Vol. 8 No. 40
October 8, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American transportation update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

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

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

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

  Regional Forum On Infrastructure 
  Last Chance To Register! 
  News Items…
German Rail Faces Further Strikes After Friday Walk-out
  Commuter Lines…
Light Rail Project in Norfolk Gets Welcome Boost from the Feds
  Maintenance Lines…
Thames River Bridge Primed for Vertical Lift Span
  Environmental Lines…
Connecticut Sierra Club Encourages Transit by Providing
   Bus Service to Annual Dinner
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commentary…
U.S. Needs to Learn From Europe’s Use Of High Speed
   Passenger Rail Technology
  We Get Letters…
  From The Editor…
  End notes…


 

   NCI Regional Forum On Infrastructure

 

   Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray To Chair
   Regional Leadership Forum on Transportation, Infrastructure
   October 11, 2007 - Boston, Massachusetts

 

   Last Chance To Register - Click Here For Details

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

German Rail Faces Further Strikes
After Friday Walk-out

From NCI foreign correspondent David Beale

BERLIN - Germany’s economically vital rail network faces further disruption next week, with both sides in a pay dispute refusing to shift their positions after a limited strike called by the main train drivers union on Friday. The locomotive and train drivers’ union, GDL, staged a three hour-long strike on Friday, October 5th, starting at 8:00 AM, at the peak of the morning commuter rush as well as at the beginning of the usual ramp-up to the heavy week-end travel period.

The GDL said a new round of strikes could be called as early as Monday. GDL boss Manfred Schell described the three-hour stoppage by some 15,000 drivers organized in the union as a “success,” with regional and commuter traffic seriously disrupted.

Schell’s deputy, Guenther Kinscher, said the travelling public could bank on further strikes. “I do not exclude the possibility of further strikes on Monday,” Kinscher told n-tv television news.

Margret Suckale, human resources chief at Deutsche Bahn - German Railways (DB), said the quasi state-owned company would not bow to GDL demands for a 30-per cent wage hike. Suckale said DB stuck by the 4.5-per-cent deal struck with two other rail unions, plus increased overtime pay that would bring the wage rise to around 10 per cent. She called on Schell to return to the negotiating table. The emergency timetable put in place by DB on Friday had been effective, with around half of all trains operating, she said.

The war of words between DB and the GDL intensified, with Schell accusing management of playing games and leaking confidential negotiation details to the media.

DB spokesman Oliver Schumacher responded that GDL was insulting management with his statements. “Even worse than these verbal blunders is the fact that Mr. Schell has lost all sense of reality,” he said.

Germany’s largest rail labor union, Transnet, called on both sides to return to talks.

Friday’s strike went ahead following a labor court ruling outlawing strike action targeting long-distance passenger traffic and freight trains. GDL condemned the court ruling as interfering in the collective bargaining process.

Deutsche Bahn agreed to a 4.5-per-cent pay increase with the 134,000 rail workers represented by the Transnet and GDBA railway labor unions in July.

GDL rejected the offer as unsuitable for the 80 per cent of Germany’s nearly 20,000 train drivers it claims to represent. GDL believes that its members, who earn annual salaries in the range of EUR 19 000 to 30 000 (US$ 25,800 - $ 41,000), are seriously underpaid when compared to similar jobs in other industries, especially over the road trucks, sea freight and airlines.

More than 5 million passengers use Deutsche Bahn services every day, the vast majority of them travelling on its regional and commuter trains.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter Lines...

Light Rail Project in Norfolk Gets
Welcome Boost from the Feds

DF Staff: from the Virginian-Pilot and other Internet Sources

Two Images: HamptonRoads.com/PilotOnline.com  

A rendering of a station at Monticello Avenue
NORFOLK, VA OCT 1 --The modern day City of Norfolk is ready for light rail, and Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson couldn’t agree more. Last Monday, Simpson finalized a partnership with Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) to build the rail system. “You just know [the city is ready],” he said. “You get a feel for it.”

Simpson had observed during a visit several months ago that building trends in Norfolk’s downtown, with increasing density, high-rise buildings, retail and high-end hotels, made the city an ideal candidate for light rail.

The FTA will kick in $128 million for the project, 55% of the total construction cost of $232.1 million.

The 7.4 mile line, named The Tide, will go from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center through downtown to Newtown Road. Construction will start in November and is expected to carry its first passengers in 2010.

At the signing ceremony last week, held along The Tide’s future route, Administrator Simpson was joined by HRT President/CEO Michael S. Townes, Congressional Representatives, and state and local officials.

“This is truly a monumental occasion for HRT and the City of Norfolk,” said Townes. “Our collective efforts have finally culminated in the receipt of federal funds to support the first light rail system in Virginia. The Tide will set the bar for the future of transit in Hampton Roads, and I am very excited to be a part of it.” 

“As the City of Norfolk and Hampton Roads Community face growing transportation challenges, the Tide is an important first step in relieving congestion and fostering economic development throughout the project corridor,” said Senator Jim Webb. “For a region that is seeking new ways of providing alternative modes of transportation, this project will contribute to more pedestrian friendly communities and provide increased mobility for Norfolk residents. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure the project is adequately funded.”

The push for light rail in Hampton Roads started about 20 years ago. At one time, the proposed route was twice as long, stretching to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront; however, Beach voters rejected the idea, and the Beach council pulled out. Extensions into Chesapeake also were explored, but interest waned.

The project which got the funding has been ten years in the making. Plans and documents sat on the shelf during three of those years when the federal agencies were changing the rules and putting tighter restrictions on how the money could be spent. The result was that Norfolk’s light rail will be one of the most economical in cost per mile

“It’s hard to believe this day is here; I’m beside myself,” said Councilman W. Randy Wright, who shepherded it through technical, financial and political reviews for nearly a decade. “I’m almost speechless.”

“Look around America – you don’t see many cities our size getting rail projects,” he added. “Certainly, we’ve beat the odds. At many times, it seemed like insurmountable odds.”

During the signing ceremony, the pen provided to Simpson stopped working.

“I told you it was a bare bones budget,” joked Townes

Simpson said judgments on the train’s performance should be made after it’s been operating three years .

Townes said ridership is just one indicator of success. New development along the line and extensions into other parts of Norfolk and other cities will be other key measures.

Already, he said, Portsmouth has expressed interest and has enlisted HRT’s help in lobbying for light rail accommodations in the parallel Midtown Tunnel that regional transportation leaders are looking to build.

Congresswoman Thelma Drake, R-2nd District , told Norfolk leaders, “I cannot thank you enough for not giving up.”

She added, “This is truly a day of celebration.”


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MAINTENANCE LINES...  Maintenance Lines...

Thames River Bridge Primed
for Vertical Lift Span

Source: Amtrak Ink

Photo: Mohammed Saeed  

A Communications and Signals crew relocates cables at the Thames River Bridge work site in preparation for the installation of the new vertical lift span.
With the replacement of the movable bascule span of the Thames River Bridge scheduled for completion in June of next year, Engineering and Transportation department personnel are working in concert with Cianbro Corporation contractors to keep the project on track. During the summer, Amtrak crews completed several major tasks that will help enable a smooth transition toward the $76 million project’s final phase — the installation and opening of the new vertical lift span.

To support the bridge structure, two towers and four concrete piers are required at the middle of the bridge. Pier 2 experienced problems with settlement which required construction crews to conduct permeation grout stabilization, done by installing grout below the pier without disturbing the original structure. With this work complete, concrete modifications to support the new lift span are well underway, with a target completion date in mid-October. When those changes are done, steel installation for the new lift towers will begin.

At Pier 3, Electric Traction (ET) crews relocated transmission cables and electrical disconnect switches in preparation for the construction of the new lift towers. Cianbro completed the concrete modifications and have post-tensioned the concrete to provide the strength necessary to support the new towers. Steel work to support the towers began last month and will continue through February. To complete the work, single and double track outages — mostly at night — will be required. To improve the operational flexibility of the railroad during track outages for the tower steel erection, the ET group installed a new overhead catenary system sectioning switch on Track 1, just off the east end of the bridge within Groton Interlocking. This will allow the group to disconnect power along sections of the track.

As the project nears completion, most of the new lift span steel has been delivered to the work yard. Assembly of the new lift span began after Labor Day and will take place on a barge anchored at Cianbro’s marine bulkhead.

Electricians, Bridges and Buildings, and Communications and Signals employees are supporting the contractor in preparation for the new lift span control console installation in the operator’s house.The console features state-of-the-art electrical controls using a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) used to operate most heavy machinery. The PLC controls will serve as the central nervous system of the new lift span.

To ensure a smooth transition for the railroad during the lift span replacement, communication and cooperation among many departments and disciplines, including Transportation, Track, Bridges and Buildings, Communications and Signals, and Electric Traction is required. The Transportation department has begun the critical planning necessary for the four-day rail outage that will be required when the lift span is put in place. During the outage, train equipment and operating crews will be located or reassigned as necessary and passengers will be notified of service disruptions.

“The complicated nature of this project makes this the most challenging assignment I’ve ever had at Amtrak,” noted Project Manager, Movable Bridges Peter Finch. “It is complex work to integrate the signal and catenary systems, all while the railroad is operating, and with marine traffic from the nearby Groton Navy Submarine Base to consider. There are regular quality control checks and monthly safety inspections to consider — even the paint work, which requires three separate coats to be applied in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment, is a consideration.”

The final phase of the project, the actual installation of the span, will begin after it is floated on a barge during a 10-day channel closure to begin on April 22, 2008. Start-up testing of the span will begin after it is installed, the counterweight and operating wire ropes are in place, and the miter rails and catenary overlaps are adjusted. The first test openings will be conducted two days after the float-in has been completed, and the bridge will resume the normal opening schedule in early May 2008.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental Lines...

Connecticut Sierra Club Encourages Transit by
Providing Bus Service to Annual Dinner

 

DF Editor Molly McKay is coordinating bus travel to Connecticut Sierra Club’s first-ever annual dinner to be held on October 20 at the Pequot Museum in Ledyard, Connecticut. The museum, owned and built by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, who developed the well-known Foxwoods Resort and Casino, is a popular venue for visitors and special events.

Sierra Club members and the public are invited to the dinner. Buses will come from Fairfield County, New Haven and Hartford areas. Space is still available.

It will be held Saturday, October.

Buffet, speakers, awards, raffles, including a special raffle for a Maytag Energy Star dishwasher are to fe featured.

Arrive between 5:30 and 6:30 PM for the free quided tour of the Native American village set in August of the 1600s. Dinner will be from 6:30 PM to 9 PM. Music provided by Magpie.

Contact Molly McKay about a bus option from the Fairfield County and Hartford areas!! E-Mail: mollymckay@nationalcorridors.org.

Menu includes London Broil w/mushroom sauce, free-range chicken, penne in vodka sauce, garden salad in vinaigrette, red bliss potatoes, coffee, tea, cheescake w/strawberries, and tiramisu for dessert!

Food, speakers, music, and Native American village tour; all for $40! Please send your reservation request and payment to: CT Sierra Club, 645 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105 (Please include an email address if you wish email confirmation of your reservation).


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)86.7881.17
Canadian National (CNI)56.4157.00
Canadian Pacific (CP)74.0170.29
CSX (CSX)43.5242.73
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.8528.84
Kansas City Southern (KSU)34.6232.17
Norfolk Southern (NSC)53.4051.91
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.6618.25
Union Pacific (UNP)117.35113.06


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COMMENTARY...  Commentary...

TRA Executive Director Paul Mangelsdorf:

 

U.S. Needs To Learn From Europe’s Use
Of High Speed Passenger Rail Technology

 

DALLAS --- When Texans travel around their state, they use cars or airplanes, not trains.

Fast trains are missing because only highways and airports qualify for federal infrastructure funds.  Federal support makes modern highways and airports possible, but there’s no federal program to help states or cities build modern passenger railroad tracks.

That could change, says Texas Rail Advocates Executive Director, Paul Mangelsdorf, who just returned from his first familiarization trip on an overseas passenger-rail system.

“Now that I’ve had a chance to ride some of these high-speed trains, I’m convinced the U.S. can and will make modern rail travel available,” Mangelsdorf said.  “And it has to happen in Texas soon, because our economy will not be able to expand without a more responsive and cost-effective mobility system.”

Trains now replacing air on key routes

Mangelsdorf noted that the trains on some corridors in Europe have been so successful that the airlines have been able to eliminate their money-losing short-distance flights, opening up more takeoff “slots” for more efficient larger aircraft that fly the lucrative long-distance routes.

“There is no more commercial air service between Paris and Brussels,” he said.  “The trains turned out to be faster and more convenient.  In virtually every European corridor under 400 miles, the trains now own the bulk of the market share demonstrating that high speed rail and airlines can effectively work together for a much improved transportation system.”

Mangelsdorf, 61, who works in local transportation markets, arrived in London on September 3rd from Dallas, to sample some of the newest rail technologies in Britain.

“I rode from London to Coventry on one of Virgin Trains’s new Pendolino trains,” he said.  “The ride was fantastic.  The train tilts when it goes through curves, so there’s no passenger discomfort and very little need for the train to slow down.  It does 125 mph most of the way.”

Even 125 mph is too slow

That speed, Mangelsdorf pointed out, isn’t even considered “high-speed rail” anymore except in North America.

“The global rail industry now defines ‘high speed’ as starting at 150 mph,” he said.  “The newest TGV line in France has a cruising speed of 198 mph.  Britain is considered a laggard in the high-speed rail movement.”

In Britain, Mangelsdorf noted, the national government owns and maintains the track and signal network, but train operation is conducted by private businesses that compete for long-term rights to use the track based on their service levels and the amount of their revenues they are willing to return to the government.  Virgin Rail, owned by Virgin Group owner Richard Branson, holds the London-Coventry franchise along with several other routes. 

“Many of Virgin’s trains bring passengers from the English Midlands or Scotland to Gatwick or Heathrow airports for easy transfer to international flights,” Mangelsdorf said.  “Service is fast, frequent and increasingly popular.  When service began the Virgin trains had a 30% share of the domestic market and air carriers had a 60% share.  Now these percentages have flipped. The only steady number is 10% for automobiles.”

Mangelsdorf said that in Manchester the air carriers actually are “delighted that Virgin trains are taking business away.” 

“The airlines urgently need more gates for international flights at Manchester Airport-- that’s where the profits are,” he said.  “When domestic passengers switch to rail, that leaves more gate capacity for wide-body planes that make money.” 

 The same phenomenon has surfaced in the U.S., where Amtrak’s high-speed Northeast Corridor now carries the bulk of shuttle traffic between New York and Washington, Mangelsdorf said.

Europe was an eye-opener

But Mangelsdorf said his round trip to Coventry was only the curtain-raiser for the main event of his visit—a true high-speed trip under the English Channel in the Eurotunnel and a dash across the French countryside on a London-Paris Eurostar train that cruised at 186 mph. Both the Eurostar and Virgin’s Pendolino trains rum on conventional railroad track.

“This train is simply awesome,” Mangelsdorf said.  “It’s 18 cars long and accommodates 766 passengers, and a train leaves each and every hour from early in the morning until late at night.  The London- Paris running time is 2 hours and 35 minutes and will shrink to 2 hours and 20 minutes when new right-of-way improvements in Britain are completed in November.  The food and on-board service are impeccable.”

Mangelsdorf noted that the Eurostar trains already have a 68% share of the trans-Channel market, a number expected to rise when the faster timetable takes effect.  The trains are powered by electricity, which in France is nuclear-generated, totally eliminating fossil-fuel discharges.  “These trains are the greenest and most fuel-efficient form of intercity mobility on the planet,” he said.

Texas demographics make it ripe for rail

“And the same thing could be happening between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio if we had the right tracks and signals,” he said.  “Texas isn’t the frontier anymore.  It’s one of the nation’s most densely populated and busy collections of intercity corridors.  The Texas economy would grow faster and in a healthier way if people weren’t forced to choose between flying and driving in the Texas Triangle.” 

The most appealing thing about the Texas Triangle, Mangelsdorf says, is that it’s essentially compact and densely populated.  Its demographics, city pair locations, and topography are very similar that of France.  The French TGV high speed trains have made travel very easy and pleasant. 

“We could connect the seven biggest cities in the state with only seven hundred miles of track,” he says.   “You could travel from the DFW Metroplex to Houston or Austin in two hours, talking on your cell phone or using other electronics the whole way with minimal security inconveniences.  In addition to the big-city-end points, the trains would serve intermediate stops such as Waco and Bryan/College Station, something that planes can’t do.  You could get to Oklahoma City in about an hour and ten minutes.” 

By contrast, Mangelsdorf says, current transportation infrastructure proposals such as the Trans Texas Corridor represent retrogression to 1950s thinking.

“The TTC backers are doing a great job of helping Texas get ready for the 20th century,” he says. “However, we should be more forward thinking as many Asian countries have done when it comes to transportation improvements.”

“After all we’ve learned, why should we enslave ourselves even further to a petroleum-based economy?”—Mangelsdorf asks.  “Superior travel technologies are sweeping across the Old World and making it rich while the New World repeats its mistakes, pours more concrete and grows poorer.  Do we really want to subject our children and grandchildren to another generation of dependency on the Middle East—perhaps to even more terrorism?”


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LETTERS...  We Get Letters...

Dear Editor:

Considering that the main difference between modern streetcars and modern light rail is where the vehicles operate -- not so much the vehicles themselves, I think that the people at Siemens Transportation Systems in Sacramento may take exception to Paul Weyrich’s statement in the last issue, where he said, “The last modern streetcar was built in the United States in 1952 for San Francisco. There is now no American manufacturer, although Oregon Iron Works plans to start building streetcars to a Czech design.”

Yes, the Siemens vehicles are largely based on European designs, but they are certainly manufactured in the U.S.

In Europe, I haven’t found any real distinction between streetcars and light rail.

Some older systems with extensive street running have narrower bodies on their vehicles, to cope with tight clearances on older lines and in congested urban areas, but many of these systems also have dedicated rights of way in the more outlying areas.  New lines are more likely to be built to wider clearances to allow higher capacity vehicles.

In Vienna, Austria, for example, there are streetcar lines that circulate mostly in a loop in the downtown area -- and many more lines that radiate out into the suburbs.  They use the same type of rolling stock, and both types of lines are called “streetcars.”

Many U.S. light rail systems do have some sections of street running in downtown areas, while further out, they run on dedicated ballasted rights of way.

Given the right incentives, several other European manufacturers with plants in North America could certainly produce copies of some of the “streetcars” they build in Europe.

Perhaps Weyrich was trying to say that there is no U.S. based manufacturer that completely designs and builds light rail/streetcars in the U.S.  But, in a global marketplace, even a so-called “U.S.-built” automobile is likely to have a large number of components and sub-assemblies made outside the U.S.

Ernest H. Robl – Durham, NC, USA
Photojournalism; stock photography, illustrated articles
http://www.robl.w1.com
Free lance writer specializing in travel & transportation subjects for 35+ years.


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FROM THE EDITOR...  From The Editor...

Editor’s note: Due to time pressure and workload in preparing for the October 11 forum,
this week’s edition of Destination: Freedom is shorter than usual.


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NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

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