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
 

Contribute To NCI

April 11, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 14

Copyright © 2011
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 12th Newsletter Year

This E-Zine is best viewed at
1024 X 768 screen resolution

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

  News Items…
Budget Deal Slashes Transportation, Housing $
Amtrak Ridership Soaring
Amtrak Would Continue Operations In The Event Of
   A Government Shutdown
  News Briefs…
From Weekly Rail Review Ending Friday, April 1
  Funding Lines…
24 State Rail Projects Seek To Divvy Florida’s
   Abandoned HSR $2.4 Billion
  Political Lines…
Progressives In Wisconsin Stop Anti-Rail Governor’s
   Supreme Court Nominee; Focus Now On Coming
   Recall Elections
  Off The Main Line…
Our Amtrak Experience
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Improved Rail Service In Missouri’s Interest, Governor
   Nixon Determines; Major Projects Moving Forward
  Across The Pond…
Chinese High-Speed Rail Side-Tracks Jumbo Jet Orders
Hannover’s ÜSTRA Orders 50 Silver-Arrow II Light Rail Vehicles
  Events…
We CAN Connect New England (Apr 29 - CT)
National Train Day Saturday, May 7
International Transport Forum
  Commentary…
Busway Decision Drives Spike In Connecticut’s Rail Opportunities
  Editorial…
It’s The Not Just LTO Cycle, Stupid
  Publication Notes …


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

Budget Deal Slashes Transportation, Housing $

Found At: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/

The agreement between Republicans and Democrats last Friday kept the federal government from shutting down for a short period, but it did not provide for longer-term fiscal stability in Washington nor did it do anything to tone down the increasingly shrill complaints from conservatives over the size of the national budget.

One thing it did indicate, though, was that of all federal funding commitments, those that affect cities most directly — in transportation and urban development — are most likely to be cut. Of the $2 billion pulled from the nation’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget last week, every cent was taken from either the Department of Transportation or the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Once final decisions are made for the rest of the year’s budget, and once discussions begin on the 2012 budget, matters could be even worse.

With House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) leading the charge, U.S. funding for urban priorities are likely to see the brunt of fiscal cutbacks, thanks to the GOP’s unwillingness to raise taxes or cut military spending — and the Democratic Party’s general lack of courage in proposing to do so (despite, after all, continuing to control both the Senate and the White House). Mr. Ryan’s budget, which has been panned as actually likely to increase the budget deficit whatever its putative aims, would eliminate all spending on high-speed rail and even the New Starts transit capital program, which is one of the only major federal transportation programs that actually uses merit-based measures to evaluate alternative investments.

Compared to the Obama Administration’s budget, the Ryan proposal would reduce transportation expenditures by a startling 55.6%, more than any other part of the budget. As I have described before, there is nothing particularly surprising about the Republican insistence on reducing spending on urban-focused programs: The Democratic Party has a virtual monopoly on urban congressional districts, so when it is not in power, those areas suffer.

A caveat: Much of the funds cut last week, including $1.5 billion for high-speed rail (leaving $1 billion in place), had yet to be obligated and thus arguably were not “cuts.” Another $280 million in New Starts money was eliminated, but those funds were supposed to go to the ARC Tunnel, which was cancelled. And the Administration’s proposed budget was never final, so making comparisons to it may be an unfair exercise.

But the point remains: Despite President Obama’s proposals for a huge increase in transportation funding in February, the hard-lining of Republicans and the weak response from Democrats is likely to mean a decline in spending whatever the need. Even as the President has called for a vast investment in the nation’s roads and railways, Republicans are convinced that the country must remain “within its means,” which in their opinion means keeping federal transportation investments within the bounds of revenues collected by the Highway Trust Fund.

U.S. national spending on surface transportation has in recent years increased to about $50 billion annually. Relying on the Trust Fund alone would reduce that to about $30 billion. There is no reason to believe that Republicans will soon agree to a deal that would increase the fuel tax or that would institute some new form of financing, such as a vehicle-miles traveled fee. Nor will many Democrats, who are already worried about their prospects for election in 2012. The fact that alternatives exist that would increase federal investments in the nation’s infrastructure and that would reduce annual budget deficits has not made much of a dent on the right-wing atmosphere that is choking Washington.

If appropriate decisions were made about how to distribute those funds, that might be acceptable in the short term, as there are some transportation projects that are simply a waste of funds. Yet the conservative insistence on reducing government spending is not a long-term solution for funding mobility, as states and cities are cash-strapped and the private sector, whatever its merits, does not have the investment power to finance the nation’s transportation system (nor should it). Moreover, a reduction in overall transportation spending with Republican control over Congress seems likely to mean mostly a reduction in spending on things that you and I care about, like public transportation.

Unwilling to actually make an argument in favor of a tax increase, Senators and Congresspeople have been falling over themselves to endorse Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s American Fast Forward program, essentially a national version of L.A.’s 30/10 scheme. The effort would use federal guarantees to leverage private funds and pay for projects now with future tax revenues. That may sound good for this year and next, but it does not mean more transportation spending in the long-term.

There are few ways to see the budget compromise as a positive step. So far, it has made a mockery of the idea that the government’s role is to invest in the nation’s future through improved infrastructure. And it suggests that the Democrats, from the President on down, are unwilling to stand up for the public sector’s important place in guaranteeing an equitable and appropriate distribution of resources.


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Amtrak Ridership Soaring

By DF Staff And From Amtrak

WASHINGTON – If ridership trends continue, the only barrier to growth will be a lack of capacity, Amtrak said this week in reporting the best March ridership levels in the company’s 40-year history.

The company, which began operation 40 years ago with a collection of broken-down cast off locomotives from the then-bankrupt American railroad system, said that March “…marked 17 consecutive months of year-over-year ridership growth for Amtrak, was the best March ever for the company and puts America’s Railroad (Service Mark) on track to set another annual ridership record.

“Our ridership has grown more than 36 percent since 2000, and I expect that trend to continue – and if gas prices continue to rise – to accelerate. Our only restriction will be the available capacity,” Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman told a House Appropriations committee today that is considering the national passenger railroad’s FY 2012 budget request.

“This strong performance is part of a long-term trend that has seen Amtrak set annual ridership records in seven of the last eight fiscal years, including more than 28.7 million passengers in FY 2010,” the railroad said.

Specifically, “there was a 5.5 percent increase in riders in March 2011 vs. March 2010, or more than 137,000 passengers. The 17 straight months of year-over-year ridership growth spans from November 2009 to March 2011 and averages a 6.3 percent growth rate over this period. Comparing the first six months of FY 2011 (October to March) to the same time period in FY 2010 shows ridership is up 5.9 percent, or 802,745 passengers. In addition, during that same period ridership has increased on all three of Amtrak’s major business lines: Northeast Corridor up 3.9 percent, state-supported and other short distance corridors up 7.7 percent, and long-distance trains up 5.3 percent.”

“Over the past six months ridership also is growing onboard most individual Amtrak train routes and across the country with strong gains in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and California. The national ridership numbers for this period are likely to have been even higher if not for the harsh winter weather in the Pacific Northwest that resulted in frequent track closures due to the repeated occurrences of mudslides,” Amtrak stated.


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Amtrak Would Continue Operations
In The Event Of A Government Shutdown

From Internet Sources

Amtrak told its employees in a recent Employee Advisory that even though the Continuing Resolution under which Amtrak is operating will end at midnight on Friday, April 8, Amtrak would continue operations as normal in the event of a government shutdown.

Amtrak receives government funding for many of its needs, but with ticket sales and other sources of funding, the railroad could continue to operate under a short term government shutdown.

“If a government shutdown occurs, we do not expect that it will last very long,” states the Advisory. “Please be assured that we will provide regular updates to you about this issue via Special Employee Advisories and/or Amtrak This Week.”


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NEWS BRIEFS... News Briefs...  

From Weekly Rail Review
Ending Friday, April 1

By Dave Mears

(TUE, March 28) Two Class One railroads are giving large donations for victims of recent disasters in Japan. The BNSF Foundation will donate $250,000 to the American Red Cross and match donations from BNSF employees for Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief, it was announced recently.  Also, the Norfolk Southern Foundation announced that it would donate $50,000 for this relief and match active and retired NS employees’ contributions that were at least $25, up to a maximum corporate contribution of $250,000. (ffd: BNSF RR, Norfolk Southern RR, Progressive Railroading)

(TUE, March 28) Railroad travel was blocked for weeks by heavy snow in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountains this winter, but now passes are opening. Union Pacific reopened its main line through Donner Pass, which had been closed due to heavy snowfalls since March 24.  A railroad spokesman said that there were approximately 564 inches of snow at the summit of the pass, which crosses the Sierra Nevada Mountains west of Truckee, CA, and that 13 feet of snow had fallen in a recent seven- day period.  To help clear the line, the railroad operated the rotary snowplow it bases at Truckee, which hadn’t seen service since 1997. (ffd: Journal of Commerce)

(TUE, March 28) Amtrak announced the launch of a pilot program to communicate Northeast Corridor train delays via Twitter.  Amtrak will use the Twitter ID @AmtrakNEC to broadcast train delays of 60 minutes or more for its Acela Express, Northeast Regional and Keystone Service trains, and also for its New Haven, CT-Springfield, MA shuttle trains. (ffd: Amtrak, Baltimore Sun)

(WED, March 29) Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate to extend and enhance the short line tax credit for capital improvements.  Among the bill’s provisions is the extension of the credit until 2017 and making those short lines created since 2005 also eligible for the credit.  A companion bill was introduced in February in the U.S. House of Representatives. (ffd: wire services)


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

24 State Rail Projects Seek To Divvy
Florida’s Abandoned HSR $2.4 Billion

By DF Staff And From The US Department Of Transportation

WASHINGTON, DC --- Two dozen states have applied to receive a chunk of Florida’s now-abandoned $2.4 Billion in High Speed Rail Funding, done in when the state’s Tea Party Republican governor refused the funds his predecessor and others had lobbied hard to receive.

The recall campaign against Florida Governor Rick Scott continues to grow over the rail program rejection and other issues including radical cuts to education and health programs, and the growing realization by Florida voters that they have elected as their Governor the CEO architect of the largest Medicare fraud in American history ($1.7 billion fine paid in 2003 by Scott’s HCA Inc.)

Regarding the state applications for what the funds that would have built a Florida High Speed Rail project, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said this week:

“Today, we are another step closer to delivering an innovative, national transportation network that brings new jobs and economic opportunity to the American people. Since I announced the availability of an additional $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects, governors and members of Congress have been clamoring for the opportunity to participate. That’s because they know that high-speed rail will deliver tens of thousands of jobs, spur economic development across their communities and create additional options for their citizens as the country’s population grows.”

He added: “We have received more than 90 applications from 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak for projects in the Northeast Corridor, with preliminary requests totaling nearly $10 billion dollars. We are extremely pleased to see the bipartisan enthusiasm behind all of the requests to get into the high-speed rail business. Thanks to President Obama’s bold vision for a national high speed rail network, we will win the future for America.”

Showing bi-partisan support for President Obama’s High-Speed Rail program, 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak (for projects in the Northeast Corridor) submitted just under $10 billion in funding requests for the $2.4 billion available.

States submitting applications were:

California, Michigan, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Minnesota, South Carolina, the District of Columbia, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Utah, Illinois, New Mexico, Vermont Kansas, Nevada, Washington, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, Maryland, Oregon, Maine, and Pennsylvania.

“The application period for the $2.4 billion of high-speed rail money closed on April 4, stated the US DOT.” Now, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will begin its official review of the applications.  A merit-driven process will be used to award the newly available high-speed rail dollars to projects that can deliver public and economic benefits quickly. A project’s ability to reduce energy consumption, improve the efficiency of a region’s overall transportation network, and generate sustained economic activity along the corridor are among the selection criteria.  At this time, a date for the announcement of project selections has not been determined.”

President Barack Obama’s vision is to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail within the next 25 years.  To put America on track towards that goal, the Obama Administration has proposed a six-year, $53 billion plan that will provide rail access to new communities; improve the reliability, speed and frequency of existing lines; and, where it makes economic sense, build new corridors where trains will travel at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

The Obama Administration’s investments in high-speed rail are also projected to create hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs in the United States. Jobs will be created both directly in manufacturing, construction and operation of rail lines, and indirectly, as the result of economic developments along rail corridors.

A “Buy America” requirement for high-speed rail projects also ensures that U.S. manufacturers and workers will receive the maximum economic benefits from this federal investment. And, in 2009, Secretary LaHood secured a commitment from 30 foreign and domestic rail manufacturers to employ American workers and locate or expand their base of operations in the U.S. if they are selected for high-speed-rail contracts.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Progressives In Wisconsin Stop
Anti-Rail Governor’s Supreme Court Nominee;
Focus Now On Coming Recall Elections

From Internet Sources

MADISON --- Progressives in Wisconsin, fighting Governor Scott Walker for the right to collective bargaining by state employees, have won an important victory in the first round of skirmishes in that state, by defeating his choice for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the “swing” vote on the court that will soon hear challenges to Wisconsin’s new anti-union laws.

Walker, a Tea Party Republican, was one of a handful of governors, all self-identified Tea Party Republicans elected in November of 2010, who decided to reject already-approved Federally-funded rail projects for their own states, despite high unemployment in those states.

The progressive forces working against Walker have vowed to remove from office Tea Party Republicans who have pushed anti-labor-union laws through the state legislature, in a state traditionally liberal in its politics. So far, sixteen senators are facing recall elections, according to the Statehouse News. Democrats only need to take back three of those seats to gain majority control of the Senate.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

Our Amtrak Experience

By Blossom Hoag

Here Is The Saga Of Ethan’s And My Trip From Ft. Lauderdale.

No, we did not splurge on a sleeper at over $500 more or the Acela.

My husband and I traveled on Train #92 from Ft. Lauderdale to Wash, DC on April 1-2.  In DC we then boarded train #66 at 10 PM for the overnight to Boston.  There could not have been more of a difference between the two trains.  The first train was lovely with leg and foot rests and conductors who were courteous and caring--turning the side lights off from 11 PM to 7 AM or thereabouts so that all of us could get better sleep.  It was an exemplary trip.  The second train, #66 had NO foot or leg rests, much less space between the seats and when I asked if the lights could be shut off was told absolutely not.

Oh, the first train was filled almost to capacity with several families.  The second train was nearly empty!  We were also given an assigned seat on # 92 and then were told that the reserved seat on #66 ONLY guaranteed us a seat.

The food on # 92 was reasonably priced.  We did not eat on #66.

Does this mean that the Northeast Corridor gets second class service compared to other parts of the system unless we want to pay the hefty price of a sleeper compartment or Acela?  What makes the disparity?

Blossom & Ethan Hoag live in Hingham, Massachusetts

[ Publisher’s note: The Amtrak experience can be very uneven; the overnight trains in all cases should offer dim-able night-lighting, but unless you know to ask for the Business Class section on 66/67, which is separate from the regular coaches and in which -- in my experience -- the lights are indeed turned down, and which has more comfortable seats, it is a pretty rough night. That train should have a sleeper, of course, and perhaps Amtrak will bring that option back when it gets some of the new equipment it has ordered. But the fundamental problem was and continues to be the total absence of any kind of predictable funding. Until there is a dedicated source of funding for Amtrak, this uneven service will continue. ]


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)73.8875.81
Canadian Pacific (CP) 63.1364.66
CSX (CSX)76.9279.39
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)56.7957.94
Kansas City Southern (KSU)52.0154.47
Norfolk Southern (NSC)67.6969.32
Providence & Worcester(PWX)16.5016.86
Union Pacific (UNP)95.6698.27


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Improved Rail Service In Missouri’s
Interest, Governor Nixon Determines;
Major Projects Moving Forward

From The Midwest High Speed Rail Association

Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri announced this week that Missouri will submit two groups of applications for federal high-speed and intercity passenger rail funds.

The first group, totaling $373 million, is to modernize the existing St. Louis to Kansas City Amtrak service.  The state will also apply for $600 million to begin designing and buying land for a dedicated high-speed passenger line between St. Louis and Kansas City. We are excited that Governor Nixon is taking this dual approach of short-term improvements and long term planning for high-speed rail.

Farther north in Wisconsin, Governor Walker will apply for $150 million in federal funds to improve the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago. The money would pay for two train sets, replacing the train shed at the Milwaukee station and building a maintenance facility in Milwaukee. 

While Governor Walker and Governor Nixon are now pursuing funding, Governor Branstad of Iowa still has not decided whether to accept federal funds awarded to the state for Amtrak service from Chicago to Iowa City. Last October, Iowa and Illinois received $230 million for a Chicago - Quad Cities - Iowa City line with service beginning in 2015.  Iowa residents can click here to ask Governor Branstad to accept the funding: http://www.midwesthsr.org/projects-iowa-nebraska

[Join Midwest High Speed Rail at: at MidwestHSR.org]


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Chinese High-Speed Rail
Side-Tracks Jumbo Jet Orders

Airbus And Boeing Face A New Competitor In The Massive Chinese Transport Market

First Delivery Of An A380 To China Southern Airlines Underscores The Impact Of New HSR In China

Via Aviation News Daily with technical data from Airbus and Siemens Mobility

Beijing – When Airbus committed to build a huge 4-engined double-deck jetliner back in 2000, extensive marketing studies indicated that the demand for a new 500 – 800 seat jumbo jet would come largely from Asia, and especially from China. Airbus’s arch rival Boeing came to somewhat similar conclusions, Asia would be a large market for its wide-body aircraft, especially the relatively new 400-seat B777-300 and B777-300ER as well as newly planned stretched version of its B747 flagship with 460 to 600 seats. Both companies forecasted that several hundred or more jumbo jets would be needed to shuttle many thousands of people per day between numerous mega cities in China including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, Hong Kong, Xiamen and numerous other large cities in China. Eleven years later in 2011 only one Chinese airline has bought the Airbus A380 model, namely China Southern which this month just accepted the first A380 of an order for five placed several years earlier, and no Chinese airlines have signed so far for Boeing’s new B747-8, although Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific will buy several new B747-8 aircraft in freighter-only configuration.

Obviously something changed since the two aircraft manufacturers developed rather rosy forecasts of how many jumbo jets they would sell to the rapidly growing Chinese market: high-speed trains. China remains an important market for both Airbus and Boeing, with several billion dollars of annual sales volume for both aircraft manufacturers, but primarily with mid-sized A330s with about 300 seats, plus large numbers of Boeing B737s and Airbus A320 series narrow-body jetliners which seat under 200 people per aircraft. But sales of the A380 and the Boeing B747-8 and B777-300 to China have not met earlier expectations of the two passenger plane manufacturers.

Back in 2000 China’s plans to build a huge high-speed rail network were essentially unknown outside of China. The country’s classic passenger rail system was used primarily by lower-income workers, and travels times between many city-pairs could be measured in days, not hours, due to winding and tortuous rail routes through the Chinese landscape around huge rivers and bays, over and around countless hills and mountains and various other natural barriers.

However by the early part of the 00s decade the railway ministry within the Chinese government had gained similar political power and leverage as the aviation sector already had in the central government. The resulting mutli-billion dollar annual budgets to create the world’s largest high-speed rail network, is now widely known fact. China now has over 10,000 km (6300 miles) of high-speed track in service, compared to 0 km in 2001, and plans to add several thousand more kilometers of high-speed rail track on both existing and all new rail routes in the coming several years.

In addition to dramatically expanding the rail infrastructure, China has also aggressively purchased high-speed trains, both from domestic manufacturers (often designed and built with cooperation from train builders from Japan, France, Italy, South Korea and Germany) as well as from abroad, most notably Shinkansen (bullet) trains from Japan’s Kawasaki and Hitachi and Velaro high-speed EMU trains from Germany’s Siemens.

The rapidly expanding HSR network in China has now linked a number of the largest cities together with rail lines capable of 200 to 330 km/h speeds, which in many cases has reduced travel times on a number of city-pairs to airline-like levels. Some air corridors, such as the important Beijing – Shanghai air route now face serious competition from trains and therefore plans to introduced large aircraft and more flights have been scaled way back.

Aside from the political decision made in China well over a decade ago to invest hundreds of billions of dollars to create a nationwide high-speed rail network, another reason that China may be tending to favor high-speed trains over super-wide-body jets such as the A380 and B747-8 on medium to long distance domestic service is cost: a 16 car-long 300 km/h capable modern high-speed train set has a purchase price of approximately US $80 million and sits about 1050 people in two-class configuration. An Airbus A380 has a price tag of about US $360 million (almost 4x the price of two Siemens Velaro D train-sets) and with 650 seats in two-class configuration, has just two-thirds of the passenger capacity of a typical 16-car long high-speed train.

Although the A380 is perhaps the most fuel-efficient large airliner in the sky today on a per-seat/km or seat/mile basis, figures from Airbus and Siemens show that at A380 burns nearly six times as much energy per seat/km as a modern high-speed train such as the Velaro.


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Closer To Home . . .

 

Hannover’s ÜSTRA Orders 50
Silver-Arrow II Light Rail Vehicles

Contract Awarded To Alstom / Vossloh JV Consortium Amid Much Controversy And Dilemma About The Future Of Route 10 / Green Line

Via D:F Staff and Hannover Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper

Hannover – near to the home of NCI’s foreign editor David Beale, Hannover-based local bus and light rail transit company ÜSTRA placed a firm order for 50 train-sets of the still-in-development TW3000 model light rail vehicle from a partnership formed between Alstom in Salzgitter, Germany and Vossloh Kiepe in Düsseldorf in a contract valued a EUR 126 million (US $172 million), not counting the additional 96 train-sets placed on option by ÜSTRA. The State of Lower Saxony, of which Hannover is state capitol, will finance half of the cost via LNVG, a state agency that finances and leases passenger rolling stock for various local transit companies with operations in Lower Saxony. Starting in late 2013 the new rail vehicles will join the existing Alstom / Siemens TW2000 / TW2500 fleet of 144 train-sets delivered 10 – 13 years ago, which are also known also as Silver-Arrow I.

The new Silver-Arrow II trains will primarily replace a fleet of nearly 40 year-old TW6000 “Green Hornet” light rail vehicles built by Alstom-Salzgitter predecessor LHB and by Düwag, which later was absorbed by Siemens. All of the light rail vehicles in the Hannover region, including the new TW3000 trains coming in 2013 are high-floor configuration. The TW6000s and the TW2000 / TW2500 series have doors equipped with “trap-door” folding stairs so that passengers can climb onto and out of the trains from curb-level tram stops, of which are still a few in existence in some parts of Hannover and several inner suburbs such as Langenhagen and Laatzen. The new TW3000 Silver-Arrow II trains will not have this feature, therefore they will not be able to run on lines which will not have been rebuilt with high-level platforms by 2013. ÜSTRA has converted most street or curb-level tram stops on the Red Line (Routes 1, 2 and 8), Blue Line (Routes 3, 7 and 9) and Yellow Line (Routes 4, 5, 6 and 11) to high-level platforms, and the remaining stops are planned for retrofit in the next 2 to 3 years. The Red, Blue and Yellow lines all run in underground tunnels in the central city area of Hannover, with all of the underground stations equipped with high-level platforms from the start when the underground light rail network was originally built in the early 1970s to early 1980s.

Artist conception of the new TW3000 Silver-Arrow II trains

Image: ÜSTRA

Less Green / More Silver – artist conception of the new TW3000 Silver-Arrow II trains ordered by ÜSTRA of Hannover. ÜSTRA’s famously green-colored TW6000 trains will finally be retired as the TW3000 trains start to arrive in late 2013.

At this point the single light rail line most likely to not have high-level platforms by 2013 is the popular and heavily utilized Route 10 (Green Line), which runs on a surface level-only route from Aegidientorplatz at the eastern end of the central business district, through Ernst-August Plaza in front of the central train station, then through the Steintor shopping and restaurant/cafe and nightlife district and westwards towards the Linden and Ahlem sections of Hannover. Due to existing city street width and use of some of the tram stops on Route 10 / Green Line by low-floor buses, several stops on the Green Line most likely can not be retrofitted with high level platforms, especially the stations Hauptbahnhof / Ernst-August Platz, Steintor, Clevertor and Thielenplatz, among several others. The interim solution will to use TW2000 or TW2500 trains on the Green Line when the last of the TW6000 vehicles are taken out of service.

The light rail vehicle order placed by ÜSTRA is one of the largest in Germany in the past several years in terms of gross sales, and has resulted in a bitter and hard-fought competition from a number of train builders. The original tender or RFP was ruled invalid by a court after several bidders filed law suits against the form and methods of the original tender, thus setting back the process by over a year. The court ruled that the original RFP process was not sufficiently transparent. A number of neighborhood groups and advocacy organizations, fearful that the Green Line / Route 10 may be seriously disadvantaged by a large order of high-floor-only trains, also filed complaints over the process and lobbied to get ÜSTRA to also acquire new low-floor trams for the Green Line, after city law makers and state transportation officials decided that a new underground alignment for Route 10 would be too expensive to build with respect to the benefits an underground alignment of the Green Line might bring.

The new TW3000 light rail trains will be equipped with various additional safety and security features such as dynamic video surveillance, rear-view cameras and video monitors for the driver rather than rear view mirrors as in the existing rail vehicles, improved ventilation of the interior to keep temperatures to the same as outdoors or even lower during the summer, and design features to the underbody of the vehicle to decrease the chance of pedestrians becoming trapped or pinned under the train in the event of a vehicle-pedestrian collision.


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EVENTS... Events & Conferences...  

                     

 

We CAN Connect New England by Rail !

A One Day Event Sponsored by
Rail Users Network  •  National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club  •  New England Rail Coalition

Friday, April 29, 2011  •  8:30 a.m. 4:45 p.m.
At the New Haven Public Library  •  133 Elm Street, New Haven, CT
Registration:  $45 up to April 20  •   $55 after April 20   •  $65 at the door
Includes continental breakfast, lunch, afternoon break
Free shuttle from Union Station  •  (Optional tours Saturday, April 30)

Keynote Speaker Art Guzzetti from APTA.  Other speakers from New England states and more.

Topics will focus on what is happening now and what are the opportunities to connect the New England states with Eastern Canada to the north and the mid-Atlantic - New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania - and points south.

For Additional Information and Registration - Click Here


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National Train Day
Saturday, May 7

From Internet Press Releases

National Train Day is a holiday started by Amtrak in 2008 as a way to spread information to the general public about the advantages of rail travel and the history of trains in the United States. It is held each year on the Saturday closest to May 10th, the anniversary of the pounding of the Golden Spike in Promontory, Utah, which marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Events are held at Amtrak stations as well as railroad museums across the country and often have passenger cars and model railroad layouts on display. The largest events usually take place in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

For National Train Day 2011, go to www.nationaltrainday.com


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International Transport Forum

Paris, 4 April 2011
Transport For Society: Debating Mobility For The 21st Century
Global Summit of Transport Ministers to Meet in Leipzig, Germany, from 25-27 May

Transport Ministers from the 52 member countries of the International Transport Forum at the OECD and beyond will gather for their 2011 summit from 25-27 May in Leipzig, Germany.

A unique platform for a global conversation on the future of mobility, the International Transport Forum at the OECD every year brings together ministers and senior policy-makers with top representatives from industry, research and civil society to debate a topic of major strategic importance for the future of transport.

The theme of the 2011 summit is “Transport for Society”. Putting people first in transport will be the focus of the ministerial session as well as panel discussions and side events: How can the changing mobility needs and expectations of individuals and of society be met?

Media representatives are welcome to cover the 2011 summit. All sections of the program are public, with the exception of the ministerial session, which will be followed by a press conference. The conference language is English; simultaneous translation will be provided in French, German and Russian. A fully equipped media centre will be available.

For accreditation to the International Transport Forum 2011 register at: http://mediatlasei.prnewswire.com/Url.aspx?530745x24218x-241550

For the program and information on speakers, visit the 2011 summit website at http://mediatlasei.prnewswire.com/Url.aspx?530745x24217x-217389

Contact:
Michael Kloth
Head of Communications
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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Busway Decision Drives Spike In
Connecticut’s Rail Opportunities

By Richard Stowe

APRIL 5 – At a press conference on April 4, Governor Malloy announced to the public that he has “decided to aggressively pursue construction of the busway” even though “it may not be the perfect project.”  

Richard Stowe, founder and director of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling (RailTEC), said that “giving the busway a green light is a giant step backward for Connecticut.  The busway drives a knife through what should be a state transportation goal of building a seamless rail system throughout Connecticut. It destroys the possibility for New Haven-New Britain-Hartford commuter rail.”  Mr. Stowe believes that Connecticut should laser focus its effort to optimize & modernize the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Corridor and initiate a plan to rapidly establish commuter rail service between the Naugatuck Valley, Waterbury, Bristol, New Britain and Hartford on the shortest, most direct route.  

Mr. Stowe said, “Governor Malloy should have displayed the fortitude to kill the busway in the same way that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did when he canceled the “Tunnel to Macy’s Basement” (the Hudson River ARC Tunnel).  Mr. Stowe laments, “By prioritizing busway funding, Governor Malloy jumpstarts the busway before New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail project even gets off the ground.”

Governor Malloy cited his past experience “with the New Starts program with connection to the Stamford Urban Transitway.”  While serving as Mayor of Stamford, he secured $61 million dollars from the Federal Transit Administration for a one-mile segment of Stamford Urban Transitway, a corridor, which even today has no Connecticut Transit bus service.

The governor stated that he is unwilling to forego canceling $275 million in Federal Transit Administration funds. According to Federal Transit Administration Administrator Peter Rogoff, Connecticut will contribute nearly $230 million toward the busway - nearly half through State money and the other half through Connecticut’s share of Federal Highway Administration funds.  Mr. Rogoff stated that the FTA is contributing a total of $343 million.  

Extrapolating per mile cost of Federal Railroad Administration-approved improvements to 49 miles of Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley railroad track onto a 9.4-mile bus corridor, the cost of track from New Britain to Hartford would be about $15 million.

A New Haven-Hartford-Springfield New Britain (rail) Corridor would enable trains to stop at Central Connecticut State University and in downtown New Britain.  The New Britain Corridor could not only handle local Central Connecticut station stops at Elmwood in West Hartford, Newington Junction and Berlin, but also allow for sitting a highly desirable Amtrak Station in downtown New Britain.  

Locating local Central Connecticut station stops on the New Britain Corridor would allow for high-speed express service on the existing New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Amtrak Corridor between Hartford and Meriden. 

On March 21st Governor Malloy listened to the two camps, but his detailed April 4th letter to Representative Nicastro and O’Brien reveals he doesn’t yet acknowledge that by choosing the busway we forever lose the opportunity to have New Haven-New Britain-Hartford commuter rail.

For more information contact Richard Stowe at (203) 966-4387
Email:
bike.rail.politics@gmail.com
Website: www.railtec.org


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

It’s The Not Just LTO Cycle, Stupid

With apologies to George Stephanopoulos, who coined the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” during the 1992 presidential campaign, and which has become ubiquitous in public discourse, we would like to point out that the reason a hole ripped open in a Southwest Airlines 737 last week is the very same reason one ripped open in 2009 on a different Southwest 737, and the on an ill-fated Aloha 737 flight in 1988 where a huge sheet of the front fuselage pulled away in flight, killing a cabin attendant: metal fatigue caused by too many landing and take-off (LTO) cycles in too short a span of time between inspections.

As reported in the New York Times last week, the Federal Aviation Administration is requiring “…extensive inspections of some older-model Boeing 737s for cracks in the planes’ fragile skin that can be caused by pressurization and depressurization of the cabin over tens of thousands of takeoffs and landings.”

The plane in question was an older 737-300, which had undergone some 39,000 LTO’s in its service lifetime when the failure occurred; to its credit, a Boeing Corporation spokesman expressed surprise and dismay at this, because the plane is designed by Boeing to endure at least 60,000 LTO’s in its normal lifetime, and is fully cooperating with the FAA and Southwest.

But the FAA will be focusing not simply on the number of LTO’s endured, but by the frequency of those LTO’s as well; while Southwest, reports The Times, “insisted that it had done all the required inspections of its aircraft… the latest problem focused attention on how the carrier uses its planes on up to 12 flight segments a day. Other airlines, which often fly longer routes, typically have six to eight segments for their planes.”

In our view, this incident, combined with the continuing sharp rise in the price of petroleum products, including jet fuel, is yet another nail in the coffin of short-leg airline flights. Southwest made its bones by flying short-hop segments in Texas, starting in 1971, founded by the brilliant, eccentric airline visionary Herb Kelleher, now retired. Short hops however require far more LTO’s to make good economic use of an aircraft, even a relatively small (118 seat) aircraft such as the 737, and even when an airline standardizes, as Southwest always has, on one airplane model, again the 737.

There is no doubt that Southwest Airlines is and remains safe; it has been one of the best-run airlines in the world for four decades, and its employees are still very much in the Herb Kelleher mold: highly trained, great with customers, and efficient beyond belief.

But the beating that planes take enduring even one LTO is severe, with radical changes in skin temperature, cabin pressure, and speed all taking place within a short period of times, and while the planes are robust, the fact remains that the short-hop business model for airlines is on the way out the door because of soaring fuel costs: an aircraft uses up a big percentage of its fuel --- and therefore its operating costs --- in taking off and climbing up to 35,000 feet, and then descending from 7 miles up and 500 miles per hour to a dead stop at the destination airport; cruising long distances is, relatively, far more fuel-efficient.

That is one of the reasons why President Barack Obama has been pushing high speed rail for America, so that we can join the rest of the [modern] world in employing a sensible, environmentally less destructive transportation system; cities 100-500 miles apart should be 1-3 hours apart, at most, by rail, a world in which rail will beat air travel every time on terms of cost, convenience, and comfort.

It is time for Southwest and other short-hop carriers to begin looking at other business models, and partnering up with rail lines, including Amtrak, to serve the 21st century. Perhaps then America can finally build back its rail system, and join this still-new century. There is still time.


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