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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December 21, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 53

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 10th Year

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
President Signs FY 2010 Appropriations Bill; Major Boost For
   High-Speed Rail Included
Dueling Analyses: Is New England Shut Out Of The Rail
   Stimulus Money Race, Or Not?
  Commuter Lines…
Rail Runner Express Keeps Northern New Mexico Connected
New York City Straphangers Take A Hit As Service Is Cut
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Across The Pond…
DB Schenker Rail To Lay-Off Thousands
Cold Winter Weather Shuts Down EuroStar Trains Between
   France And England
  Editorial…
Time To Heed A Fair Warning, But All Is Not Lost
   For New England Rail
  Happy Holidays…
See You In 2010
  Publication Notes …


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

 

$1.6 For Amtrak, $2.5 B For High-Speed Rail,
$10.7 Billion For Transit, $41.8 Billion For Highways
But National Infrastructure Bank Is Delayed

 

President Signs FY 2010 Appropriations Bill;
Major Boost For High-Speed Rail Included

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has signed the FY2010 Omnibus Appropriations Bill reported out by the Joint House-Senate Conference Committee on Appropriations two weeks ago, and it includes major boosts for High-Speed Rail.

The House had sought $4 billion for High-Speed Rail, and the Senate much less, so the compromise was seen as a victory by some observers. The United States is far behind the rest of the industrialized world in its development of a modern rail system, but President Obama has made the creation of a modern rail system for the United States as one of the principal goals of his administration.

Funding for a National Infrastructure Bank, the brainchild of Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, for which the President had asked $5 billion, was left out of the bill, but is expected to be taken up again as separate measure.

Here is a summary of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development portion of the bill, as provided by the Joint Committee.

Summary: Fy 2010 Transportation, Housing
And Urban Development Appropriations
Consolidated Appropriations Bill

Recognizing that Americans spend an average of 52 percent of their income on housing and transportation, the FY 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill addresses the important challenges of keeping our transportation system safe and strong, ensuring that every American has adequate shelter, and doing so in a way that strengthens the economy and is environmentally responsible.

Priorities in the bill are focused on five major goals:

Overall, the 2010 bill provides $122.1 billion in budgetary resources for programs funded in this bill, $977.4 million below the President’s request and $13.4 billion (or 12 percent) above the 2009 level, excluding the Recovery Act funding.

Bill Total

Budget Authority Only Total Resources

Final Bill: $67.9 billion - $122.1 billion

*The President’s request included $39,450,171,000 in general fund appropriations for programs traditionally funded through obligation limitations on mandatory contract authority.

Key Investments

TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE

Highway Infrastructure: $41.8 billion to improve and repair our nation’s aging highway infrastructure, including $41.1 billion for the Federal-aid highway program and an additional $650 million for highway investments. Spanning more than one million miles, the Federal-aid highway system has faced increased demand as our population has grown and shifted and our economy has changed.

National Infrastructure Investment: $600 million for grants to support significant transportation projects in a wide variety of modes, including highways and bridges, public transportation, passenger and freight railroads, and port infrastructure.

Federal Transit Administration: $10.73 billion, $397 million above the request and $602 million above 2009. More than 10 billion people used public transit in 2008. Investment includes:

Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Grants: $75 million in new funding for grants to help transit agencies make capital investments that will reduce the energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions of their operations, replacing buses with electric hybrids and powering facilities with wind and solar power.

High-Speed / Intercity Passenger Rail Grants: $2.5 billion, $1.5 billion above the request and $2.4 billion above 2009, to provide grants to states or Amtrak for high-speed/intercity passenger rail to create a 21 st Century passenger rail system that reduces congestion and environmental impacts.

Amtrak: $1.6 billion, $81.7 million above the request and $74.6 million above 2009, to support the national passenger rail system. Amtrak served more than 27 million passengers last fiscal year.

Airport Modernization, Safety and Efficiency Grants: $3.5 billion, matching the request and slightly above 2009, to ease congestion and prepare our nation’s airports for growing use. More than 10.7 million flights departed from U.S. airports in 2008.

Modernizing Air Traffic Control: $2.9 billion, $11 million above the request and $194 million above 2009, including $834 million for research and capital investments for the Federal Aviation Administration’s next generation air traffic control system. This includes updating radar, navigation, communications, information processing systems, and new air traffic control facilities to increase aviation safety and efficiency.

Essential Air Service (EAS): $200 million, $25 million above the request and $63.8 million above 2009, to continue essential air service to small and/or rural communities. The EAS program allows small communities, which prior to deregulation were served by certificated airlines, to maintain commercial air service. More than 150 U.S. communities receive funding to maintain EAS.

Maritime Guaranteed Loan (Title XI) Program: $5 million in loan guarantees to allow U.S. vessels and shipyards to obtain long-term financing of up to $80 million to grow and modernize the U.S. maritime industry.

Assistance to Small Shipyards: $15 million in grant assistance to qualified U.S. shipyards for capital and infrastructure improvements. The grants are awarded to facilitate efficient, cost effective, and quality domestic ship construction.

TRANSPORTATION SAFETY

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Investigators: $98.1 million, $2.7 million above the request and $7.1 million above 2009, to modernize the NTSB crash investigation laboratory and provide 14 additional investigators and technical support to respond to and investigate transportation crashes in the aviation, rail, highway, marine and pipeline sectors.

Highway Safety Programs: $872.8 million for the programs of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $5.5 million above the request and $16.8 million above 2009, to make America’s roads safer by encouraging safety belt use, preventing drunk driving, improving child safety, motorcyclist safety, and other initiatives.

Positive Train Control: $50 million for grants to invest in railroad safety technology, including positive train control, which helps prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, and casualties or injuries to roadway workers. This system helps railroads meet the requirement included in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2009 that Class I railroads implement positive train control systems by the end of calendar year 2015.

Aviation Safety Programs: $1.2 billion, $17.7 million above the request and $69.5 million above 2009, including $14 million above the budget request to increase aviation safety oversight, and hire 186 additional flight standard inspectors, aircraft certification inspectors and related safety staff.

Pipeline Safety: $105.2 million, matching the request and $12 million above 2009, for the state pipeline safety grant program to help improve safety on the more than 2 million miles of pipelines that run through communities across the country.

HOUSING

Public Housing: With approximately 1.2 million households in public housing, managed by some 3,300 public housing authorities (PHAs), the bill invests in:

Housing for the Elderly: $825 million, $60 million above the request and 2009, to rehabilitate and build housing for low-income elderly people. Currently, there are ten eligible seniors on the waiting list for every unit of housing available.

Housing for the Disabled: $300 million, $50 million above the request and 2009, for grants to rehabilitate and construct housing for disabled Americans and to allow housing options for the disabled to live independently.

Housing for Persons with AIDS: $335 million, $25 million above the request and 2009, to help address homelessness within this vulnerable population. More than 1.1 million Americans are living with AIDS, and studies suggest that up to 50% of them are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Homeless Assistance Grants: $1.865 billion, $71 million above the request and $188 million above 2009, for grants to local communities to provide housing and services for the homeless. This increase will help fund new competitive projects in communities with capacity and demonstrated need for this housing. As many as 3.5 million Americans are likely to experience homelessness in a given year.

Housing Vouchers:

URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Community Development Block Grants: $4.45 billion, matching the request and $550 million above 2009, to fund community and economic development projects in 1,180 localities. This funding will help struggling states and communities to support the needs of their low-income populations.

RURAL HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT

Rural Innovation Fund: $25 million, matching the request, for a new initiative that will encourage innovative practices to further economic development in rural communities, including in the areas of housing and sustainability.

Native American Housing Block Grants: $700 million, $55 million above the request and 2009, to rehabilitate and construct housing on Native American lands. This formula grant program provides a range of affordable housing activities including housing development, housing services, crime prevention and safety, and activities that provide creative approaches to solving affordable housing problems on Indian reservations and Indian areas.

SIGNIFICANT CUTS

National Infrastructure Bank: The President’s $5 billion request has not been provided. Due to the complexity of this proposal, it should be considered through the regular authorization process.

Energy Innovation Fund: The President requested $100 million for the Energy Innovation Fund, which encourages private sector investment in energy efficiency in the nation’s housing. The bill provides $50 million, as some activities of this new initiative are duplicative of other Federal programs, particularly those at the Department of Energy.

IMPORTANT POLICY ITEMS

Amtrak Inspector General: The bill establishes a separate account for the Amtrak Inspector General to promote independent, effective and objective oversight of Amtrak and the national passenger rail system. The Amtrak OIG supervises and conducts audits and investigations of fraud, waste, and abuse affecting Amtrak.

Reverse Mortgages: The bill provides for the continuation of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program, which provides an important option for seniors to remain in their homes through the use of reverse mortgages. A reverse mortgage allows homeowners over 62 to convert part of the equity in their home into tax-free income, either in a lump sum or in multiple payments. Homeowners do not have to sell the home, give up title, or take on a mortgage payment; rather, the homeowner’s obligation to repay the loan is deferred until the owner dies, is placed in care or the home is sold.

Contingent Commitment Authority: The bill ensures that the Department of Transportation will be able to keep large transit projects moving through the pipeline by allowing the Federal Transit Administration to enter into multi-year, and not just single year, federal funding commitments during fiscal year 2010.

Federal Truck Weight Limits: The bill establishes a 1-year pilot program allowing heavier trucks to travel on certain Interstate routes in the States of Maine and Vermont and requires the Department of Transportation to issue a report on the impact of the pilot program on bridge safety and weight impacts.

Firearms on Amtrak: The bill gives Amtrak one year to implement a new policy regarding unloaded firearms in checked baggage. Before the policy is implemented Amtrak will submit a report to Congress with a security evaluation and proposed guidelines and procedures. Once implemented, Amtrak passengers who give 24 hours notice to Amtrak will be able to put unloaded firearms and/or ammunition in checked baggage. This option will be available at Amtrak stations that accept checked baggage.


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Media Not Monolithic On The Issue

 

Dueling Analyses: Is New England Shut Out
Of The Rail Stimulus Money Race, Or Not?

News Analysis By Destination: Freedom

NEW ENGLAND --- News reports this week presented sharply diverging views of the status of the New England states in the competition for Federal Rail Stimulus dollars, with The Boston Globe reporting a bleak outlook for the region, while the Connecticut News Times web site reported last week on US DOT praise for the region’s new “collaborative approach.”

In a piece headlined “Transportation secretary praises Connecticut on high-speed rail efforts” News-Times Staff Writer Martin B. Cassidy wrote:

“As Connecticut competes with other states for a chunk of $8 billion in competitive stimulus grants set aside to invest in high-speed rail lines, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has written to encourage Gov. M. Jodi Rell and other New England leaders to continue their recent efforts to plan a high-speed rail network throughout the region.”

“ ‘I would say the DOT is pleased that the secretary recognizes the value of the regional, collaborative approach that Connecticut is taking with Massachusetts and the rest of New England to move our rail projects forward,’ ” the News-Times quotes Connecticut Department of Transportation spokesman Judd Everhart as saying.

Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reported in an article by Washington correspondent Alan Wirzbicki this past week: “Rail stimulus funds to bypass Northeast; Environmental rules will keep states from pursuing $8 billion,” a bleak outlook for the region if correct.

On December 17 the Globe’s Wirzbicki wrote: “The railroad tracks from Boston to Washington - the busiest rail artery in the nation, and one that also carries America’s only high-speed train, the Acela - have been virtually shut out of $8 billion worth of federal stimulus money set aside for high-speed rail projects because of a strict environmental review required by the Obama administration.”

“Because such a review would take years, states along the Northeast rail corridor are not able to pursue stimulus money for a variety of crucial upgrades,” the Globe reported.

FRA officials have disputed the Globe report, saying that the environmental review process is already complete for many projects along the Northeast Corridor. Indeed, a rail bridge project in Connecticut received $105 million in Stimulus money this week, as announced by the office of Vice President Joe Biden.

However, a closer reading of both articles reveals that, while things aren’t all that bleak for New England in the short run, the recent work on greater collaboration has got to be made permanent, or funds for a true High-Speed Rail system for New England may go to other, more organized regions of the United States such as California, or the Midwest’s nine-state rail group centered on Illinois, which was essentially the point of The Globe article.

The good news is that New England is, at last, taking serious steps to create a permanent approach to transportation planning and more, adopting the long-standing proposal of the National Corridors Initiative (first published in 1993 in Connection Magazine, the publication of the New England Board of Higher Education) to begin creating a regional infrastructure authority that can design, build, fund and operate a true regional rail system, anchored by New York City, Montreal, Portland and Boston, and serving all of New England and upstate New York as well as the Eastern Canadian provinces (see White Paper, “An Infrastructure Initiative For New England and The Atlantic Rim: Laying the Foundation for an Economic Renaissance By Working Cooperatively as a Region,” at www.nationalcorridors.org)

In the letter cited by the News-Times, “LaHood praised the New England states for the formation of the Northeast Rail Network Task Force. The group coordinated the applications for Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine last year to request high-speed rail funding; many Northeastern states are participating actively in developing Northeastern Corridor branches, as well as neighboring and connecting corridors,” LaHood wrote. “We applaud the states for this ongoing involvement and welcome the states’ cooperation with Amtrak on its Northeast Corridor planning efforts.”

(See editorial this issue of D:F)


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Rail Runner Express Keeps Northern New Mexico Connected

Railroad Celebrates First Anniversary Of Service Between Albuquerque And Santa Fe

By David Peter Alan

Santa Fe, New Mexico’s capital, will celebrate its 400th anniversary next year. Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, is also rich in history. It boasts an Old Town neighborhood that dates back to Spanish rule in the 1700s, a downtown (known in the late 1800s as “New Town”) where the Santa Fe Railroad reached the town in 1880, and Central Avenue (part of historic Route 66) running the two miles between them. Both cities feature historic downtown areas, thriving art scenes, and a variety of museums and other attractions.

Surprisingly, the two cities were not connected by rail until December 17, 2008 when direct service began. The trains are operated under authority of the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) as New Mexico Rail Runner Express (NMRX or Rail Runner). The trains are the most distinctive in the country, sporting a drawing of the head and body of a roadrunner (the New Mexico state bird) on the front and sides of the locomotive. The bird’s tail feathers adorn the sides of the Bombardier multi-level coaches that make up the train consist.

The schedule is designed primarily for commuters, with commuting available to either Albuquerque or Santa Fe from points in between, or to Albuquerque from Belen and other places south of the city. In addition to commuter-hour trains in both directions, there is also one mid-day trip and service into the evening on weekdays. There is also week-end service; six trips each way spaced throughout the day on Saturdays and two trips each way on Sundays.

Rail Runner Train Set

Image provided by Chris Blewett of Rail Runner

A Rail Runner Train passes through displaying its characteristic “Road Runner” logo.

The railroad began operations in July 2006, with service between Belen and Bernalillo, a historic town slightly east of Albuquerque on the historic Santa Fe Raton Pass Line (also used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief), through downtown Albuquerque. Trains to Santa Fe now go further east on the historic Santa Fe line, and then onto eighteen miles of new track built alongside Interstate Highway 25. For the last four miles into Santa Fe, Rail Runner trains use a part of the Santa Fe Southern Railway (SFSR), a former branch line that still operates freight service and tourist excursions as an independent short line.

Rail Runner celebrated the first anniversary of Santa Fe service last Thursday by giving out coffee and doughnuts to riders at key stations and, presumably, by counting those riders. According to Augusta Meyers, Communications Manager of MRCOG, the line is new proof of an old maxim in the transit community: “Build it and they will come;” the line has had nearly 1.7 million riders in its first year of Santa Fe service, with an average weekday ridership of 4400; a “phenomenal” level, according to Meyers. Chris Blewett, Director of the Rio Metro Transit District, where the rail line operates, said the success of the line “validated something we have been saying for a long time. Investment in rail has paid off here in New Mexico.”

Rail Runner trains use a variety of stations. At the Alvarado Transportation Center in downtown Albuquerque, they connect with Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, Greyhound and local “ABQ Ride” buses. The SFSR Depot in Santa Fe is located near downtown, in the historic Railyards District. The stations at Belen and Bernalillo are also located downtown. There are also several park-and-ride stations, with another station that serves Isleta Pueblo, a traditional Native American community. The railroad’s governing authority also plans to build stations for two other Pueblo communities.

There are also some innovations in the fare structure. Rail Runner offers an annual pass (presumably for commuters who expect to keep their jobs) for ten to eleven times the monthly fare. There is a discount for paying fares on line, and the conductor can also collect cash fares or take a credit card on board.

The new line has also led to a broadened transit network in the region by connecting with buses operated by the New Mexico Department of Transportation to several towns. They include Las Vegas (a historic town where Theodore Roosevelt recruited soldiers for his Rough Riders regiment in 1898, and which is also served by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief) and Los Alamos (home of the top-secret Mahnattan Project, which developed the first nuclear weapons during World War II). Service is limited, but bus schedules are timed to connect with Rail Runner trains at park-and-ride stations in and near Santa Fe. Until last year, Albuquerque and Santa Fe were not connected by rail. Albuquerque is on the historic Santa Fe main line, and the city of Santa Fe is the terminus of a branch that runs north from Lamy, a town that boasts little more than a train station. Today, riders can experience both ways to travel between the two cities on a tour. Santa Fe Southern offers a “Golden Triangle” fare on the days it operates to Lamy, now scheduled for Saturdays only (with Friday service added during the warm-weather season). Riders take the SFSR from Santa Fe to Lamy, connect with Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Albuquerque and return to Santa Fe on Rail Runner. Riders from Albuquerque can take an early-morning NMRX train to Santa Fe, and then catch the SFSR and the Southwest Chief to get back. The fare is $55.00.

Only a few decades ago, commuter rail was essentially confined to a few metropolitan areas with large rail networks; New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. Today, it has succeeded in Los Angeles and spread to many smaller markets. Rail Runner has pioneered commuter rail in the Southwest region, and is part of the proliferation of rail into places where, a generation ago, few people expected to ever ride it.


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New York City Straphangers
Take A Hit As Service Is Cut

From Internet Sources

NEW YORK CITY--- It may be the greatest city in the world but New York became a little less great --- and less livable --- this week for the millions who ride its subways and buses, as service was cut due to budget shortfalls.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted this past week to reduce a budget deficit by cutting $400 million through service and staff reductions, largely affecting weekend and night-time service, but also targeting school children who formerly rode to school for free

The cuts have drawn howls of protest from the public and from officials. 10 million people a day ride subways or use the buses in New York City.

Salary cuts were also imposed.

Two subway lines, the W and the Z, would be closed altogether.

The cuts will take place in June, unless other funding can be found. Public hearings are required, which promise to be lively.

The sudden budget shortfall was discovered only a few weeks ago, as revenues continued to drop more sharply than planners had anticipated earlier in the year.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder has ruled out any fare or toll increases in 2010, but may be expected in 2011.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)98.3298.58
Canadian National (CNI)52.6554.32
Canadian Pacific (CP)52.6853.42
CSX (CSX)48.4748.94
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)32.5132.26
Kansas City Southern (KSU)31.6829.61
Norfolk Southern (NSC)52.0452.22
Providence & Worcester (PWX)10.8511.45
Union Pacific (UNP)63.3864.18


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ACROSSTHEPOND... Across The Pond...  

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

DB Schenker Rail To Lay-Off Thousands

Long Anticipated Re-Structuring To Hit Freight Train Operations Hard

Via HAZ and Die Welt newspapers

Berlin – Europe’s largest transportation and logistics concern, Deutsche Bahn AG, released details of restructuring program for its DB Schenker Rail freight division. While DBAG’s other divisions, such as DB Regio (commuter and regional passenger trains) and DB Fernverkehr (intercity passenger trains) continue with relatively constant gross sales and profit levels, the rail freight and logistics division has been hit hard by the global recession with revenues down approximately 25%. The logistics and freight division, which has had numerous brand mark names in the past few years, was a favorite of former DBAG chief Hartmut Mehdorn, and therefore received the green light for numerous acquisitions and expansion plans under Mehdorn’s regime.

Now with rail freight volumes down significantly and international cargo operations particularly hard hit, the company has moved to cut losses by reducing both capacity and personnel for the short to medium future. Rail freight division chief Karl-Friedrich Rausch stated that 2400 employees must be let go due to the decrease in freight volumes, and another 1500 jobs will be eliminated due to re-structuring and cost savings measures. The division currently employs approximately 24,000 people.

DB Schenker 232 series diesel locomotive

Photo: Deutsche Bahn AG

Wintertime freight – a DB Schenker 232 series diesel locomotive in the middle of activity in the large rail freight terminal in Maschen in December 2007. DB Schenker inherited these locomotives, the heaviest and most powerful diesels in the DB fleet, from East German state railroad DR, when DR was folded into Deutsche Bahn in 1993-94. The locomotives were originally built in the USSR during the 1970s and 80s for East Germany and several other Warsaw Pact countries and are named by rail fans as “Ludmillas.”

In addition to the personnel reductions, the division plans to shut 72 freight depots out of a total of approximately 1600 freight depots and terminals in Germany. The announced actions point to a troubling picture for Germany and Europe as a whole, where the share of freight volume carried by rail continues to remain flat or even decline, and freight volumes hauled by highway trucks continues to increase, now approaching the 90% mark. Although a number of independent rail freight haulers have enjoyed success in Germany their capacity is dwarfed by DB Schenker Rail and much of their operations are dependent upon rail freight yards and container terminals operated by DB Schenker Rail.

Rail labor union Transnet harshly criticized the decision to reduce manpower in rail freight. “This is a sign of failure of management,” stated Wolfgang Zell of Transnet. “The current finance crisis and recession is being used as an excuse to improve profit margins.” Zell continued: “all experts are convinced that a return to previous freight volumes will come, but rather than develop a strategy (to win more market share), management instead can come up with little else other than to fire employees and to close facilities.”


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Cold Winter Weather Shuts Down EuroStar Trains
Between France And England

Traffic Chaos On Both Sides Of The English Channel

Via CNN and NDR Info Radio

Calais, France – Extremely cold temperatures and snow in northern France combined to shut down EuroStar passenger train services between France and England this past weekend (18th - 20th December). After five EuroStar trains stalled in Euro Tunnel, also known as the Channel Tunnel, the operating company decided to cancel EuroStar train operations until Sunday (20th December). As many as 25,000 travelers may have been effected by the move and nearly 2000 passengers were trapped in the stalled EuroStar trains. In one of the stalled EuroStar trains passengers were trapped for nearly 13 hours without food or water. Several passengers reported that chaos ruled inside the stalled train and there was a stunning lack of communication and information from train staff. The stalled EuroStar trains blocked the tunnels, thus causing the cancellation of a number of freight trains and shuttles, which carry trucks on flatbed rail cars. This in turn resulted in massive back-ups of truck traffic on both sides of the English Channel. In Kent County, England police activated Operation Stack, which is a plan to marshal trucks on the English side of the Channel Tunnel into breakdown lanes, parking areas and on to alternate routes to avoid a gridlock situation on local roads near to the Channel Tunnel terminal.

A EuroStar spokeswoman said that the trains became disabled after entering the warm air inside the tunnel after running through sub-freezing air at surface level. She was unable to describe the exact nature of the failures of the five EuroStar trains. A possible cause may have been the sudden accumulation of condensation and water in the electronics and drive motors of the trains when the relatively warm humid air within the Channel Tunnels came in contact with cold-soaked metal and electronic hardware, cooled to sub-freezing temperatures by the recent cold snap gripping much of Europe, as well as possibly by melting snow ingested minutes earlier during operation across snow covered southern England and northern France.

This incident is the latest in a number of serious service failures involving EuroStar trains in the past 3 – 4 years, whereby passengers were left stranded inside EuroStar trains, sometimes for many hours, before the trains were dragged by rescue locomotives to the next station. Although the on-time reliability of EuroStar trains is on the average superior to scheduled airlines in Europe, these high profile incidents, including this latest one, lead to damaging press coverage in both England and France. This latest incident truly calls into question the competence and communication abilities of EuroStar management during a crisis situation. Examples of similar service failures are aplenty in the airline industry, and it has been proven time and time again in the airline industry that a policy of saying nothing and providing no information to stranded passengers is like pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire, thus turning a bad situation into a public relations and customer service mega-disaster.

This event also raises serious questions about the technical reliability and design robustness of the trains themselves. Although western Europe has been blessed with a long series of very mild winters in the 15 years since the Channel Tunnel started operations, northern France and southeastern England have a long history of having snow storms, icy weather and sub-freezing temperatures in winter. Design and systems engineers who produced the EuroStar train sets should have anticipated weather conditions that would expose the trains alternately to brutally cold temperatures and snow above ground followed immediately by the relatively warm humid air inside the Channel Tunnel.

ICE-3 Multi-System high-speed train set

Photo: Deutsche Bahn AG

Next stop: London ? An ICE-3 Multi-System high-speed train set made a visit to the Lille Europe station in northern France back in 2002 as Siemens and Bombardier tested the train in France in order to get approval for ICE-3 operations on the French rail network. Lille Europe is the last TGV / EuroStar stop before the rail line dives under the English Channel via the Channel Tunnel. The Channel Tunnel and the HS1 rail line from the English coast to the center of London are built and configured to French high-speed rail corridor design and operation standards and therefore are essentially part of the French high-speed rail network.

In an unrelated item, Jacques Gounon, chief of Eurotunnel, the operating company of the Channel Tunnel, made a statement to Financial Times Deutschland that Deutsche Bahn – German Railway – can run its high-speed trains through the Channel Tunnel, thus increasing the chances of more competition in European rail service. Until now a special unique safety regulation for the Channel Tunnel requires that in case of a fire or explosion passenger trains be able to evacuate all of the passengers into one-half of the train, which then will separate from the other half of the train and drive out of the tunnel. Only EuroStar trains currently meet this design requirement.

Recent data and experience from two serious train fires in the Channel Tunnel and many millions of passenger-miles of safe operation of TGV and ICE trains in land-based tunnels in France, Germany and Switzerland strongly suggest that this unique safety requirement is neither necessary nor even practical or workable. A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn confirmed that the railroad would like one day to run ICE-3 trains from Germany to London, but the company had no information about an official change to the unique safety regulation for passenger trains in the Channel Tunnel. He added that until there was an official notice that this regulation was no longer in effect, Deutsche Bahn would not be in a position to discuss introduction of ICE trains between Germany and England via the Channel Tunnel.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Re: Obama’s Rail Stimulus $ And The New England States:

 

Time To Heed A Fair Warning,
But All Is Not Lost For New England Rail

By James P. RePass, President & CEO
The National Corridors Initiative

BOSTON --- Recent reports (December 17) in The Boston Globe that New England was being cut out of the Obama Rail Stimulus train are, like those famously premature rumors of the death of a then still-living Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated.

Nevertheless here’s some advice, New England: don’t ignore those Globe reports!

The proximate villain(s) of the piece, re Rail Stimulus money, are the always-cumbersome environmental reviews required of proposed rail (and other) projects. Because there is neither a coordinated New England-wide high-speed rail plan in place, nor, aside from Amtrak, any regional mechanism for receiving and spending Stimulus money other than the individual states, stimulus applications other than for smallish projects are simply absent. It is good news that just this past week Vice President Joe Biden announced the release of $105 million in Stimulus money for major bridge repairs along the Northeast Corridor in Connecticut, and furthermore the bulk of the environmental impact reviews encompassing a whole series of long-overdue Northeast Corridor improvements was completed in the 1970’s --- the Federal Railroad Administration have for decades carried the ball for New England on such matters --- so we are not left high and dry.

But The Globe is right that we had better get our regional act together, or we will be left waiting at the station when true High-Speed Rail, which President Obama is committed to building in America, begins to be funded.

And here’s where the good news comes in, and it’s good news you haven’t heard about because of the increasingly thin staffing levels at even major newspapers: On September 15 of this year, at the annual meeting of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers covered by not one --- not one! --- major New England news organization, the assembled New England Governors did two things: they voted, at their traditional private breakfast that morning, to:

  1. agree to work more collaboratively in the future on transportation issues, especially rail, and;
  2. specifically, and unanimously, to ask Massachusetts as the largest state in terms of population and economic impact, to take the lead in organizing said collaboration.

Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray are very much in the lead on this, as is Massachusetts’ new Transportation Secretary Jeff Mullan, and all three men, I can tell you from 20 years of work in this business, and my personal knowledge of their views, “get it” about the need for true regional collaboration on big projects and the need therefore for a different, and more permanent, entity to bring the future – and future High-Speed Rail – to New England (and Eastern Canada – the Canadian premieres are likewise on board on this project).

My organization, the National Corridors Initiative, has been pushing for, and speaking out since 1989 about, the need not only for vastly increased regional collaboration among the New England Governors --- including the premieres of our principal trading partners, the Eastern Canadian provinces --- but also for creation of a permanent infrastructure body that can design, build, fund and operate large infrastructure projects, such as a regional rail system, that can survive the [all too frequent] turnovers in the offices of Governors, Premieres, and Transportation Secretaries.

You can read about our proposed rail authority for the Atlantic Rim at: www.nationalcorridors.org The eventual shape of the entity that evolves is to be determined, but Gov. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Murray are very much aware of what needs to be done, and are working towards a regional rail future for New England. Is the place called “New England” ready to receive multi-billions in Stimulus money for a regional high-speed rail system? Not yet. Will it be? Stay tuned.

Jim RePass is President & CEO of the National Corridors Initiative, which negotiated the release of Federal funds for the construction of the Northeast Corridor electrification project between New Haven and Boston, completed in 1999, which cut Boston-NYC rail travel times down to 3 1/2 hours (from 5-6), and provides the only true high-speed rail service in America, to date.


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HAPPY HOLIDAYS... Happy Holidays...  

Dave Beale Says Happy Holidays

Photo: David Beale    

And Happy Holidays From All Of The Staff At NCI.
 

See you in 2010

As has become customary, the staff at NCI and Destination: Freedom take a two week holiday break at this time of the year. Our next planned edition will be issued on January 4, 2010.

Of course, late breaking stories are always on the forefront so check back through the holidays just in case.

Also keep in mind we have some ten years worth of newsletter archives that are searchable by keyword. It may prove interesting reading on a cold and snowy winter night.

On behalf of everyone at NCI, have a Happy Holiday Season and Joyous New Year.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2009 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

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

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

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

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

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