday that net income increased by 125.8% to $6.0 million, or 58 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2010, compared with $2.7 million or $0.26 per share in the same period of 2009. Analysts had expected second-quarter 2010 earnings of 33 cents. Second-quarter sales increased 20.3% to $119.5 million from $99.3 million in the comparable 2009 quarter.

“Sales were up across all segments in the second quarter of 2010 and our backlog continued at a substantially higher level than it was a year ago,” said Stan Hasselbusch, president and CEO. “While business activity continues to be inconsistent, especially in the industrial markets, we continue to see a general strengthening in activity in most of our businesses. Bookings for the quarter were $120.6 million compared to $115.0 million last year, a 4.9% increase and backlog was $207.2 million, up 41.1% from last year.


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News Analysis

 

The Economist Frets About American HSR:
Could It ‘Ruin’ U.S. Freight Railroads???

A DF Staff Commentary On How Others See Us

LONDON--- England’s venerable but highly opinionated newsmagazine, The Economist, which resembles Time Magazine except that it is written above 10th-grade level and has fewer articles on Lady Gaga, this past week engaged in a lengthy, starkly headlined analysis of the American rail system, from the standpoint: “Here comes American High Speed Rail! Is The Sky Falling!”

In a July 22 piece “High-speed railroading” subtitled, “America’s system of rail freight is the world’s best. High-speed passenger trains could ruin it,” the Economist noted with alarm that America’s passenger railroads, long thought to be in “terminal decline,” were making a comeback under President Barak Obama. And that, the Economist noted, could be trouble:

“UNION STATION in Los Angeles has been restored as a fine example of the Art Deco architecture that typified California in the 1930s,” writes The Economist, “It has served as a backdrop for many Hollywood films, from “Union Station” (naturally) to “Blade Runner” and “Star Trek: First Contact”. It was the last grand station to be built before America’s passenger railways went into what you might call terminal decline.”

“Today it is a hub for Metrolink commuter trains and Amtrak services to faraway cities such as Chicago and Seattle. These trains have to pull in and then back out in a clumsy maneuver. But there are plans for through tracks in time to carry the high-speed services that California is desperate to have by 2020 under an ambitious $42 billion plan to connect San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. California’s plans were given a boost by Barack Obama’s stimulus package last year. This earmarks a lump sum of $8 billion, plus $1 billion a year, to help construct fast rail corridors around America (see map). Such lines are common in Europe, Japan and, increasingly, China, yet the only thing at all like them in America is Amtrak’s Acela service from Boston via New York to Washington, DC. It rarely reaches its top speed of 150mph (240kph) and for much of the way manages little more than half that, because the track is not equipped for higher speeds. Acela, like virtually all trains run by publicly owned Amtrak, has to use tracks belonging to freight railways, whose trains trundle along at 50mph; passenger trains must stick below 80mph. Despite the excitement of railway buffs and the enthusiasm of environmentalists, high-speed rail in America is likely to mean a few more diesel-electric intercity trains at 110mph, not swish electric expresses going nearly twice as fast.”

So far, what’s the problem? It’s here:

“… the problem with America’s plans for high-speed rail is not their modesty. It is that even this limited ambition risks messing up the successful freight railways. Their owners worry that the plans will demand expensive train-control technology that freight traffic could do without [NCI note: that would be Positive Train Control, which takes over the cab of a locomotive that runs a stop signal].”

“They fear a reduction in the capacity available to freight. Most of all they fret that the spending of federal money on upgrading their tracks will lead the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the industry watchdog, to impose tough conditions on them and, in effect, to reintroduce regulation of their operations. Attempts at re-regulation have been made in Congress in recent years, in response to rising freight rates. ‘The freight railroads feel they are under attack,’ says Don Phillips, a rail expert in Virginia.”

Don Phillips is of course the famed former Washington Post transportation writer, who over a period of decades, has established himself as the Gold Standard for American transportation writers. In fact, the National Corridors Initiative’s award for journalistic excellence is named for him.

The Economist continues, correctly: “America’s railways are the mirror image of Europe’s. Europe has an impressive and growing network of high-speed passenger links, many of them international, like the Thalys service between Paris and Brussels or the Eurostar connecting London to the French and Belgian capitals. These are successful—although once the (off-balance-sheet) costs of building the tracks are counted, they need subsidies of billions of dollars a year. But, outside Germany and Switzerland, Europe’s freight rail services are a fragmented, loss-making mess. Repeated attempts to remove the technical and bureaucratic hurdles at national frontiers have come to nothing.”

But then The Economist contrasts the European freight model with the American, recounting the freight railroads’ long decline and then, after deregulation under the Staggers Act (1980) their “staggering progress,” pun very much intended by the always pun-in-cheek, if not in-check, Economist.

Noting that productivity has “increased 172%” since the Staggers Act 30 years ago, The Economist then cites other statistics to highlight the indeed great gains made by the freight railroads over the past three decades: “Coal is the biggest single cargo, accounting for 45% by volume and 23% by value. More than 70% of coal transport is by rail. As demand grows for the lower-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, it has to travel farther. In response, railroads have invested in more powerful locomotives to haul longer coal trains: since 1990 the average horsepower of their fleet has risen by 72%. Yet energy efficiency has also improved. Lighter, aluminum freight wagons, double-decker ones and more fuel-efficient locomotives have lifted the number of ton-miles per (American) gallon of fuel from 332 to 457—an improvement of 38%. But the fastest-growing part of rail freight has been “intermodal” traffic: containers or truck trailers loaded on to flat railcars. The number of such shipments rose from 3m in 1980 to 12.3m in 2006, before the downturn caused a slight falling back. Behind this lies the tide of imports coming into the West Coast ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. A special rail expressway for freight, the Alameda Corridor, was opened in 2002 to link the ports to the big national rail routes, bypassing the 200 level [at-grade] crossings on the original branch lines, that used to cause huge traffic jams on the roads as mile-long freight trains rumbled across. The corridor, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in modern America, was completed on time and on budget for $2.4 billion by a public-private partnership considered by many to be a model for other rail schemes, such as California’s proposed high-speed passenger line.”

“But,” continues The Economist, “ the past ten years have seen another source of growth, as interstate highways have become clogged in places and have shown the effects of a lack of investment. Since one freight train can carry as much as 280 lorries [trucks] can, railways can help to limit the rise in road congestion. Trucking companies such as J.B. Hunt have come to see the advantage of putting trailers on flat wagons for long-haul and using roads only for local pickup and delivery. This move was also spurred, according to Mr. Phillips, by a shortage of lorry drivers. He says that tougher drink-driving rules and social changes have shrunk the numbers of “good ole boy” truckers inured to a life on the road. Most haulers now suffer labor turnover of 100% a year.”

“Freight railways’ very success is starting to create difficulties for them. The Department of Transportation estimates that many are already exceeding their theoretical capacity and are congested. It estimates that lots more investment will be needed, because capacity will have to rise by nearly 90% to meet forecast demand by 2035. The investment bill could rise yet more because of a change in the pattern of trade: in 2014 the Panama Canal opens a second lane, doubling its capacity and allowing it to carry bigger container vessels and bulk ships. Coming through to Gulf of Mexico and East Coast ports, these vessels will increase the need for better rail links inland.”

“Another looming threat” writes The Economist “is re-regulation. Fed up with increasing rates, customers, notably chemical, coal, agribusiness and utility companies, are complaining that these are evidence that the railroads are abusing their market power. The railroads retort that despite record traffic and profits, their return on investment since 2000 has been only 8%, which according to the Surface Transportation Board, another federal regulator, barely covers the cost of capital. They also say that freight rates are usually governed by what their competitors—i.e., truckers—charge. When higher diesel costs put up trucking rates, the railways follow suit.

Politicians from West Virginia have been pushing a bill in Congress that threatens to re-regulate the railways. The industry seems confident it will not get through, but risks will remain: opposing PTC could play into the hands of those who wish to increase oversight. In his annual letter to shareholders in February Mr. Buffett said that BNSF, like Berkshire Hathaway’s electric utilities, required ‘wise regulators who will provide certainty about allowable returns so that we can confidently make the huge investments required to maintain, replace and expand the plant.’”

But then comes the real crux of the story:

“The emergence of express intercity rail services may cause the freight railways the biggest problem of all. The policy is not only laid down by the president but also often has enthusiastic support at state level. The railways can hardly oppose Mr. Obama’s plan to boost high-speed rail, but they are apprehensive about what it will mean for them. The problem is not the creation of new corridors with trains rattling along at 150mph. Such lines, like those proposed in California or between Tampa and Orlando in Florida, would have their own track, separated from existing lines though on the same strip of land as a freight railway. The expertise to build and run these lies mainly in Europe and Japan, where engineering firms and the technology and consulting arms of national railways have been eyeing the American market eagerly. The trouble for the freight railways is that almost all the planned new fast intercity services will run on their tracks. Combining slow freight and fast passenger trains is complicated. With some exceptions on Amtrak’s Acela and North East corridor tracks, level crossings are attuned to limits of 50mph for freight and 80mph for passenger trains. But Mr. Obama’s plan boils down to running intercity passenger trains at 110mph on freight tracks. Add the fact that freight trains do not stick to a regular timetable, but run variable services at short notice to meet demand, and the scope for congestion grows.”

The Economist’s analysis is cooler than its headline —but that’s the news business, even in what we think of as staid-old England (except that the British tabloids make our The Enquirer look like nursery tales).

Another threat to the freights, The Economist notes, is the threat of re-regulation: “The freight railroads have learned to live with the limited Amtrak passenger services on their tracks. Occasionally they moan that Amtrak pays only about a fifth of the real cost of this access. Some rail men calculate that this is equivalent to a subsidy of about $240m a year, on top of what Amtrak gets from the government. Freight-rail people regard this glumly as just part of the cost of doing business, but their spirits will hardly lift if the burden grows. Their main complaint, however, is that one Amtrak passenger train at 110mph will remove the capacity to run six freight trains in any corridor. Nor do they believe claims that PTC, due to be in use by 2015, will increase capacity by allowing trains to run closer together in safety. So it will cost billions to adapt and upgrade the lines to accommodate both a big rise in freight traffic and an unprecedented burgeoning of intercity passenger services. Indeed, some of the money that the White House has earmarked will go on sidings where freight trains can be parked while intercity expresses speed by.

“Federal and state grants will flow to the freight railroads,” The Economist continues, “to help them upgrade their lines for more and faster passenger trains. But already rows are breaking out over the strict guidelines the FRA will lay down about operations on the upgraded lines, such as guarantees of on-time performance with draconian penalties if they are breached and the payment of indemnities for accidents involving passenger trains. The railroads are also concerned that the federal government will be the final arbiter of how new capacity created with the federal funds will be allocated between passenger and freight traffic. And they are annoyed that there was little consultation before these rules were published.”

Yes, annoyed –- but the sky is not really falling. The high speed rail program inaugurated by President Obama is a capacity-building opportunity disguised as a problem for the freights. Let’s hope they can seize it. --- NCI.

For the complete article go to: http://www.economist.com/node/16636101/


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)62.9762.64
Canadian Pacific (CP) 59.8758.94
CSX (CSX)52.7252.65
Genessee & Wyoming(GWR)40.8838.79
Kansas City Southern (KSU)36.7038.35
Norfolk Southern (NSC)56.2756.46
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.9212.08
Union Pacific (UNP)74.6773.90


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

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Deutsche Bahn AG Announces
Improved Half-Year Performance

German Rail Firm’s CEO States ICE-3 High Speed Train Will Visit London This Year

via DBAG corporate press release

Berlin – Deutsche Bahn AG – German Railways – currently Europe’s largest railroad, trucking, logistics and transportation company, announced significantly improved financial and system performance figures for the first half of 2010. Gross sales increased 12.8 percent to EUR 16.1 billion (US $20.7 billion) while operating earnings (EBIT) increased by 26.1 percent to EUR 846 million compared to first half 2009 data. DBAG chief Dr. Ruediger Grube stated: “We are back on the path of growth. However we attribute this growth not just to improving market conditions. With actions taken by our management team and all of our employees we have made significant improvements to our cost structure.”

Dr. Grube indicated that the rail and logistics company will bring a package of quality improvement initiatives over the next year into its operations, including: installation of 2800 dynamic text screen displays in numerous passenger stations, which will be used to communicate problems, difficulties and alerts to passengers, in addition to the current audio announcements over PA systems.

“There’s no question, we have to improve or quality and service levels. In September the Board will present further steps of our customer service and quality improvement offensives.” added Dr. Grube. DBAG has come under renewed criticism for recent service failures and difficulties including further reductions in availability of its tilt-body ICE-T train-sets due to more inspections of wheel axles, speed restrictions and lowered reliability of tilt-body VT-612 DMU train-sets used in regional express services, and widespread air conditioning system failures in various passenger trains in several recent heat waves during this summer in Germany, most acutely in the 13-16 year-old ICE-2 fleet used predominately on the Berlin – Hannover – Bielefeld – Cologne / Bonn, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Essen, Hamm corridor. The OEM for the ICE-2 trains, Siemens, stated that lack of proper preventive maintenance was the primary reason for the recent rash of a/c system failure in the ICE-2 fleet, which have resulted in both outright train cancellations and in closures of individual cars in a train-set, due to the possibility of interior temperatures building up to a life-threatening 50°C (122°F) or more in a worst case condition. Several rail passenger advocacy groups such as Pro-Bahn echoed Siemens claim of inadequate preventive maintenance by DBAG’s in-house maintenance lead to system failures during hot days and resulting schedule disruptions.

Other statistics made public at the press conference in Berlin last Wednesday, the 28th of July:

 
Figure
2010
1st half
2009
1st half
Employees240,000237,000
Passengers (Rail & Bus)1.36 billion1.23 billion
Passengers (Rail only)0.95 billion0.96 billion
Passenger-km or RPK (Rail only)38.1 billion37,3 billion
Rail Freight (metric tons)203 million147 million
Network utilization in train-km508.5 million494.2 million

ICE-3 Test Drive to London This Year

Dr. Grube stated during the press conference: “This autumn we will send an ICE-3 test train through the tunnel beneath the English Channel as part of our preparations for possible train service to London”.

Grube said DB is also in talks with SNCF to launch a passenger service from Frankfurt to Lyon and Marseille starting in 2012, and will organize a Swiss-German rail summit in the second half of this year to build on the recent memorandum of understanding to expand cross-border traffic in partnership with SBB – Swiss Federal Railways.

High speed passenger train services from Germany to London has been a DBAG long-term goal for years, and newly announced revisions to safety standards and specifications for train operation in the Channel Tunnel (in order to harmonize with existing and time-proven continental European fire protection, tunnel ops and evacuation procedures and technical standards) will soon allow the ICE-3M train series to be technically qualified for this route. The latest group of ICE-3M / Velaro D train-sets (DB class 407), currently in final production and verification testing, were designed and built with additional fire safety and operational features to operate in the ‘Chunnel’. The Channel Tunnel, as well as the French high speed rail network and the HS1 rail corridor from the UK end of Channel Tunnel to central London are equipped with 25 kVAC 50 Hz power and French TVM cab signaling / PTC system. Much of the existing ICE-3M fleet and the new ICE-3 / Class 407 Velaro D trains can operate from 25 kVAC 50 Hz power and are equipped with the French TVM cab signaling and PTC system.

Most likely a future ICE scheduled train service from Germany to London will start in the Frankfurt central station (Hauptbahnhof), travel via the Frankfurt Airport to Cologne on the relatively new (2002) Rhine-Main valley high speed line, then from Cologne to Liege, Belgium via Aachen on recently new-built or upgraded rail lines, then from Liege to Lille, France via Brussels on the newly completed Belgium high speed rail corridor, which is mostly built the same as French TGV / LGV high speed rail lines. From Lille the trip will continue to London along the existing French LGV high speed rail corridor to the Channel Tunnel, and then onwards to central London (St. Pancras Station) via the HS1 rail corridor, which was also constructed to French LGV standards and specifications. The train will have to operate from 3 different power systems on the way: 15 kVAC 16.7 Hz in Germany, 3 kVDC on several stretches of rail line in Belgium (with 25 kVAC on the high speed sections), and then finally 25 kVAC 50 Hz power just a few kilometers west of Brussels all the way to London St. Pancras station. In addition, the trains will run on the right-hand track in Germany with boarding platforms also usually on the right-hand side of the train, but in Belgium, France and the U.K. trains generally run on the left-hand track, with the boarding platforms also typically on the left.


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SNCF Grows Financial Performance
In 1st Half 2010 Figures

Rail Market In France Shows Improvement

Paris – meanwhile in France the state-owned rail company SNCF released it own half-year figures for the first part of 2010. The broad picture showed general improvement but the rail freight division of SNCF showed continued weakness as both rail freight competitors (open access rail freight companies) and trucks continue to erode SNCF’s rail freight volume. Total sales for Group SNCF were EUR 14.9 billion, up by 25.1 percent compared to first half 2009 sales. Although rail freight declined again – this time by 1.8 percent, sales in its infrastructure sector, long distance and high speed train operations as well as a strong revenue performance in regional train operations in both France and internationally via SNCF’s Keolis division, which is active in other European countries and in North America, all showed significant gains.


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Stuttgart 21 Project Racks Up
More Negative Publicity

Despite Construction Start Opposition To Massive Underground Station Project Continues

Stuttgart – The highly controversial ‘Stuttgart 21’ project, which aims to transform the city’s existing surface level stub-ended passenger train terminal into am underground through-station (similar to New York’s Penn Station or Philadelphia’s Suburban Station) ran into head winds this week as project management announced that a component of the massive project, a new high speed rail line to nearby Ulm, Germany, will cost an additional EUR 870 million (US $1.13 billion) more than estimated, and project opposition groups, including the Green Party and pro-rail advocacy groups Pro-Bahn and VCD leaked a detailed report from the Swiss transportation consultant firm SMA + Partner, which describes numerous weak points of the overall project. Stuttgart 21 began official construction earlier this year, and is targeted for completion in mid 2019. It is the largest urban construction project in Germany since the EUR 13 billion (US $16 billion) Berlin Hauptbanhhof and inter-related north-south underground rail connector, Potsdamer Platz station, north crossing and south crossing rail stations and relocation of an adjacent surface-level highway to underground were completed in mid 2006 after nearly 12 years of construction and planning work.

Aerial  view of the Stuttgart main train terminal (Hauptbahnhof) in October 2009

Photo: David Beale

Going Underground? Aerial view of the Stuttgart main train terminal (Hauptbahnhof) in October 2009

The state government of Baden-Württemberg (of which Stuttgart is state capitol) and Deutsche Bahn made public that the latest cost estimates for the new high speed line, which will begin in the outer suburbs of Stuttgart at a junction with the existing rail network and the soon-to-be-built approach to the proposed underground station and will run to the existing rail station in Ulm via an all new corridor in tunnels, over bridges and along an existing highway. The announced cost increase represents nearly a 30% change to the previous budget value for this segment of the Stuttgart 21 project.

Separately an extensive rail transportation study regarding Stuttgart 21 made in 2008 by the Swiss consulting firm SMA + Partner for the state government of Baden-Württemberg was made public by pro-rail transit groups Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD), Pro-Bahn and a local environmental conservation group. The study highlighted a number of potential choke points in the proposed rail infrastructure around Stuttgart as a result of the changes to be made by the Stuttgart 21 project as well as significant limitations the Stuttgart 21 project may create for existing commuter trains(S-Bahn) and to inhibit potential increases in local and regional train operations. State government officials placed a recommendation on the June 2008 study that “due to the explosive nature (of some of the potential shortcomings of Stuttgart 21) identified in this study, complete secrecy of this report should be maintained.”


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Intermodal Transfers Laguardia To Penn Station:
Welcome To Third-World America - (Or Worse)

By Jim RePass, NCI Chairman

NEW YORK CITY --- The Train To The Plane isn’t, and perhaps never was.

New York City’s MTA “Train To The Plane” campaign which touted bus service from a Queens subway stop to Penn Station hasn’t been seen much lately, and perhaps our experience this past week can help explain why.

On a Saturday we arrived at 11:18 a.m., on time from New Orleans on a US Air plane needing to catch an Amtrak 1 p.m. Northeast Regional train to Connecticut, from New York’s Penn Station.

Normally when we fly into New York we choose JFK, because of its automated rail connection to Jamaica (Queens) Station and access to the Long Island RR to Penn Station (or to Penn Station via the subway, if time is of no importance). [Editor’s note: this automated rail connection, nicknamed the Skyway, is, to the newcomer, delightful –smooth, modern and fast, with great views of the city. But once at Jamaica Station, the thrill quickly fades. You’re still a long way from Penn Station. And if you miss the latest Long Island RR train, it’s a half hour wait for the next one. Or you take the subway. They spent a billion dollars on a glitzy air- train to Queens. Why didn’t they just build a direct connection to Penn Station? But back to the story at hand.]

This time the flight was to LaGuardia.

Upon arrival we descended through the terminal to find the ground transportation booth unmanned; so we wandered with luggage from staffer to staffer seeking advice; finally the info booth people returned from wherever they had gone, and informed me that I could catch the M60 or Q33 (NYC Transit Buses) to a subway stop; these buses come directly into the terminal, and, I thought, well that’s a good thing. I’m done worrying.

I caught the M60 to Astoria Boulevard subway station --- about a 20 minute trip in heavy traffic that Saturday --- and here is where I discovered how intermodalism really works in New York City.

The Astoria Boulevard station is an ancient rattletrap of a station that straddles a major intersection in Queens, serves thousands of people a day, and is up six flights of stairs.

That’s right, the advertised subway stop for LaGuardia Airport has no elevator.

That day I had two pieces of luggage, one filled with files weighing about 10 lbs, and the other a lap top bag packed also with a change of clothes; it was about 25 pounds in all.

It was a nice, sunny (translation: sweltering, humid) July day in New York City so I was able to enjoy quite a work-out as I slowly but deliberately navigated the (ragged, broken, filthy) steel staircases, one interminable flight after another, to the level of the manned subway booth. I asked the station agent which subway to catch, and she happily snarled at me, “It doesn’t matter. Either one.” I then noticed that the subways themselves were overhead, another two flights of stairs up.

By this time I was seething, not simply at the lack of any kind of decent facility to greet air travelers, but the at the fact that in 2010, New York City should show such a shabby face to the world of those who don’t drive, or who can’t afford a $50 cab ride to the city. I was not alone on this little trip: the bus from LaGuardia was packed, and yes, we all went up those steps, with our luggage, at the same time.

File this story under: Complaints. But don’t worry. We’re not done with this subject:


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APTA Conference Attendees Ride Wide Variety
Of Transit In The New York Area

By David Peter Alan

How do transit professionals spend the week-end before the convention? They ride transit, and plenty of it!

A number of attendees to the recent “Sustainability & Public Transportation Workshop” and “Multimodal Operations Planning Workshop” sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) spent the week-end of July 24 and 25 experiencing a wide variety of transit modes in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut. The tour leader was Thomas R. Hickey, Associate Vice-President of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) in Houston. Hickey, a Philadelphia native, began his career with a local bus authority and worked for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). He has served as General Manager for the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO), which operates the “High-Speed Line” between Philadelphia and South Jersey, and also as Railroad Administrator for the State of Delaware.

Hickey planned the itineraries, which included the New York subways, ferries, airport transit, and light rail on New Jersey Transit, and commuter rail and buses operated by several transit providers. He began leading multi-modal tours in Philadelphia in 1977, and has been conducting them in other cities since 1998, in conjunction with APTA Operations conventions. Saturday’s itinerary called for seventeen segments and fifteen hours of travel time, and Sunday’s included eighteen segments and twelve hours of travel.

Hickey believes that the experience of riding different modes of transit in revenue service is significant for transit professionals. “We all know our systems well, so the opportunity to travel with passengers and see things from a passenger perspective is great. There is also plenty of cross-talk between us, sharing ideas and opinions,” he said.

The number of participants varied during the tours, with a high of 37. They came from as far away as Seattle, Los Angeles and Victoria, B.C. South Florida (Tri-Rail) was represented, as were Toronto, Minneapolis, Chicago and SEPTA. Other participants came from consulting and engineering firms.

Saturday’s itinerary began with the “JFK Air Train” to and from the airport. Next, the group took the Long Island Rail Road to Port Jefferson, a local bus to the ferry dock, and the ferry to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Ronald J. Kilcoyne, Chief Executive Officer of Greater Bridgeport Transit, provided an overview of his system and a tour of the bus terminal. Then the group took a Metro-North train back to Manhattan. After a brief tour of Grand Central Terminal, it was time to ride the New York subways.

The subway ride included lines that both transit professionals and rail fans consider the most interesting in the system: the Franklin Shuttle, Jamaica (“J”), Brighton (“Q”) and West End (“D”) Lines. Hickey’s schedule called for the group to be on a train that would travel over the Manhattan Bridge, between Brooklyn and Manhattan, at the exact moment of sunset. The trip plan included a 45-minute stopover at Coney Island for hot dogs at Nathan’s. Unfortunately, a breakdown caused the “D” train on which the group planned to ride to be annulled, so the view from the bridge was in twilight, not sunset. Under normal operation, Hickey’s schedule would have worked perfectly.

Sunday began with a subway ride to Marble Hill (225th Street and Broadway) and the return trip to Grand Central Terminal on Metro-North’s Hudson Line. The group than rode the Port Imperial Ferry from Manhattan, across the Hudson River to Weehawken. Connecting buses operated by the ferry company bring passengers from various points in midtown Manhattan to the ferry terminal, and the group rode one for that purpose.

Next came a series of rides on several bus and light rail lines on New Jersey Transit, as well as a Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train in New Jersey. NJT sent a bus supervisor, a rail planner, a representative from the corporate office and a veteran trainmaster to host the group, conduct tours of NJT stations and answer questions.

NJT ventures into New York State under contract with Metro-North, and the group rode a Port Jervis train as far as Suffern, connecting there with a bus to Spring Valley, operated by Transport of Rockland. From there, a ride on the Pascack Valley Line, where week-end service was restored less than three years ago, brought everyone back to Hoboken. The day ended with a tour of the historic Hoboken Terminal.

There was a bonus tour on Tuesday evening, featuring the magnificent City Hall Station, which served as the showcase for the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) from 1904 to 1945, when it was closed to the public. The event also included a walk through some abandoned tunnels (one of which is known as the “wine cellar”) under the Brooklyn Bridge subway station.

Everyone who participated in the tours seemed to enjoy the experience, despite the lengthy and sometimes arduous nature of the itineraries. Hickey was complimented on the variety of transit he covered, and everyone was impressed by his detailed planning. Everyone also praised the transit managers who represented their agencies in hosting portions of the tours. Not only did the transportation professionals find the tours to be educational and fun, but the “spouses and significant others” who came along also seemed to enjoy the rides. Dylan Clark, Hickey’s eight-year-old grandson, liked riding the trains so much that he said: “I want to be a railroad man, like Grandpa!”

Most of the tour participants also attended the APTA workshops in New York City. Some took additional advantage of the opportunity to learn more about transit in the region by doing more riding on their own. By all accounts, the tours provided an intensive, educational and enjoyable experience. The extreme heat on Saturday and early on Sunday did not dampen anybody’s enthusiasm; nor did the rain on Sunday, which fell only while the group was either on a train or touring NJT’s Secaucus and Newark (Broad Street) Stations.

Because the JFK Air Train segment took longer than anticipated on Saturday, the group had to go to Port Jefferson, Long Island 90 minutes later than originally planned. There were also missed connections with the ferry and Metro-North, but Hickey readjusted the itinerary schedule as he went along. Under his leadership, everybody else took the “misconnects” in stride. It should be noted, nonetheless, that transit professionals do not like to miss their connections any more than other people do.

The transit professionals on the tour were as enthusiastic as rail fans; possibly more so, because of their knowledge about transit. They took home some newly-acquired knowledge of the varied array of transit in the New York area, along with some special memories. In all likelihood, Hickey will plan and execute complex and interesting itineraries in other cities in the future. In the meantime, a group of transit professionals had a unique opportunity to experience the plethora of transit that moves millions of people every day in the nation’s largest metropolitan area.

Additional supplementary maps and charts – Click Here (Adobe PDF File)


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