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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September 13, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 37

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

This E-Zine is best viewed at
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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
Letters To The Editor In Response To Destination:Freedom
   Editorial: The Knife’s Edge Of Labor Day 2010
Our Readers Respond
  High-Speed Lines…
Palo Alto May Try To Kill High-Speed Rail Plan
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Freight Rail Carload Volume Sets New 2010 Record - Again
 
  Commuter Lines…
A Quieter Commute Comes To New Jersey
  Across The Pond…
German Airlines Start Charging For Ecology Tax
Modernized Energy Conversion Starts Operations In Hannover
  Editorial…
September 11, 2010
  We Get (More) Letters…
  Publication Notes …


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

[ Editor’s note: Given the remarkable impact of last week’s editorial, we have placed it and the responses at the top of this week’s edition. ]

 

Letters To The Editor In Response To
The September 7 Destination:Freedom Editorial,
“The Knife’s Edge Of Labor Day 2010”

 

To our readers:

Our editorial and articles in the Labor Day issue of DF, “The Knife’s Edge Of Labor Day 2010” elicited a more passionate response from readers from all over the world than any previous NCI editorial, ever; here is the original editorial, and four examples of reader response; we will publish others as they arrive in our inbox.

We appreciate our readers, and the attention they pay to the issues. Remember, the world is run by the people who Show Up.

Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination:Freedom

Here, followed by commentary from our readers, is the original Editorial Published September 7, 2010:

The Knife’s Edge Of Labor Day 2010

One full decade into the Twenty-First Century finds us in a very different America from that of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers a century ago.

One hundred years ago, although still in the process of recovering from the terrible Civil War of a generation before, this country was on the verge of an economic explosion driven primarily by the decision, taken during the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln, but not enacted until 1869, to build the Transcontinental Railroad.

We look back on such things with a sense of nostalgia now, but at the time, the building of that railroad, and the thousands of miles of other railroads, was a radically transformational technological event, no less important in its day than was the invention and then widespread adoption of silicon-based semi-conductors has been in our own.

The Transcontinental Railroad, and the many brother and sister railroads built out over the next generation, was the kind of event that changes a society not gradually but by orders of magnitude: suddenly, in 1869, you could travel from coast to coast in a few days, instead of the months in a Conestoga wagon required before. And, because time is indeed money, the cost of shipping goods from point A to point B didn’t just plummet; it enabled many types of commerce to begin their very existence in America. By 1910, the American giant was about to emerge, and emerge it did.

It did so despite, not because of, the monopolistic practices of the rail, oil, and coal barons of the late 19th and early 20th century, and that was for a very specific reason: we had a President, Theodore Roosevelt, who not only understood economics, but was willing to use the Presidency and its famous “Bully Pulpit” to force Congress to enact laws to break up the giant corporate trusts, with their interlocking boards of directors, who while building up the sinews and muscles of American commerce did their best to keep its economic benefits all to themselves.

They were stopped, because we had a President who knew how to lead and had the courage to do so, and also because the working men and women of America began to fight back against the industrial practices that routinely killed and maimed so many of the workers whose actual blood and sweat built this country.

A hundred years later, America is not on the verge of an economic explosion. It is on the knife’s edge of a double-dip Great Recession, or worse, a Decline and Fall that grows more likely with every minute, and will certainly come to pass unless and until this President steps in to take back control of the financial system that was once regulated, starting during the Depression of the 1930’s, especially to prohibit and stop the dangerous combination of commercial banking with investment banking and security sales --- the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, in particular, and to vastly increase the size and scope of the infrastructure system stimulus programs, such as high intercity passenger and freight rail.

The banking system that worked so well has now been swept away by the de-regulatory fury of the past generation --- Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999, with assurances by the banking lobby that we no longer needed such a crude mechanism to protect against speculative abuse and financial self-dealing.

This lie, as it turned out to be, was accepted and even encouraged by politicians of both parties who, increasingly in need of large sums money to pay for ever-more-expensive political campaigns, spend much of their time at fund-raising events, and less and less time doing the job they were elected to do. As a consequence they have become as a group far less expert in the fields they are assigned, through the Congressional committee system, to cover, and more and more dependent upon staffers who in many cases come from the very industries Congress is supposed to oversee, or even worse, after a few years as Congressional staffers, know they can leave to become highly-paid lobbyists for those self-same industries. It is a built-in conflict.

Indeed, many Congressmen also leave office and then sign on to work for the highest bidder, returning to the Hill with the stature of a former Congressman or Senator to lobby their old colleagues, but on the payroll of a private industry whose goals and interests are very often at odds with the public interest. The Wall Street collapse of 2008-and onward, in which we include the collapsed housing bubble created by those same Wall Street firms, is of course the prime example of why Glass-Steagall was needed in the first place, and why it is needed again, and more.

This current Congress labored mightily to rein in the banking industry, and people like Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the acerbic, brilliant and public-spirited Chair of the House Banking Committee, and his Senatorial counterpart Chris Dodd of Connecticut, did their best to craft a law that would do so.

But it was not enough. So many Congressmen and Senators of both parties are in the direct or indirect pay of the banking industry, through its massive lobbying effort, and through the intertwined relationships between Congressional staffers and the industries they come from, or go to, that the toughest reforms in the new law were simply gutted. We have been left with a banking industry still largely out of control, and willing to spend millions if not billions to stay that way --- this, after a bailout from ordinary American taxpayers that will take generations to pay off.

Some Congressmen and Senators will say that we paint with too broad a brush, and that many members of Congress are decent men and women who came to Washington to do their best. And they will be right, because after 21 years of dealing with both sides of the aisle in Washington, this organization knows very well how dedicated and honest so many of our politicians actually are, despite the common news media coverage of the creature known as the “politician”.

But the system isn’t breaking. It is broken. Right now, between 7-9 million Americans are facing imminent foreclosure, even though the President introduced a mortgage modification program, President Obama’s Home Affordable Modification Plan (HAMP), that makes the banks whole even as they are allowed to reduce both the principal amounts, and mortgage interest rates, to levels (2%) that those facing foreclosure might afford. Working men and women across America are looking at a future that will mean life in the streets, or living out of their cars, unless the banks respond to this program. Banks whose mortgages were bought by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae --- and that is the bulk of the mortgages in America --- are in fact mandated by HAMP to participate.

But they have not. Without exception, the banks --- who are, remember, made whole by HAMP, and therefore bear no real risk --- have set up unbelievably complicated application processes that discourage almost anyone who is not a Certified Public Accountant from applying. Worse, they give contradictory information to applicants who call them, lose documents that have been submitted, or take so long to appoint a bank employee to begin the actual loan modification negotiations with the homeowner that documents already submitted “age out” and have to be re-submitted all over again --- and all this is demanded of people, many of whom are trying to keep their sanity, let alone their homes.

One bank, which will remain nameless here, although we suspect you will soon read about it in the New York Times, even has an internal software/data entry problem that makes it all too easy for the over-worked, and young bank staffers to not only fail to execute a homeowner’s request to have a negotiator appointed --- which is essential --- but to erase the typed-in request by accident when they push the “enter” button on their keyboard. This bank’s management knows about this problem and has done nothing to correct it, and yet this data entry glitch literally wipes out the homeowner’s request, with all the negative consequences that delay entails in such situations. Many people, of course, give up all hope at that point.

It is a bleak Labor Day for many Americans, and the White House is of course trying to put the best face on it. But that is just not enough. We know that this President understands infrastructure, and how the return of a decent American rail system, both passenger and freight, will help rebuild our city-centers, and thus our democracy. But we will never get there, indeed what little has been done so far will go to waste, if we allow millions of Americans lose their homes.

We stand now in the shadow of cataclysm, and the Congress, as a body, has been paralyzed by the system that feeds it, despite some truly noble exceptions such as Barney Frank, and seems unlikely to act any more than it already has.

Mr. President, we hope you reach within yourself and find your inner Teddy Roosevelt, and, by Executive Order, stop these completely unnecessary foreclosures in their tracks until the banks begin negotiating with homeowners and modifying mortgages, in good faith. If you do not, we are to create millions and millions of angry people. Some will be Tea Party, whose anger is justified but whose solutions are those of simpletons like Glenn Beck --- and they will vote back into power the very same people that caused this disaster in the first place.

But some will be far more dangerous than Tea Party people. They will be the first true American fascists in three generations, and they will be armed. It has been attributed to several people, but here is our version of that famous warning:

“When fascism comes to America, it will come marching down Main Street, wrapped in the American flag, proud in its righteousness, and with a laser-like focus on the will to power, as an end in itself.” In our view, the music has started, and is growing louder.

On or about the day the United States Constitution we live under was first adopted in 1787, a woman approached delegate Benjamin Franklin on the streets of Philadelphia, and asked, “Mr. Franklin, what kind of government have you given us?”

His response: “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

It is Labor Day, and that would be a good time to take back our republic from the people who have been stealing it, piece by piece. Your infrastructure stimulus program has taken a first start, but vastly more is needed to restore American competitiveness.

Act, Mr. President. Act. Build Infrastructure. And if preventing a foreclosure-holocaust requires it, then nationalize the banks, even temporarily, to stop them in their tracks. Take the fight to the people, Mr. President, and don’t back down.

 

Our Readers Respond:

To the Editor:

I just read your editorial “The Knife’s Edge Of Labor Day 2010” and was very impressed by your words. I’m a Swiss who is very fond of the US (and for decades has managed to visit the US every year and ride some Amtrak long-distance trains).

The political developments in the United States worry me deeply. Your analysis “hits the nail on the head” (as we say in Switzerland). Your editorial is – unfortunately – one of the best descriptions I have read in the last months about the current state of the US. It’s always hard for me to see how anger can bring people to elect the very persons who are the cause of the anger in the first place (your example of the Tea Party). Unfortunately, this seems to be the case not only in the United States, but also here in Switzerland, where we have similar developments (our “Tea Party” is called “SVP”, and they get about 1/3 of the vote).

However, you have been the first as far as I am aware of to really warn about fascism in the United States, which impresses me very much. I fully agree with you.

I am very pessimistic about the future – I doubt if President Obama has the power and dedication to really govern. But I do hope so for the sake of the United States and the rest of the world!

Thanks for your editorial.

Dr. Lukas Rosenthaler
Imaging and Media Lab, University of Basel
Switzerland


 

To the Editor:

I would just like you to know that I thought your editorial this week absolutely nailed it.

I am always astonished how there are so many people in this country prepared to fight against their own self interest. What happened to critical thinking? This would be Utopia if every member of the House and Senate had to abide by the same medical and financial conditions as their constituents. I’m afraid we have deposed one king and enthroned over six hundred in his place. They have the finest socialized medicine and COLA + indexed pensions. It’s nice to know they’re protecting us from being stuck in the same situation.

Now the people want a decent transportation system. However, there’s no money in public transportation, so who’s going to lobby? Incidentally, what we so politely refer to as lobbying is known as bribery and therefore a criminal offense, in the rest of the Western world.

Paul R. W. Writer
Dade City, FL

(Paul Writer was born in England in 1942. He came to the US in 1971 after working with the famed Cunard Line, and originally settled in Atlanta, GA, after a short spell in New York City. He is the Senior Vice President of a food importing company and presently resides in Dade City FL. He tells us that he “…rides Amtrak whenever possible.”)


 

Dear Editor,

I very much enjoy the newsletter, but have to say that some political content strayed into the article about likelihood of President Obama’s transport initiative being stymied.

The [comment] that Republicans may use “arcane House and Senate rules, such as the “cloture” rule which requires 60 votes to end debate on any subject,” [comes from someone] obviously too young to remember the famous cloture vote in 1965 that enabled the passage of ground-breaking civil rights legislation under LBJ.

Rules are used by all parties to get their way. They may be “arcane” but they are still the rules - and were employed more recently to pass healthcare legislation. The implication that their use is A) a Republican trick, and B) somehow less than legitimate, is unwarranted.

I wish the measures success, but they are subject to due process.

Sincerely,

Michael Reidy
London

(Publisher’s reply: Thanks for the observation about our youthfulness, but in fact I remember the Civil Rights cloture vote very well: it meant debate would end, and that the Civil Rights Bill of 1965 would pass.

I watched that vote intently, as my cousin the late Douglass Cater was at the time one of President Lyndon Johnson’s chief White House aides and, along with his friend and colleague the more famous Daniel Patrick Moynihan, helped engineer the “Great Society.” But you are right: the cloture rule has been invoked by both parties. What is different is that, in the past, the cloture rule was invoked so rarely that its invocation was in and of itself a newsworthy event. Today, the minority party routinely uses the lack of a 60-vote Democratic majority in the Senate to threaten or weaken all legislation, which aside from being unprincipled behavior, is contrary to the notion of majority rule itself.


 

To the Editor:

Boy, your cheap shots at Rush Limbaugh sure leave no doubt as to your politics. I read your publication to keep up with the transportation news, not for political commentary. That stuff belongs in an editorial, not a news piece.

I agree completely that this country has ignored the infrastructure for way too long. But spending money we don’t have is not a good solution, in my opinion.

Barry J. O’Brien
Palm Beach Gardens, FL

(The Publisher replies: Thanks for your letter. I have voted Republican for most of the past 30 years, which may surprise you. My shots at Limbaugh are shots indeed, but they are not cheap. He is a major-league bigot, and a proud ignoramus, and those who let him speak uncritically enable the underlying agenda that he advances, which is leading to an economically third-world, hateful, divided America that neither you nor I would want to live in. The next step after Limbaugh isn’t Hitler, but rather the Brownshirts, of which he is a very credible precursor. Hatred and fear are what he sells, and he and his kind stand in the way of freedom, while pretending to speak for the Common Man, when he is in fact a shill for the rich).

 

[ Editor’s note: Letters not pertaining to the Labor Day editorial are posted below in the usual space.]


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HIGH-SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

Palo Alto May Try To Kill High-Speed Rail Plan

Palo Alto Online Staff,
Writer Gennady Sheyner
And DF Staff

AUGUST 31 - Palo Alto is getting closer to an outright opposition to California’s proposed high-speed rail line which would connect San Francisco to Los Angeles. City Councilman Larry Klein said recently that several other cities and agencies are joining the “chorus” of opposition.

Skepticism is routed in fears that the project will die because of lack of funding and that the Peninsula segment that goes through Palo Alto, would not get constructed until years later. Mayor Pat Burt and other Council members have expressed the same concerns.

This is a stunning turnaround from two years ago when the council passed a resolution that urged Palo Altans to support Proposition 1A, which authorized $9.95 billion for the rail line. Since then, the Council’s enthusiasm for the rail line has gradually waned as members struggled to get answers from the California High Speed Rail Authority or to exert influence over the project. Councilman Klein, who chairs the council’s High Speed Rail Committee, had been one of the strongest proponents at that time.

Klein was one of several committee members who said he was concerned about the rail authority’s Aug. 6 application for federal funds, which outlines a “phasing” plan for construction of the rail line. Under the plan, the rail authority would build four-track systems in the north and south portions of the Peninsula segment and leave the Mid-peninsula with the existing two-track, at-grade system. Rail authority’s CEO Roelof van Ark sent Peninsula cities a letter last week claiming that despite the application, the rail’s design has not been predetermined, but the letter did little to ease the council’s anxiety.

Now, fears are also based on a possible future requirement that the city pass a bond for an amount that would be an overwhelming fiscal burden. The article continues: “The city, Klein said, “should now consider high-speed rail as a ‘threat to our community’ -- not just our community but the region and indeed the state.” He also painted a “nightmare” scenario in which the rail authority forces the city to either pass a bond and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build underground tunnels for the trains, or find itself burdened with an “unacceptable” rail design, which could include at-grade or elevated tracks.

Last week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority blog reported the following:

On Thursday, September 2, Palo Alto’s City Council’s High Speed Rail Committee unanimously passed a resolution declaring that the Committee has no confidence in the high speed rail project and the California High Speed Rail Authority.

In opposing the high-speed rail and the authority, the resolution underlines Palo Alto’s issues with:

Klein’s opposition seemed to rest largely with the Authority’s desire to build the high-speed rail project in a cost-effective manner, and its refusal to pay for burying trains in an expensive deep tunnel and or cut-and-cover trench.

“HSRA is trying to do this on the cheap, ignoring the fact that this is something that will last 100 years or more.” By doing it this way, the Authority will be transferring the cost to someone else in the future, Klein said.

He spoke of real estate values being decreased but did not comment on any benefits, such as: improved auto/pedestrian flow, quieter trains, cleaner transportation modes and easy access to cities near and far.

“Even Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt,” the Blog continues, “who had some reservations about the no confidence resolution, seemed to also focus his criticism not on the idea of high-speed rail, but on the ‘process.’ “

The full City Council is expected to vote on the Committee’s resolution some time this month.

Rachel Wall, a spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said, “We’ve been working with the city and various communities throughout the state for years now and we hope to continue working with the city. Ultimately, we hope they see the tremendous opportunity high-speed rail is going to bring to not only the city, but the state.”

(DF will follow up on this story.)


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)63.0664.62
Canadian Pacific (CP) 61.3662.21
CSX (CSX)54.7253.67
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)41.7242.63
Kansas City Southern (KSU)38.1837.16
Norfolk Southern (NSC)58.8557.91
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.1512.59
Union Pacific (UNP)78.7378.80


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Signs Of Recovery?

 

Freight Rail Carload Volume
Sets New 2010 Record - Again

From The Association Of American Railroads

WASHINGTON, D.C. –– The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported that monthly rail carloads for August 2010 were up 5.7 percent compared with the same period last year, but still down 11.6 percent compared with August 2008.

Weekly rail carload freight volume set a new 2010 record for the second week in a row with carloads for the week ended September 4 up 6.9% over the comparable week one year ago.

According to AAR’s September Rail Time Indicators Report, the weekly average of 294,862 carloads last month was the highest since November 2008. Intermodal traffic in August was up 19.7 percent compared with the same month in 2009, but down slightly by 0.3 percent compared with August 2008.

Seasonally adjusted AAR data for August showed a month-to-month dip in carloads, down 1.6 percent from July 2010, but a slight increase in intermodal traffic, up 0.6 percent from the month before.

“It is very difficult right now for anyone to forecast the economy’s path. We also know from experience that things can change very quickly,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “That said, there is little in last month’s rail traffic data that would indicate economic recovery has stalled. While a faster recovery path would be attractive to railroads and our customers, the data so far show a slow measured recovery is probably continuing.”

On an unadjusted basis, August also saw carload gains in 16 of the 19 commodity groups tracked by AAR. Three categories in particular continue to see sharp gains: metallic ores up 60.8 percent; steel and other primary metal products up 40 percent and crushed stone, gravel and sand up 16.3 percent from the same period last year.

Railroads continue to bring employees back to work and cars out of storage. During the month of July, the most recent period for company employment data, railroads added 1,519 people to the employee rolls. U.S. Class I railroads have added 7400 employees in the last six months. Railroads brought 10,759 rail cars out of storage in August, with 348,712 cars, or roughly 22.7 percent of the North American railcar fleet, still in storage.

The Rail Time Indicators Report, available at www.aar.org, comprises detailed monthly rail traffic data framed with other key economic indicators to show how freight rail ties into the broader U.S. economy. A quarterly video summary and widget also are available summarizing rail traffic for the second quarter of 2010.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

A Quieter Commute Comes To New Jersey

By David Peter Alan

The new sign at Newark’s Penn Station reads: “First Car. Last Car. Quiet. No Cell. No Song. Low Talk. In Peace We Travel. Arrive Calm.” It is not quite traditional Japanese haiku, but it gets the point across. Starting last Tuesday, September 7th, the first and last cars on selected New Jersey Transit trains have been designated “Quiet Commute Cars” where cell phone use is prohibited and conversations must be kept to a low volume level.

“Rush hour is now hush hour,” said the NJT news release that announced the new policy. NJT also quoted Executive Director James Weinstein as saying: “Our customers have asked us to offer a Quiet Commute option in an effort to balance the needs of people who want to stay connected while aboard our trains with those who want to relax or work in a quiet atmosphere.” During the past two years, transit managers have asked riders and the groups who represent them for their opinions about a car that would offer a quiet atmosphere. Customer reaction to the proposal was favorable.

The Quiet Commute Car initiative has not yet been implemented system-wide, but only on the 3900-series trains between New York and Trenton. These are trains which stop only at New York, Secaucus and Newark, and also at Princeton Junction, Hamilton and Trenton, at the outer end of the line. Some stop at the Newark Airport station, and a few also stop in New Brunswick. Most of these express trains run during peak commuting hours, although afternoon and early evening departures from New York cover a five-hour time span.

NJT Quiet Car

Photo: New Jersey Transit

New Jersey Transit’s Quiet Commute wrapped train car.

The pilot program will run for ninety days, during which time NJT will collect feedback from riders and employees before making a decision about extending or continuing the program. Issues concerning expansion to other lines and into off-peak hours will be determined at the end of the 90-day period.

The quiet experiment was announced at the NJT Board meeting on July 14th. Board Chair and Transportation Commissioner James Simpson remarked at the meeting that he often sits in the “Quiet Car” when he goes to Washington, D.C. on Amtrak. The same day, Channel 9 News reported that riders at Secaucus Station supported the policy.

“Quiet Cars” were introduced on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Line in 1999. Since then, a few commuter rail providers have jumped onto the quiet bandwagon. The Capitol Corridor, a quasi-commuter Amtrak operation between Sacramento and the Bay Area in California, offers such a car. SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) does the same on trains when three or more cars are open for riders. Other commuter rail operations with a quiet option run only during peak hours: MARC in Maryland, Virginia Railway Express and the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) train in California.

If New Jersey commuters feel the same way about a quieter trip that Amtrak riders and commuters in other cities do, Quiet Commute Cars will be coming to many more trains in New Jersey next winter.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, which advocates for improved rail service in New Jersey. The Coalition has expressed support for the policy at meetings with NJT managers.


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ACROSS THE POND... Accross The Pond...  

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

German Airlines Start
Charging For Ecology Tax

First Step To Level The Playing Field With Passenger Rail In Germany

via ATW News

Berlin – Air Berlin (AB) said it has begun levying a new fee through all booking channels for travel beginning 1st of Jan. 2011, in order to cover the “ecological air travel levy” introduced by the German government last week. The levy ranges from €  10 (US $12.70), €  28 or €  50, depending on flight duration. AB noted that GDS systems began applying the tax to its flights over the past weekend, “even though the airline company had not taken any initiative in this respect.” It acknowledged that retroactively charging the fee to passengers who had already purchased tickets “would be very cumbersome.”

AB also said in a statement that it is prepared to refund the tax should it “not be accepted in the course of the parliamentary decision-making procedure.” AB vowed to “continue to fight against these charges.”

Separately, TUI Travel announced it will increase air fares to cover the new tax, which is expected to raise €  1 billion (US $1.27 billion) annually. Tax revenues will go into the general treasury and are not dedicated to environmental measures.

An ICE-3 train set in the Düsseldorf International Airport train station

Photo: Deuthsche Bahn

Plane vs. Train – why can’t we all just get along? An ICE-3 train set in the Düsseldorf International Airport train station ca. November 2003.

Great Britain and France have already introduced additional taxes on airline passengers in the past two years in order to cover carbon dioxide-induced global warning costs and to promote more efficient use of energy in transportation. Due to existing international treaties dating back over 60 years ago, a direct tax on jet fuel is not enforceable, but indirect taxes and fees on passenger tickets and air freight invoices are open game. Railroads in Europe have to purchase diesel fuel and electric energy which is heavily taxed at prevailing rates applied to private consumers and commercial enterprises.

Although the air transport industry is totally up in arms about the new airline tax in Germany, as they were with the taxes introduced in France and the U.K., they still enjoy a decided tax advantage over railroads in most European countries, as they do in North America regarding fuel and energy purchases. Several low cost / no frills airlines such as Air Berlin have hammered European railroads over the past decade, most noticeably on long distance international trains which cross several countries during their trip, thus resulting in nearly a 50% reduction of these long distance international trains in Europe over the past decade, including the famed “Orient Express.”


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Modernized Energy Conversion
Starts Operations In Hannover

Massive Railroad Electrification Substation In A Hannover Suburb Goes Green

Lehrte – DB Energie, the subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn which handles the railroad’s electrification infrastructure, unveiled new converters at its Lehrte electrical substation about 15 km east of Hannover this past week. The new solid-state converters change commercial frequency (50 Hz) 3-phase power into 16.7 Hz single phase power, which is used to energize the railroad’s electrified rail lines. The converters have a combined capacity of 64 MW but are independently operable.

The two new 32 MW ea- converter modules convert 50 Hz 3-phase power from the commercial power grid to 16.7 Hz power with solid-state IGBT technology and have far less power losses than the conventional rotating motor-generator sets used currently, and take up far less floor space than their older rotating counterparts. The maintenance and repair costs for the new modules are also expected to be a fraction of the costs for the traditional rotary convertors used by the railroad.

The two converter modules were set-up and installed in an 18 month time frame and the investment costs was reported to be €  20.6 million (US $27 million). The two converter modules were installed by Balfour Beatty Rail.

View of the Lehrte (Germany) traction power conversion and sub-station

Photo: Deutsche Bahn

It’s electric!- view of the Lehrte (Germany) traction power conversion and sub-station at the junction of the Hannover – Braunschweig , Hannover – Wolfsurg and Celle – Hidesheim main lines in August 2010.

The converters in Lehrte supply16.7Hz single-phase AC power to 110 kV distribution lines which run along or nearby the railway right-of-ways in this part of Germany. The 110 kV power is stepped-down to 15 kV tension for the overhead lines in transformers located adjacent to the rail right-of-ways. On many newly electrified German rail lines track-side substations often convert 50 Hz commercial power supplied at voltages ranging from 33 kV to 500 kV from the national grid to the desired 15 KV 16.7 Hz train power directly, because there are no 110 kV 16.7 Hz feeder lines along these routes. The dedicated 110 kV 16.7 Hz distribution lines are generally limited to German rail lines electrified prior to 1985.

Switzerland, Austria, Norway and Sweden also use 15 kV 16.7 Hz power standard for railway electrification. Generally Europe has adopted 25 kW 50 Hz power as the preferred electrification standard. The majority of electrified rail lines in France (including all high speed routes) use 25 kV 50 Hz power, as do most electrified rail lines in the U.K., Denmark, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina , Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and parts of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Although Spain, Italy and Belgium use mostly 3000 VDC railway electrification, nearly all recently built high speed rail lines in all three counties are also powered with 25 kV 50 Hz AC power, as 3000 volts is simply unable to provide the extreme amounts of power which high speed trains require when operating near their top speeds, the amount of current flow or amperage would be more that the wires can handle without overheating.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

September 11, 2010

Nine years ago the World changed, and not for the better.

On that day the world entered a new period of global instability and terror, this time one fomented not by anarchists or lone-wolf assassins as in the past, but by a well-funded, well-organized international terror organization inspired and led by a psychopath.

As we remember the thousands of innocents of all races and religions murdered indiscriminately that day by Osama bin Laden and his henchmen, at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and on three aircraft filled with ordinary citizens, we should also remember the tens of thousands of American service men and women who have been killed or injured since that day in the struggle to face and contain this unprecedented new threat, and whose lives are on the line even as we write these words.

And let us think about one more thing as well: only a strong, united America can survive. By that we mean an America not just physically robust and re-invigorated from a renewed dedication to the re-building of the nation’s infrastructure, as President Obama has called for, but an America in which we stick to our founding principles of democratic self-governance, free speech, and freedom of religion.

As President George W. Bush so eloquently declared in what will certainly be remembered as the best speech of his Presidency, the night of 9/11: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”

We are challenged on every side, nine years later, and in the midst of an economic crisis created by a Wall Street run amok, but we will survive that too, because we have a people that understands both the physical and moral elements of what makes America what it is, what it was, and what it can become again.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get (More) Letters...  

To the Editor:

I received your newsletter through a link from my Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

Thanks for the interesting articles, especially the one of the man in Germany. In addition to reading his article on the folly of those who cry “Communism” or “Government Waste,” I was interested in the pics of urban systems in Europe. I did not realize that the electrified system of light rail / heavy rail originated in the USA. As a fan of rail and urban transportation issues, I am disgusted that we in the Chicago area “turned away” from a number of similar efficient systems in our area. Here we called them the “interurbans.” It boggles the mind to think that we could get on a train in the Chicago “L” system and get off in another city.

Keep up the good work. I hope to read more of your future issues.

John Vespo
Midwest High-Speed Rail Association member


 

Dear Editor,

Regarding the conundrum of joint freight/passenger train track use: As many miles of double track have been removed, why not replace the removed track by US government or state ownership/rent.  Passenger trains then can operate upon their own right of way.

Admittedly a very simplistic and expensive sounding solution, nonetheless it removes the need for debilitating compromise from the freight railways and provides a clear solution to the joint-use impasse.

Sincerely,

Everett A. Rusch


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