Vol. 8 No. 52
Copyright © 2007
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elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
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Special Edition For New Years Eve:
Publishers Note: We had planned to stay on hiatus until next week, but too much is happening thus a [shortened] D:F for December 31]
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Feast and Famine: Maines #1 rated Downeaster
PORTLAND --- The Downeaster, Maines highly successful Amtrak train which has been showing 20% ridership gains while winning the best-of categories in service and on-time performance in the nation, is to be expanded to Brunswick and North ---- if only it isnt killed off first.
Thats the dilemma faced in Maine as Governor John Baldacci and the state legislature struggle to find the money to continue the highly popular and heavily used train when the Federal funds used to start it up run out in 2009.
Portland Press Herald reporter Tom Bell writes (December 26): Construction could start in 2008 to extend Amtrak's Downeaster service from Portland to Brunswick beginning in 2010, but only if the state commits to paying the service's operating subsidy, according to rail authority officials.
If the state can come up with the $7-$8 million needed to replace the expiring Federal grant, that would free up another $31.5 million being sought by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority to expand the service 29.5 miles between Brunswick and Portland, a 4:1 benefit for the State in new investment in infrastructure.
Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, told the Press Herald that the authority could raise money for the project through a revenue bond or a low-interest loan through the Federal Railroad Administration. She said the Maine Department of Transportation may also have funds available for the work.
The existing Federal assistance pays for about half of the annual $13 million Downeaster budget; the rehabilitation cost of about $1 million a mile compares to the $10-$100 million a mile required to add a lane of highway to an interstate, even though a single train track has far more capacity than a highway lane.
Quinn said the subsidy for the extended service would be only slightly more than that for the existing Portland-to-Boston service because increased ridership would boost revenue and the authority would use the same trains and crews, the paper reported.
If the Downeaster went to Brunswick, she said, passengers could then board trains operated by the Maine Eastern Railroad, which runs seasonal excursion trains on state-owned tracks between Brunswick and Rockland. By investing in 29 miles of track, you basically create a connection all the way from the midcoast to Boston, she said. You get 90 miles, she told the Press Herald.
Plans call for two daily round trips between Portland and Brunswick. The Downeaster now offers five round trips daily between Portland and Boston.
Crews would build up the rail bed, upgrade crossing signals and replace the rails so they can support a passenger train traveling t 60 mph, Pan Am Rail President David Fink told the Press Herald. If it comes together, I hope we can do this and move it on to Brunswick.
Quinn describes Fink's $31.5 estimate as very fair and reasonable; Fink noted that the railroad would not profit from the work, but merely perform it for the project.
Supporters of the Downeaster are seeking a commitment this year for state funding in the two-year budget that starts July 1, 2009. Gov. John Baldacci is a strong advocate of increasing passenger and freight rail service in Maine and is trying to find ways to keep the Downeaster operating and allow for its expansion. The governors spokesman, David Farmer, said Maines economy is linked to that of Greater Boston. The further we extend those linkages, he told the Press Herald, the greater the economic opportunities.
For the full story see: http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/strysearch.html?c=News&d=2007-12-26.
TOKYO --- Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) will pay 5 trillion yen ($44.7 billion) out of its own pocket to build a new Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Nagoya for the 500-kph (310 mph) magnetically-levitated (maglev) trains scheduled to go into service in 2025, company officials said, the Mainchi Daily News reported this week.
The companys stock immediately dropped sharply on the news, according to Reuters, falling 9 per cent
The company made the decision after deeming that it can start operating super-superexpress trains earlier if it chooses not to wait for an injection of taxpayers' money, said MDN.
The fastest maglev train is expected to complete the 290-kilometer journey between Tokyo and Nagoya in 40 minutes as compared with an hour and 40 minutes that the fastest bullet train on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line currently takes to travel between these cities.
JR Tokai estimates that it will cost 10 trillion yen to build the Chuo Shinkansen Line between Tokyo and Osaka for maglev trains.
The new trains, which would run starting in 2025 at speeds of around 500 km per hour (310 miles per hour), would cut traveling time between the capital and Nagoya by half to around 40-50 minutes, the company said, according to Reuters. The fastest bullet train between the two cities now travels at around 270 km (168 miles) per hour. Central Japan Railway expects recurring profit to fall to around 70 billion yen in the 2026/27 business year on operating costs and depreciation charges, after which it should gradually rise to average around 140 billion yen between 2026 to 2035.
Above: Japans Proposed MagLev Train
At Left: Germanys MagLev
While folks living near Shanghai are already enjoying the luxuries of a maglev (magnetic levitation) railway, Germany is getting set to build a similar line to shuttle citizens from Munich's city center to its airport. The € 1.85 billion ($2.61 billion) project is finally on track to become a reality after securing the necessary funding, and it should be able to whisk travelers around at nearly 310 miles-per-hour when it's complete, reports a German blog site.
Largest-Ever Commuter Rail Offer
Bombardier to Supply Montreal With
Berlin, December 18, 2007 Bombardier Transportation announced this past week that it has won a contract valued at approximately 264 million euros ($381 million US, $386 million CAN) from the Government of Quebec to supply 160 Multilevel commuter rail cars for the Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) in Montréal.
This order is based on a call for tender issued in February 2007. The contract includes a base order of 30 cars and options for 130 additional cars. The Government of Quebec has elected to exercise all available options. The state-of-the-art, stainless-steel passenger rail cars are configured to operate on AMTs existing network and will also be introduced on the future train de lEst line.
Bombardier has a long history of providing quality rail solutions to Montréal, including the last delivery of 22 aluminum-construction Bombardier BiLevel cars to the AMT, said the company. Specification for the new Multilevel cars complies with infrastructure parameters on the entire AMT network, allowing the cars to operate on any of the AMTs commuter rail lines. William Spurr, President of Bombardier Transportation North America, said: This contract illustrates the great confidence the Government of Quebec and the AMT have invested in our products, and we are happy to take part in the expansion of rail transportation in the Montreal Metropolitan region. Like many other large cities around the world, metropolitan Montreal needs an efficient and modern transit system to facilitate mobility and stimulate economic development. Investing in rail solutions is a concrete step towards sustainable development.
The Multilevel cars feature two main levels of passenger seating zones, as well as an intermediate level offering ergonomic seats in a comfortable and convenient interior design. They are similar in design to cars purchased by New Jersey Transit, and are popular with riders because of their higher comfort level than standard 5-across seating EMU and rail cars.
Photo: NCIAn interior photo of one of Bombardiers bilevel coaches
In addition, the new cars include:
The stainless-steel cars will be manufactured at Bombardier production facilities in La Pocatiere, Quebec. The La Pocatière site is currently manufacturing Multilevel cars for New Jersey Transit (NJT) in the United States. First delivery of the new Multilevel cars for the AMT is planned for the third quarter of 2009. Bombardier is the only major passenger rail car manufacturer with a dedicated rail production and engineering presence in Canada. Since its origins in 1974, Bombardiers rail business has manufactured close to 7,000 rail cars for domestic and export markets through its two Canadian manufacturing facilities in La Pocatière, Quebec and Thunder Bay, Ontario. It also operates engineering and administrative centers in Saint-Bruno, Quebec and Kingston, Ontario.
In Montréal, Bombardier has provided rail vehicles for the Montréal subway (1974), locomotive-hauled coaches for the Montréal Rigaud commuter rail line (1989), electric commuter vehicles for the Deux-Montagnes line (1992), and aluminum BiLevel cars for the Montréal-Rigaud line (2003).
Photos are available at Bombardiers multimedia gallery at: http://www.transportation.bombardier.com/photography.jsp
Stocks will not be reported this week, but will resume with the January 7 edition.
Deutsche Bahn and Train Driver Continue to Negotiate
Both sides show optimism - passengers could be spared a round of new strikes after the 6th of January.
Berlin - The wage controversy at Deutsche Bahn drags into 2008. The negotiations between representatives of the railroad and the train drivers union GDL are to be continued on the 2nd January, as both sides communicated after a further round of negotiations.
GDL boss Manfred Schell on Saturday called again the resumed negotiations a promiseful beginning . However still further discussions are necessary. If the discussions should fail, the GDL will again strike the passenger and freight operations starting on the 7th Januray. By the 6th of January everything must be clear, said Schell. He stressed again that it did not want a strike, but rather a solution. A spokeswoman of the railroad said, there was a good atmosphere. The two sides spoke pertinently about the demands of the trade union.
The railroad had offered eight per cent more money to the train drivers, but had withdrawn their offer after the temporary end of the discussions. The GDL demanded last at least ten per cent more base salary. Apart from the wage increase the union is also concerned with the negotiations over the duty time.
A week ago the Federal Minister of Transport, Wolfgang Tiefensee (SPD), had encouraged the warring parties to a wage agreement to new negotiations. Previously the GDL had broken the negotiations off, and Schell called the discussions a failure.
Hamburg Deutsche Bahn German Railways began an intensive two-week-long replacement program of three decrepit rail bridges in southern part of the city of Hamburg late last week. Affected are the bridges at Amsinckstraße, Deichtorstraße and Oberhafenbrücke, all of which are on the southern approach to the Hamburg central station. As a result intercity train services from Hamburg central station south to Hannover, Kassel, Würzburg and beyond are suspended until after New Years Day. Services on a parallel commuter S-Bahn train line, which runs along a separate right-of-way and bridges, are not affected. But since the S-Bahn line is powered only with DC third rail and has no overhead AC power lines, intercity trains are unable to use the S-Bahn tracks.
About 400 construction workers are working around the clock to replace all three bridges. One serious incident occurred on Thursday when a crane hit the overhead power line of a nearby track live with 15 kVAC power, causing the crane to erupt in fire. The crane operator was injured but expected to recover. The construction manager of the project stated that despite that incident the effort is so far running on schedule.
Photo: Deutsche Bahn AGA consist of two ICE-3 train sets leaves Hamburg Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) headed south towards Munich in 2002.
Asias largest country joins exclusive club of countries able to build high-speed rolling stock
Beijing China started assembly of high-speed trains, which will operate at 300 km/h (190 mph). After Japan, France and Germany China becomes only the fourth nation in the world capable of building high speed trains, stated Wang Yongping, a spokesman of the Chinese Railroad Ministry to the Xinhua news agency.
The first train sets should be completed by June 2008, in time for the 2008 Olympiad in August. They will initially start service in July on the Beijing Taijin line, thereby decreasing travel time from 80 minutes to 30 minutes.
In a separate press release the Chinese Railroad Ministry stated that construction on the new Beijing Shanghai high-speed rail corridor will begin in January. The all-new standard-gage rail line will be built according to technical standards used for Japans famed Bullet Train high-speed rail lines.
Madrid Spains national railroad, RENFE, started revenue passenger train services on the all-new high speed line to Valladolid last week. The standard track gage line is approximately 180 km long and includes a 29 km long tunnel, the longest on the Iberian Peninsula. Journey times are reduced from about 150 minutes to just 56 minutes.
The new rail line is the latest addition to Spains rapidly expanding network of high-speed rail lines which are branded AVE. RENFE operates a mixed fleet of high speed train sets which are based on Frances TGV made by Alstom, high -speed version of Talgos train set series and Germanys ICE-3 high speed train model from Siemens.
Unlike the classic rail network in Spain, most of the new Spanish high-speed lines are built to the 1435 mm international track gage standard. Some of the high speed rolling stock in Spain has the capability to change from standard gage to Iberian broad gage and vice-versa very quickly in track-side gage changer machines located where two rail lines of different gages intersect. .
Cutting through the Spin in Georgia
Columnist Jim Thompson: Elected
(Jim Thompson is editor of the editorial page for the Athens Banner-Herald, and is one of the increasing number of journalists who fully understand that the transportation crisis we are in is of our own making. While his column cites the Georgia Department of Transportation, the story could be repeated in state after state, where Departments of Transportation, for decades dominated by highway engineers who have zero understanding of or sympathy for anything not made of asphalt or concrete, have been given automatic funding streams and then by default, the right to make policy decisions at the same time. The result is, well, Atlanta, which is suddenly on the corporate-locator avoid list (see separate story) because of increasingly impossible auto and truck congestion, while long-promised rail systems languish on the drawing board or are studied. )
Dont you believe them for a minute. Dont you dare believe them.
The states high-level elected officials were merely feigning shock - shock, they said - last week upon learning of the massive disarray in the states Department of Transportation.
To briefly recap the news made by new DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham last week, the agency has been so wildly mismanaged for so long the staff couldnt even tell her how many projects were on the books. The initial number given to her was 1,100 projects, but that number later mushroomed to more than 9,000, with about 2,500 projects listed as active.
Beyond that, Abrahams poking around in the agencys books - insofar as such poking around is possible, given that the agency has five separate computerized accounting systems, only a couple of which are integrated - revealed that just one of the agencys groups of projects is more than $4 billion above initial cost estimates.
In a shameless bit of stagecraft last week, [Georgia Governor] Perdue called journalists from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution into his office - after meeting behind closed doors with Abraham and the DOT board - so that he and board members could tell the newspaper the new commissioners revelations marked the first time, the very first time, that theyd heard anything about the transportation agencys obviously longstanding mismanagement.
But the first step toward doing better is acknowledgment of that, the governor told the Atlanta newspaper, offering up a bathos-soaked bromide of contrition.
It wasnt long before the states legislative heavy-hitters were chiming in with their own pusillanimous tut-tutting.
Here, for instance, is Glenn Richardson, speaker of the House, talking with InsiderAdvantageGeorgia.com: The problems within DOT that have been uncovered after years of buildup are the fault of no particular person but rather of a flawed system.
House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons, also talking with InsiderAdvantage.com, said (i)ts obviously time for more openness from the Department of Transportation ... .
Another legislative denizen to go on record with InsiderAdvantage.com, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, commended Abraham for her due diligence to make DOT work better. And I do believe what theyre finding is part of the historic culture that proves that change is in order. ... I will be working to see how we can work with Commissioner Abraham to get DOT back on the right track.
Truth is, Mullis, Keen, Richardson, Perdue and a host of other state legislative leaders know exactly why DOT has - to turn Mullis phrasing around a bit - been on the wrong track, and been on it for so long. Put plainly, its their fault.
Taking even a cursory look at the campaign contribution reports filed by Perdue, Richardson and this states other top legislative leader, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the state Senate, reveals that theyve taken money as late as last year - an election year, as youll recall - from a virtual parade of road contractors, construction companies, developers, oil companies, real-estate agents, the trucking industry and others with direct or indirect interests in maintaining the status quo at what has for years been a road-centric Georgia Department of Transportation.
Clearly, one way to keep those donors checkbooks open was to ensure that road projects that kept contractors in business, that made it easier for commuters to get to their suburban homes, that kept people pulling up to gas pumps, continued to get put on the DOTs agenda.
So maybe its no real surprise that no one at DOT could say how many projects were in the works.
Its certainly no surprise the governor and many of this states most powerful legislators havent been particularly interested in looking at the agencys books.
And they certainly werent ready for Abraham to rub their noses in the DOT ledger.
So, when that happened, what was left for any of them to do but feign surprise, blame the problems on nebulosities like a historic culture or a flawed system, and cross their fingers that the public would buy their act?
Dont you do it. Dont you dare do it.
(Jim Thompson is editorial page editor of the Athens Banner-Herald. He can be contacted at (706) 208-2222 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
First Carmichael Conference on the Future of American Transportation
Sierra Club of the United States Joins National Corridors Initiative
To Support National Meeting of Transportation Advocates, Leaders
Gathering January 28-29 at St. Louis Historic Union Station/Hyatt
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