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A Weekly North American Transportation Update

Publisher:  James P. RePass
Managing Editor:  Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor:  David Beale
Contributing Editor:  David Peter Alan
Webmaster:  Dennis Kirkpatrick
 
For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

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January 7, 2013
Vol. 14 No. 1

Copyright © 2013
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 13th Newsletter Year

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

  Editorial…
Railpace Newsmagazine Calls For Sacking
   Of New Jersey Transit’s Top Management
  Commentary…
How The Last Minute Bill To Avert The
   Fiscal Cliff Affects Transportation
  News items…
California Corridor Rail’s Devolution To Local Control
   Continues In Central Valley Re-Alignment
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
New England Central Railroad Now Part
   Of Genesee & Wyoming
 
  Transit Lines…
San Francisco’s Muni Celebrates 100th Birthday
  Across The Pond…
Stuttgart 21 Price Tag Increases By Over A Billion
London Completes Rail Transit “Beltway”
   Around City
China Opens Longest High-Speed Rail Line
  News from Amtrak…
New Appointments At The Top
  Publication Notes …



EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Railpace Newsmagazine Calls For Sacking
Of New Jersey Transit’s Top Management

From ‘Railpace’ January 2013

NORTH CAROLINA --- In a blistering editorial this week the editor of Railpace Newsmagazine, a high-quality rail publication based in North Carolina that covers the Northeastern United States, has called on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to sack New Jersey Transit’s top management, including NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein.

Railpace Editor and President Tom Nemeth in this month’s issue blasts Weinstein and NJ Transit leaders, and demands their ouster, because of their disastrous handling of Hurricane Sandy:

“NJ Transit’s cabal of management slackers has finally outdone themselves with their non-response to the threat of Hurricane Sandy. While much of the damage to rail rights-of-way was likely unavoidable, their complete abdication of responsibility to protect rolling stock and locomotives in advance of the well-publicized storm is inexcusable,” wrote Nemeth.

Reuters and other news organizations have reported that more than 300 pieces of rolling stock was left in flood-prone areas and damaged or destroyed, despite much warning from weather experts to get the equipment to high ground.

“Rather than take ownership of the expensive equipment entrusted to them by the people of New Jersey, NJT top management chose to ignore credible, multiple severe weather warnings from government and private forecasters, leaving over 260 rail cars and 62 locomotives to be damaged by the hurricane’s storm surge,” Continued Nemeth; “…Someone should have told [NJT] that the lowest points on the system --- Kearny and Hoboken --- are not the place to put equipment during a hurricane.”

Railpace’s Nemeth noted in his editorial that “none of New York City’s more than 6,000 subway cars were damaged during Sandy” because they were indeed moved out of low-lying yards at Coney Island (which got severe storm surge damage), and that Metro North’s President Howard Perlmut had personally interacted with weather forecasters to run flooding models, and then move Metro-North trains out of harm’s way.

“Weinsten told the New York Post in an interview that all of his attention to date has been on restoring service, and that he has not had time to reflect on lessons learned. NJ Governor Christie should allow him and his team to do that reflection in retirement --- effective tomorrow,” concluded Nemeth.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

How The Last Minute Bill To Avert
The Fiscal Cliff Affects Transportation

Provided By: Transportation For America (T-4 America) And
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC)
Writer: Steven Higashide

WASHINGETON, DC, DECEMBER 31 -- The bill that squeaked through Congress at the last minute has some good news for transportation reform advocates.

The bill restores the transit commuter benefit to $240/month through 2013, and makes it retroactive for 2012 as well. The IRS hasn’t said yet how to claim the 2012 benefit; maybe on your income taxes—we’ll see. Senator Schumer has been the long-time champion for this, and Sens. Lautenberg and Menendez of NJ and Congressmen King and Grimm of NY also fought very hard for this provision.

The bill delays “sequestration” cuts until March, giving Congress more time to avert them.  As a reminder, sequestration refers to the automatic cuts (of about 10%) that were scheduled for nearly all government programs for the beginning of the year.

Most surface transportation (anything funded out of the Highway Trust Fund, including road and transit formula programs) would not be impacted by sequestration. That does not mean it will be immune if Congress passes a new deal to replace the sequestration cuts.

New Starts (which pays for new transit capital projects), Amtrak, TIGER, (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and USDOT’s Sustainable Communities program are funded out of the general fund and would be impacted by sequestration if Congress does nothing.

Sandy Appropriations Bill

In December, the Senate passed a $60 billion bill for Sandy relief, including $12 billion for surface transportation. The transportation funding included $10.8 billion for public transit -- $5.4 billion for repair, and $5.4 billion for mitigation to protect against future storms. It also included $921 million for road repairs, and $336 million for projects on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The bill provided money to FHWA, FTA, FRA, etc. that states then apply for. Total damage and mitigation requests (transportation and non-transportation) for the storm are over $80B:  $42B in New York, $37B in New Jersey, and $3B in Connecticut.

 A vote on the House’s version of the bill was scheduled in the House on Tuesday night, but was pulled by Speaker Boehner.

This led to a bipartisan uproar in this region. Speaker Boehner turned around fast and on Thursday announced that the House will hold two votes on Sandy relief. On Friday, it voted on a $9 billion bill to fund flood insurance.  On January 15, it will vote on a $51 billion bill for infrastructure and other relief.

It’s significant that Boehner promised that the House will vote on $60 billion in aid, roughly the same size as the Senate’s bill. House Republicans had previously proposed a $27 billion bill (which King and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of NJ were going to work to amend.)

However, the makeup of the House’s $60 billion will not exactly match what was in the Senate’s bill. In particular, House leaders seem to have singled out Amtrak funding as “pork.” The amendment offered by Frelinghuysen would have had more money for roads and transit, and less for Amtrak.

Again, the Senate now needs to start over. Hopefully, it will move fast.

New T&I Committee Members

Finally, a quick note on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. The Northeast region will have two new members on the committee—Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY). In addition, Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Tim Bishop (D-NY) will remain on the committee.

LoBiondo has been chair of the Coast Guard/Maritime Subcommittee, but according to T4 he may now become the head of a subcommittee more important for our work—either Highways and Transit, or Railroads/Pipelines/Hazardous Materials. 

The new chair of the T&I Committee will be Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania.  In some ways, Shuster may offer a better approach than Mica: 

He has signaled that he may offer a more cooperative, less partisan model of leadership for the committee than his predecessor, Florida Rep. John Mica.

Shuster told reporters that Congress needed to consider an increase in the gas tax, a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, tolling, and public-private-partnerships in order to fund transportation.  He seemed particularly interested in a VMT tax, saying it seemed to be “the only way to stop the decline” in federal transportation revenue over the long term.

The federal gas tax was last increased in 1993 and has not kept up with levels of spending on transportation. In recent years the Highway Trust Fund (which funds both roads and transit) has remained solvent only because of transfers of general tax revenue.

Shuster has been a staunch supporter of privatizing Amtrak, but indicated yesterday that he hoped to find compromise.

However, he seems very skeptical that there should be a federal role in bike/ped, and whether House transportation policy gets better probably has more to do with how accommodating House leadership is toward its Tea Party wing.

Steven Higashide is a senior planner at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign office: 212.268.7474 - cell: 908.705.3665 - www.tstc.org


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NEWS ITEMS... News Items...  

California Corridor Rail’s Devolution To Local Control
Continues In Central Valley Re-Alignment

By DF Staff And From The Modesto Bee

CALIFORNIA’S CENTRAL VALLEY ---- Continuing a series of successful power transfers of state to local control, communities in California’s huge Central Valley are planning to assume management of commuter rail service currently managed by the State of California.

Conversion of State control to local authority control has seen a sharp increase in commuter rail ridership in other parts of California, a state so large and populous that, if a nation, it would rank among the top ten economies in the world, at number eight just behind the United Kingdom and Italy, and ahead of Spain and fast-growing Brazil (source: econpost.com)

The Modesto Bee’s Garth Stapley is reporting:

“The Central Valley is on the cusp of forming a regional rail authority with a goal of taking control from the state over Amtrak commuter trains. Five transportation agencies, including those in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, signed on in December. That’s one shy of the required six to officially form a joint powers authority; a single positive vote among four in January and February would seal the deal. So sure are leaders of a sixth partner joining that the future authority has scheduled a March 22 public kickoff meeting in Merced.”

“‘Local control could ‘result in improved service and increases in ridership and revenue,’ Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown. Marsh predicted more jobs and better air quality with improved train service,” reported Stapley.

Modesto, Denair and Merced depots carry people to Sacramento, the Bay Area and Bakersfield with connections to buses and other trains far beyond, the Bee noted.

There is significant reason to believe that this switch will prove a positive step, according to rail observers and experts, because both the Capitol Corridor (Sacramento-Oakland) the San Joaquin Corridor “…have thrived under the California Department of Transportation’s rail administration, growing from eight trains per day in 1998 to 12 last year, when annual ridership pushed past 1 million. The line is Amtrak’s fifth busiest in the United States,” reported Stapley, “Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor line from Sacramento to Oakland skyrocketed 400 percent in the same time frame, from eight daily trains to 32. That’s because a nimble consortium of Sacramento-area rail leaders wrested control from the state and became more responsive to travelers’ needs, say valley officials who hope to do the same.”

“‘We’re trying to improve commuter service,’ Stapley quotes said Vito Chiesa, a Stanislaus County supervisor recently chosen to represent this area on the soon-to-form San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. The idea is to boost seats, trains and efficiency, he said.

A rail plan for the next 20 years shows that state Caltrans leaders, focused on highways, expect to add only three trains on the San Joaquin line. Local leaders say they could easily exceed such a short-sighted goal, maybe tripling the current number. “‘Local control is supposed to translate to cost savings,’ said Charlie Goeken, Waterford’s mayor and chairman of the Stanislaus Council of Governments. ‘We’ll be able to set rates and times that will meet our customers’ needs, and we’ll be more profitable.’”

Amtrak operates the trains in all three California corridors, under contract, and working closely with state and local governments. California ridership has grown to the point that it may soon rival the Northeast Corridor in numbers, especially as the nation’s first true High-Speed Rail Line is constructed in the Golden State.

For the full story see:

http://www.modbee.com/2013/01/01/2515857/valley-agencies-confident-in-bid.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

 
Title
 
Ticker
This
Week
Previous
Week
Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)93.85***
Canadian National (CNI)91.75***
Canadian Pacific (CP) 107.32***
CSX (CSX)20.94***
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)80.49***
Kansas City Southern (KSU)88.82***
Norfolk Southern (NSC)65.37***
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.00***
Union Pacific (UNP)130.89***

*** Stocks were last reported in December.


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FREIGHTLINES... Vermont...  

Vermont’s Largest Freight Line Is Purchased

 

New England Central Railroad
Now Part Of Genesee & Wyoming

By Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons

BRATTLEBORO — Vermont’s largest freight railroad has a new owner.

On Dec. 19, 2012, the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) approved the purchase of RailAmerica Inc., the company that owns the New England Central Railroad (NECR), by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., another holding company of many short-line railroads across the country, for $1.37 billion.

The takeover of the St. Albans-based NECR, which operates 394 miles of track between the Canadian border just south of Montreal and New London, Conn., became effective Dec. 28.

It is the second rail line that Genesee & Wyoming has purchased that passes through Vermont. It already owns the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad, which passes through Island Pond and the Northeast Kingdom on the way between Montreal and Portland, Maine.

In the STB’s approval of the NECR sale, the Vermont Agency of Transportation asked the board to impose conditions on Genesee & Wyoming (GWI) to continue working with the state to support high-speed and intercity passenger rail service. Amtrak’s Vermonter travels on the NECR’s rails between Palmer, Mass., and St. Albans.

The STB rejected that request, but stated in its decision that “GWI and NECR intend to continue collaboration with VTrans following the transaction, and have no intention of breaching any existing written agreements following the transaction.”

Christopher Parker, executive director of the Vermont Rail Action Network, said Genesee & Wyoming’s purchase of the NECR “will be a positive, on balance.”

“G & W brings strengths in safety and marketing and customer service,” Parker said in a statement after the sale. “Their rate of injuries is one third of what RailAmerica’s had been (which was not bad, just that G & W is better) and is better than all the other major railroads.” They have promised more localized decision making regarding rates and marketing which is an important move, he said.

Parker said most things about the railroad will stay the same with the new owner.

“According to statements the company made [Dec. 19] at Rail Council, customer service personnel are staying the same, at least initially,” he said. “I understand the new company plans to keep open the St. Albans dispatching center, at least for the time being, and will continue and may expand work at the St. Albans mechanical shop. A new general manager will be hired as the line is currently being run with an interim retired manager.”

Parker was also optimistic that GWI would continue to provide the same level of support for passenger rail service that NECR did.

“The Vermonter has been near or at the top of on-time performance for the Amtrak system, thanks to excellent dispatching by NECR,” he said. “NECR has cultivated an excellent relationship with the state and with local communities. Hopefully Genesee & Wyoming will continue this.”

Parker said that rail fans will notice a change in corporate colors “from blue and yellow, to orange with classy yellow and black trim. Locomotives will be painted over the next several years.”

The Genesee & Wyoming began its life in 1899 as a 14-mile railroad built to transport salt from a rock salt mine in Retsolf, N.Y. When U.S. railroads were deregulated in the 1980s, GWI began acquiring other short lines around the country.

According to the trade magazine Progressive Railroading, GWI’s acquisition of RailAmerica’s 45 regional and short lines that it owned in the United States and Canada boosts GWI’s railroad holdings to 108 in North America and 111 worldwide. GWI is now the largest short-line railroad operator in the United States.

(This article was originally published in The Commons issue #184 Wednesday, January 2, 2013 and can be found at: www.commonsnews.org)


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

San Francisco’s Muni Celebrates 100th Birthday

By David Peter Alan

Many Americans celebrate Christmas and almost everybody celebrates the New Year, but San Francisco had a special celebration between the two, on December 28th. The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) celebrated 100 years of providing transit in that city, with free rides and festivities. In 1912, it was a daring experiment for a city to run a system of streetcars and cable cars. Today, almost all transit in the United States and Canada is operated by public-sector entities, from cities to counties to free-standing transit authorities. Unlike cities with privately-owned transit, San Francisco gained the distinction of being the only American city west of New Orleans that never lost its streetcars.

MUNI did not build the first transit in the city; there had been rail transit since 1851, the time of the Gold Rush. An extraordinary film was made on April 14, 1906 of a cable car ride to the foot of Market Street. Streetcars and cable cars outnumbered the automobiles on the street, while horse-drawn vehicles, bicycles and many pedestrians completed the mix. The ride ended at the Ferry Building, an 1896-vintage landmark that still stands and, once again, plays host to ferries from across the Bay.

Four days later, it all ended. An earthquake hit the city, toppled buildings and ruptured gas lines. The gas caught on fire, and the fire destroyed nearly half the city. During the subsequent reconstruction, the Market Street line was rebuilt as a streetcar line, and the system expanded quickly. The existing United Railroad and Market Street Railway could not shoulder the entire burden of building the system, so the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) was born. Legendary mayor James “Sonny Jim” Rolfe proposed the idea of the city taking over the operation, and he operated the first MUNI car on opening day. Rolfe knew that public ownership of a transit system was a bold innovation. At the opening ceremony, he said: “It is really the people’s road, built by the people and with the people’s money.... Our operation of this road will be closely watched by the whole country. It must be a success! We must extend it everywhere possible, until it becomes a great municipal system.” MUNI Car #1 still operates, and sometimes runs in revenue service on Market Street and the Embarcadero.

Ed Reiskin, the city’s Director of Transportation told the San Francisco Examiner: “The formation of MUNI is directly attributable to the pioneer spirit, resiliency and passion of those who have called San Francisco home; those who made it the ‘people’s system.’ ” MUNI is a component of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), which is also responsible for streets and walkways.

Through the years, MUNI’s streetcar system has experienced expansion, retrenchment and renewal. At first, it grew with the city. The last horse car ran in 1913 and, two years later, the streetcars and cable cars carried the crowds to the Panama-Pacific World’s Fair. During the 1920s, the Ferry Building was the second-busiest transit terminal in the world; 700 streetcars per hour stopped there. By 1928, the J-Church, K-Ingalside, L-Taraval, M-Ocean View and N-Judah lines were all built and running. All of them still run today, although in a tunnel under Market Street, rather than on the surface. The system reached its furthest extent in 1932, with 50 streetcar lines and seven cable car lines.

SF MUNI Car #1

Image via SFMTA/MUNI

Car #1 shortly after its 2010 refurbishment. It was refurbished once before for the 1962 Muni fiftieth anniversary.

The contraction started in 1941. Streetcar service ended on Third Street that year, but it came back 65 years later and is still operating. Market Street lost two of its streetcar tracks in 1946. Cable car operation was cut back in the 1950s, but it could have been worse. Mayor Roger Lapham had planned to replace the Powell Street cable car with a bus line in 1947, but voters rallied behind activist Friedl Klussmann’s campaign to save the cable cars, and the operation was saved. Cable car lines ran in many cities and towns during the 1880s and 90s before electrically-powered streetcars became popular, but San Francisco is the only place in the world where they operate today. There were further transit losses in 1958: Key System cars that linked the city to the East Bay were discontinued, and so were the ferries that ran from the Ferry Building. Neither of those operations were part of MUNI, however.

Prospects began to improve in the 1960s. The cable cars were declared a national historic landmark in 1964, and construction of the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system began in 1967. Today, BART trains run throughout the Bay Area, including on the lower level of a two-tier tunnel under Market Street. That operation started in 1974. Modern MUNI streetcars run in the upper level of the tunnel, and vintage streetcars run on the surface. MUNI discontinued surface running on the street in 1982, but kept the rails and overhead wire intact for occasional “special” cars or festivals. Regular service came back in 1995, and the line was extended along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf in 2000.

Today, MUNI operates the unique cable cars (priced as a tourist attraction at $6.00 per boarding, with no transfer privileges) and seven streetcar lines, including the F-Market Street, which runs with vintage cars. Most of those are PCC (Presidents’ Conference Committee) cars from the 1940s and 50s which originally ran in Philadelphia or Newark. There are also 1920s Peter Witt cars from Milan, Italy and other vintage cars in MUNI’s collection. Some of them come from other places, including Blackpool, England and New Orleans. The Market Street Railway, an independent organization, preserves the vintage cars and runs the San Francisco Railway Museum, located across the street from the Ferry Building. MUNI also operates San Francisco’s extensive bus system. The base fare on buses and streetcars is $2.00, which includes transfer privileges. A day pass, also good on cable cars, is $14.00. Three-day and 7-day passes are also available for visitors, and most residents use a monthly pass.

Transit, especially on MUNI, has become a part of the city’s character. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, said: “I am especially proud of the city’s unique vintage streetcars-an international symbol of San Francisco culture.” Current mayor Edwin M. Lee praised MUNI for a history of innovation, and SFMTA Chair Tom Nolan complemented MUNI’s employees and noted their diversity. San Francisco is a city with a diverse population, and diverse transit, as well. Today, BART provides service beyond the city, to the East Bay and further down the Peninsula, of which San Francisco is at the tip. CalTrain runs commuter trains to San José, and further to Gilroy during peak commuting hours. Boats again come to the Ferry Building from across the bay, and riders again connect with streetcars there. There are also other bus providers in the area that connect with MUNI.

Transit is popular in San Francisco. It is a hilly city, densely populated and located at the end of a peninsula. There is little room for automobiles, so many “locals” ride transit. So do tourists; they can often be seen waiting in long lines to board a cable car. Many ride the streetcars and buses, too. The City has adopted a “transit first” development policy, so it is safe to expect transit ridership in San Francisco to remain strong for many years to come.

Information about MUNI can be found on the city’s transportation web site, www.sfmta.com. The site also has links to information about the centennial celebration and the history of the MUNI system. Much of the historical information came from the SFMTA site. The cable car house at 1201 Mason Street also contains the Cable Car Museum, with historic cars and a chance to view the operation.

The San Francisco Examiner ran a special 12-page supplement about the history of MUNI on December 7, 2012. It can be found on the paper’s web site, www.sfexaminer.com or the SFMTA site.

David Peter Alan has ridden all of MUNI’s streetcar and cable car lines and is looking forward to going back to San Francisco and riding them again, despite the long boarding lines for the cable cars.


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Stuttgart 21 Price Tag Increases
By Over A Billion

Uncertainty Increases Over Project Completion As Additional Funding Remains Doubtful

Via Bild Newspaper, Deutsche Press Agentur And N24 TV News

Stuttgart – The controversial train station development project Stuttgart 21 is now expected to cost around EUR 1.1 billion (US $1.4 billion) more than originally planned, Deutsche Bahn stated back on the 12th of December. The figure pushes the project’s final price tag to at least EUR 5.6 billion. Deutsche Bahn stated that there are additional “risks” of cost increases in the amount of EUR 1.2 billion over and beyond the announced EUR 1.1. Billion cost increase.

The Stuttgart 21 project shall transform the central passenger train station in of the Baden-Württemberg state capital into an underground thru-station coupled to an all-new high-speed rail line to the city of Ulm, about 90 km southeast of downtown Stuttgart. Much of the proposed new high-speed line will be underground. The existing surface Stuttgart – Ulm rail line, which follows a picturesque but slow and winding route with extremely tight curves and steep gradients along the Fils River at the northern end of the Black Forrest region, will remain in service for freight trains and local and regional passenger trains. The high-speed rail line to Ulm can be built independently from the rail station project in the center of Stuttgart.

Construction in the Stuttgart main train station (Hauptbahnhof)

Photo: David Beale / NCI.

Construction Time Again – not an album from music group Depeche Mode but rather the current state of affairs in the Stuttgart main train station (Hauptbahnhof). With construction of Stuttgart 21 soon to enter the second year visual evidence of construction work in, around and under the station is steadily increasing by each passing week and month. As of 30th December 2013 half of Platform 8 in Stuttgart is closed down due to Stuttgart 21 construction activities. Also, semi-transparent glass window panes have been removed from all of the platform canopies in Stuttgart, most likely as a safety precaution to avoid shattering glass from falling on to the platforms below as construction work on the station complex introduces various shocks and vibrations to the structure.

Germany’s national railway operator Deutsche Bahn previously estimated it would cost around EUR 4.5 billion, but now the extra billion in funding has yet to be found. “The economic viability of the project is decreasing, but it will not go negative,” said Deutsche Bahn manager Volker Kefer. He added that while there was a chance that this figure could increase further, there was also a chance that the costs could be cut by as much as EUR 200 million. Industry observers say that the EUR 1.1. billion in new cost increases plus EUR 1.2 billion in additional risks may place the project in jeopardy of completion, if there is no agreement between the main parties (city, state and federal government and Deutsche Bahn) on how to pay for these latest cost overruns.

Baden-Württemberg state governor Winfried Kretschmann said that if Deutsche Bahn’s estimation was correct, the company would have to pay the difference themselves. “This is due to planning errors by the Bahn,” he said. Mr. Kretschmann (Green Party) was elected governor in spring 2011 by campaigning against Stuttgart 21 and against nuclear energy. He fulfilled a campaign promise later that year by holding a state-wide referendum on shutting down the Stuttgart 21 project. However, despite his own and his party’s opposition to Stuttgart 21, voters approved the continuation of Stuttgart 21 in that special referendum.

Criticism of the massive rail project has come from many sides, including environmentalists who voiced concern about the effect the building work could have on the area. Germany’s principal rail transit advocacy groups, ProBahn and Verkehr Club Deutschland (VCD) have also strongly opposed Stuttgart 21, and instead have advocated for an alternate project which would improve the existing main station but keeps its current surface level terminal configuration at a far lower cost than the underground thru station concept. Violent protests rocked the southwestern German city in early 2011 after the police cleared a demonstrators’ camp.

The actual causes or sources for the massive cost increase have not yet been disclosed by Deutsche Bahn to either state government officials or the public. In a letter dated 3rd January 2013 Baden-Württemberg’s secretary for transportation and infrastructure, Winifried Hermann, demanded that Deutsche Bahn provide an extensive list of supporting documentation for both the EUR 1.1 billion additional costs and EUR 1.2 billion “risks.” Mr. Hermann noted in his letter, that the state government was extremely displeased with the lack of communication and information from Deutsche Bahn regarding the on-going cost and budget calculations for the project.

Elsewhere in Germany . . . an airport project sinks deeper into trouble

Stuttgart 21 is not the only large-scale infrastructure project in Germany making headlines for all the wrong reasons. In the Berlin region the new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport, now known by its IATA airport three letter code BER (also the English language acronym for beyond economic repair), will open even later than was recently estimated. Additional construction and project costs have now soared to EUR 4.3 billion (US $5.6 billion) from an original EUR 2.1 billion budget. Indications from government and industry observers point to further cost increases above this figure.

A visit from experts from the federal Transportation Ministry to Berlin’s delay-plagued new airport showed that next to nothing had been done since their last visit to the construction site in August, according to a report by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

“The overall impression was that in comparison to the last visit on August 31, 2012 only a small amount of activity in the terminal area had been done,” a protocol from the ministry that the paper obtained showed. It said there were more security and supervisory personnel than actual workers on the site.

The new airport was supposed to have opened on the 3rd of June 2012, but just weeks before the officials announced the airport was far from ready and it would have to be delayed, whereby an opening date in March 2013 was given. It is now set to open in October 2013, but if this and other recent reports are correct authorities appear to be running up against severe obstacles for even maintaining that date.

The report listed a number of serious construction problems at the airport including rain water entering the ventilation system at the airport’s train station. It also said the fire protection system at the train station has no connection to the fire alarm system at the airport. The wall coverings in the elevators are not fit with any fireproof studs and will have to be replaced. Escalators between the train station and the plaza building appear to be too short and will have to be extended.

The report also said that several thousand square meters are at this date only in the early shell construction phase.

Berlin’s Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who is also head of the airport’s supervisory board, is no longer promising that the airport will open on Oct. 27, 2013 as now planned. Apart from this, the paper wrote that tax payers are facing extra costs in the billions stemming from the delays.

The new BER International Airport is located approximately 20 km (13 miles) southeast from the center of Berlin and shares land and runways with Berlin’s existing Schoenefeld airport. The terminals of Schoenefeld will close and taken out of service, once BER begins full operations, roughly in a similar fashion that the former passenger terminal complex on the north side of Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport was closed and later demolished when the current midfield terminal complex in Atlanta was opened in the early 1980s. Unlike with Atlanta Hartsfield in the 1980s, the new Berlin Airport will take the new IATA airport code BER upon opening and the existing SXF code for Berlin Schoenefeld will be retired.

Berlin’s Tegel airport, located in the northwestern part of the German capitol, will also close for normal airline operations upon formal opening of BER: However the city plans to keep the airport in a operational state for some period of time after the opening of BER, in case it needs to be re-called into full operation due to any major glitches in operations of BER, and for use by the German military for its VIP aircraft fleet, which provides air transportation to the German Chancellor, President and other senior German federal government officials traveling on official business.


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London Completes Rail Transit “Beltway” Around City

London Overground Rail Network Now Encircles UK Capitol

Via Railnews UK

London - Trains are now running on a surface level network encircling London’s city center after the latest section of the line was placed in service during the December 2012 European train and bus schedule update. The network, informally called ‘rail M25’ (a reference to the road beltway of the same name around the outskirts of the city), has been formed by opening a new London Overground route between Surrey Quays and Clapham Junction. The service was launched by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson and transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who described the Derby-built trains used on the system as ‘great’.

The new route includes a restored 1.3 km link which takes trains from a junction south of Surrey Quays round to the existing line across south London towards Clapham Junction, which it joins near Queen’s Road, Peckham. Services are now running every 15 minutes between Clapham Junction and Dalston Junction, via south and east London.

Transport commissioner Peter Hendy hailed the completion of the circle, saying that London Overground “really has been a case of ‘if you build it, they will come’ ”. He joined London Mayor Boris Johnson and the UK Transport Secretary on board an eastbound service train from Clapham Junction. As Boris Johnson made his way down the train past assembled reporters, he entered the next car and exclaimed: “Oh good. Some real passengers.”


Photo: Southern Electric Group / Brian Morrison

Maximum Flexibility - The BR class 378 EMUs in use on London Overground can operate on both 750 VDC third rail electrification and 25 kVAC overhead catenary, both of which exist on the various standard heavy rail lines which make up London Overground. The cars are configured with subway car-like seating to maximise the number of standing passengers which the trains can carry. What appears to be a passageway door in the front cab end of the EMU is actually an emergency exit door and stair, which swings down vertically so that passengers can escape from the ends of the train in an emergency. Above: Train set 378 001 as seen in September 2008 during pre-delivery testing in Shoeburyness, England.

In fact, passenger levels on the Overground network have been soaring since it was launched just over five years ago, when Silverlink Metro routes were transferred to Transport for London in November 2007.

The south London route is not the only addition: Overground has already gained the former East London Line from London Underground, which carries through trains between Highbury & Islington and West Croydon or Crystal Palace.

London Overground, which is operated by LOROL under a TFL concession, now runs 1,090 services a day using a fleet of 57 electric BR Class 378 trains (EMUs) and eight BR Class 172 diesel multiple unit trains (DMU). The diesels are needed for the Gospel Oak to Barking line, which has yet to be electrified.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who is MP for Derbyshire Dales, traveled on a 378 EMU from Clapham Junction with the launch party and exclaimed: “These trains are great. I went to see them being built at Bombardier in Derby”.

London joins a small and exclusive list of world cities, which have passenger railroad “beltways” built on the perimeter of their urban areas, a rail transport version of road beltways such as I-495 around Washington DC, I-285 around Atlanta, the A-10 around Berlin or the M-25 highway in the London area. Other cities with surface level or above ground rail transit “beltways” include Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo, Budapest, and to a partial extent Paris, Frankfurt and Milan.


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China Opens Longest High-Speed Rail Line

New York Times, writer Keith Bradisher,
other Internet sources and DF Staff

HONG KONG — China surges ahead of the rest of the developed world in building high-speed rail with the opening of their newest high-speed rail service. In mid December, they announced that their new high-speed rail line, the longest in the world, would open before New Year’s. On December 26, two trains were flagged off in opposite directions from stations in Beijing and Guangzhou, a distance of roughly 1,200 miles, spanning over half of China. The train has 35 stops in major cities such as Zhengzhou, Wuhan on the Yangtze River and Changsha.

The new service covers the distance in approximately eight hours, while older trains, which still run on a parallel rail line, take 21 hours. This distance is about equal to that from New York to Key West, Fla., or from London across Europe to Belgrade, Serbia. Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, still take nearly 30 hours.

The CHR380A as seen in October of 2010 in China

Image by Khalidshou via Wikipedia.Com

The CHR380A as seen in October of 2010.

China’s high-speed rail network was established in 2007, but has fast become the world’s largest with 8,358 kilometers of track at the end of 2010. By 2020, the network is expected to be almost doubled to 16,000 kilometers

The new Chinese trains travel at 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, an hour, which isn’t the fastest in the world, as several top out above 200 mph, but none travel such long distances at these high speeds.

The completed Beijing-Guangzhou route is just part of the world’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure projects, a network of four north-south routes and four east-west routes that span the country.

The costly HSR growth has helped jump-start the Chinese economy twice: in 2009, during the global financial crisis, and again this autumn. The hiring of approximately 100,000 workers has helped keep unemployment low while private sector projects slowed to a crawl. The national network has helped to reduce air pollution in Chinese cities and helped to curb demand for imported diesel fuel by freeing capacity on older rail lines for goods to be carried by freight trains instead of heavily polluting, costlier trucks.

But the high-speed rail system has also been controversial in China, the article continues Debt to finance the construction has reached nearly 4 trillion renminbi, or $640 billion, making it one of the most visible reasons total debt has been surging as a share of economic output in China, and is approaching levels in the West.

High-speed service is considerably more expensive than the heavily subsidized older passenger trains. A second-class seat on the new bullet trains from Beijing to Guangzhou costs 865 renminbi ($139) one way, compared with 426 renminbi ($68) for the cheapest bunk on one of the older trains, which also have narrow, uncomfortable seats for as little as 251 renminbi ($40).

A huge blow to China’s ambitious high-speed rail plans was the deadly accident of a high-speed train in July, 2011, when one train plowed into the back of another near Wenzhou in southeastern China, killing 40 people and injuring many others. Flawed signaling equipment was blamed for the crash after an investigation, and many were of the view that China was shortchanging safety in its zeal to proceed rapidly in building high-speed rail.

There are some benefits to freight rail from the building of dedicated lines for the fast trains. Each passenger car taken off the older, slower rail lines makes room for three freight cars, so there have been sharp increases in freight shipments. However, the Ministry of Railways has not yet figured out a way to charge large freight shippers for part of the cost of the high-speed lines, which haul only passengers.

In the West, land acquisition is the toughest part of building high-speed rail lines because the tracks need to be almost perfectly straight. This has been an issue in China as well. Although local and provincial governments have forced owners to sell land for the tracks themselves, there have been disputes over suddenly valuable land near rail stations, with the result that surprisingly few stores and other commercial venues have sprung up around some high-speed stations used by tens of thousands of travelers every day.

With the launch of this new line, China has now managed to build more than 5780 miles of high-speed rail in just five years. The country has ambitious plans for the future, as eight similar long distance routes are expected to open by the end of the decade. Those new routes, along with continued expansion elsewhere, will increase the mileage to more than 30,000, easily making it the most extensive high-speed train system in the world.


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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News from Amtrak...  

New Appointments At The Top

Amtrak has announced the appointments of Magdy El-Sibaie as the new chief safety officer and Robin McDonough as chief, business operations. Both will report directly to DJ Stadtler, Vice President of Operations.

As chief safety officer, Dr. El-Sibaie will be responsible for planning, directing and overseeing the safety activities and standards of Amtrak departments to achieve continuous improvements in employee and passenger safety, including the railroad’s Safe-2-Safer behavior-based cultural safety program. In addition, he will provide oversight of Amtrak’s compliance with safety regulations and participation in current and emerging industry safety practices.

Magdy has over 20 years of experience in railroad transportation engineering and the application of technology to maintain and improve rail safety and operational efficiency. He currently serves as the associate administrator for hazardous materials transportation safety in the U.S.

Department of Transportation Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration where he manages and directs programs to issue, revise and enforce federal safety regulations for hazardous material transportation by rail and other modes.

His prior work experience includes serving as FRA director, office of research and development, and senior engineer, track and vehicle/track interaction for the Association of American Railroads. He holds a Ph.D. in engineering mechanics and a Master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Delaware. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Kuwait. Magdy will be based in Washington, D.C., effective January 7, 2013.

As chief, business operations, Ms. McDonough is responsible for collecting and analyzing operations performance metrics, performance improvement planning, budgeting and administration, and operations technology oversight to ensure integration across the new Operations business lines being established under our Strategic Plan to support improvements that drive financial and operating performance.

Robin has been with Amtrak since 1981 and has held a variety of senior positions including most recently as chief, business operations and technology. In that position she was responsible for a diverse portfolio including Transportation technology improvement, crew management services, scheduling, the Amtrak fuel management program and the planning and analysis of on-board service initiatives to increase productivity and improve customer service, among other duties. January 3, 2013.

Prior to coming to Amtrak she worked at Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) in a variety of field and office positions including crew dispatcher and yard clerk. She holds both a Bachelor of Science degree in business management and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Baltimore. Robin is based in Washington, D.C., and started in her new role on December 17, 2012.


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