The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

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

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick
 

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July 25, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 29

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

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

  News Items…
Chinese High-Speed Trains Collide and De-Rail
Congress Adjourns Without Finishing FAA Authorization;
   4,000 May Be Furloughed
New York MTA CEO Jay Walder Resigns To Lead
   Hong Kong’s MTR
  Energy Lines…
MBTA Engine Terminal May Get Solar Boost
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commuter Lines…
New Mexico Local Rail Line May End Weekend Service
Federal Funds Released For Sunrail Commuter Train
 
  High-Speed Lines…
Report Examines Whether High-Speed Rail Should Be
   Public, Private ---- Or Both
  Across The Pond…
Stuttgart 21 Passes Stress Test
Huge Public Protest Over UK Train Purchase Decision
Mayor Of Wolfsburg: “We Don’t Get Any Respect”
  Commentary…
The Poughkeepsie Bridge And Rail Prosperity
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...  

Chinese High-Speed Trains Collide and De-Rail

At Least 35 Dead and 190 Injured In First Chinese HSR Accident

Via Xinhua News Agency - Editor: Mu Xuequan

WENZHOU, CHINA --- At least 35 people were confirmed dead with six injured passengers were reported dead in hospital after two coaches of a bullet train fell off a bridge in east China’s Zhejiang Province late Saturday, local police, firefighters and hospital sources said. More than 160 people had been sent to hospital, rescuers said.

The train numbered D3115, running from the provincial capital Hangzhou to the southeastern city of Fuzhou, derailed at the section of Shuangyu Town in Wenzhou City of Zhejiang.

The accident occurred after the train was hit by lightning and apparently lost power, and then was rear-ended by another bullet train, the official microblog of Hangzhou TV “News 60 minutes” program quoted a local railway official as saying.

The Ministry of Railways confirmed at 11:20 p.m. Saturday that the D301 train from Beijing to Fuzhou rear-ended the D3115 train at 8:50 p.m. The first four coaches of D301 and the 15th and 16th coaches of D3115 went off the rails and fell down the side of bridge to the streets below.

A witness said a coach of D3115 plunged onto the ground vertically while another coach was hanging on the bridge with one side seriously deformed. The bridge is about 20 to 30 meters above the ground.

Witnesses said the scene was crowded by people, which complicated the rescue work. Passengers themselves joined in the rescue work. Photos from the scene showed that people were trying to take injured passengers out of a coach.

A female passenger at the hospital said lightning was very heavy, and the train just stopped there for a long time. “When the train moved again, all lights were off all of sudden, and I seemed to be shocked by electricity before hearing a huge bang.”

Gu Xianwei, a native from Guizhou Province, said he was driving by when the accident occurred.

“Hearing a huge bang, I saw two trains crashed, and then one coach fell down,” Gu said. Gu rushed to the scene later and rescued many people out of the coaches with other rescuers.

Liu Hongtao, a host with Voice of Strait, a radio in Fuzhou, was on board the 4th coach of D301 when the collision occurred. “The train suddenly shook violently, casting luggage all around,” he said while being interviewed by China Central Television (CCTV) at 11 p.m. “Passengers cried for help but no crew responded.”

A passenger failed to smash the window with a fire extinguisher but managed to open a crack. Other passengers rushed to crawl out of the train through the crack, he added.

“One coach perched like a chimney and another was broken in half,” Chen Yujie, a host with Zhejiang traffic radio, who was at the scene, described the accident to CCTV.

Both Liu and Chen said they constantly saw lightning.

Zhejiang provincial department of health organized four medical teams heading to the scene, consisted of medical staff from Zhejiang No.1 Hospital, Zhejiang No.2 Hospital, Zhejiang Provincial People’s Hospital and Taizhou Hospital.

Right after the accident, Minister of Railways Sheng Guangzu rushed to the ministry’s control and command center in Beijing to guide the rescue. The latest news was that Sheng was heading for the accident scene.

Sheng also called for immediate and greatest efforts from the rescue teams to save the injured passengers, and he required an in-depth investigation in the accident.

Hu Yadong and Lu Chunfang, deputy ministers of railways, were also hurriedly going to the scene for rescue work.

The trains involved are “D” trains – first-generation bullet trains with a typical speed of 150 km/h (95 mph) and not as fast as trains on the new Beijing-Shanghai line. China has spent billions of dollars and plans more massive spending to link the country with a high-speed rail network. Power outages and other malfunctions have plagued the showcase high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai since it opened June 30.


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First Inning Of The Tea Party Depression?

 

Congress Adjourns Without Finishing FAA Authorization;
4,000 May Be Furloughed

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- In what may be the first real impact of Congress’ inability to get out of political gridlock, FAA projects are facing shut-down, and as many as 4,000 FAA employees may have to be furloughed, because Congress adjourned July 22 without completing work on the agency’s reauthorization bill.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt expressed disappointment Friday after Congress adjourned for the week “…without passing a clean FAA reauthorization extension. Because of Congress’ inaction, many states will have to bear a significant economic burden and many airport projects will be halted.”

“I’m very disappointed that Congress adjourned today without passing a clean extension of the FAA bill,” said Secretary LaHood. “Because of their inaction, states and airports won’t be able to work on their construction projects, and too many people will have to go without a paycheck. This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”

The House passed a temporary re-authorization bill last week, but added a provision not in the existing Senate version of the bill that eliminated subsidies for rural airport service. The Senate version continues the subsidies, without which a number of smaller U.S. cities might lose air service altogether.

The current FAA reauthorization expired at midnight tonight, Friday, July 22, 2011.

“Congress has extended the FAA’s authorization 20 separate times without controversy. Without an extension, the FAA will be forced to furlough nearly 4,000 employees and will be unable to move forward on important airport construction projects and other critical airport activities.

While this lapse in FAA’s authorization affects thousands of public and private sector jobs, it is important to note that the safety of the flying public will not be compromised,” the DOT stated.

Democratic Congressional leaders blasted the GOP for the snafu, which has already brought major construction projects to a halt.

The failure to pass a routine extension of FAA funding differs from the Washington gridlock over the raising of the national debt ceiling, but only in degree; it has its roots in the same place, a determination by the Tea Party wing that has come to dominate the Republican-controlled House that unless its positions are adopted, portions of the government will be closed.

“The FAA employees who will be furloughed perform critical work for our nation’s aviation system and our economy,” said FAA Administrator Babbitt. “These are real people with families who do not deserve to be put out of work during these tough economic times.”

The Airport Improvement Program has already stopped processing new airport grants in anticipation of a furlough. The program, which provides construction project grants to airports, will be shut down and unable to provide roughly $2.5 billion for airport projects in all 50 states that could put thousands of people to work in good paying jobs. For example:

Additionally, the FAA will be forced to withhold money for states and individual airports as a result of the lapse in authorization. For example, Florida airports will not have access to over $40 million in funding and the state of California cannot use nearly $38 million. The FAA also cannot give the state of Ohio over $10 million in airport grant money or the state of Virginia over $16 million for which they are eligible.

Up to 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will be furloughed and forced to go without pay. Large numbers of employees in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia will be affected. This includes many of FAA’s engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists, and community planners.


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New York MTA CEO Jay Walder
Resigns To Lead Hong Kong’s MTR

By Df Staff

NEW YORK CITY---The head of the nation’s largest transit system, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and also one of its oldest and most troubled, Jay Walder, is leaving New York for China, where he will head up the company that has built, and operates, one of the world’s most modern systems.

MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is the international rail operating company based originally in Hong Kong that was created to design, build, and operate the Hong Kong – Kowloon subway system, beginning in 1979.

It has since expanded to operate intercity high-speed service in Mainland China, and in Australia.

On its website (http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/train/intro_index.html), MTR gives the following description of itself:

“The MTR has been providing a safe, reliable and efficient way to get around Hong Kong since 1979. In December 2007, the operations of MTR and Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation has been merged to form one of the most efficient and far-reaching railway networks in Asia. The newly expanded system extends all the way from the heart of Central and Causeway Bay to the New Territories and Lantau Island. Its 174.7km of track covers 82 stations on the Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island, Tung Chung, Tseung Kwan O, East Rail, West Rail, Ma On Shan and Disneyland Resort lines. The MTR now also operates a 35.2km Airport Express and 36.2km Light Rail networks which can take you to Hong Kong Airport and 68 stops in the North West New Territories. It also provides speedy through train services to major cities across Mainland China. Helping average 3.7 million people reach their destination every weekday, the MTR is regarded as one of the world’s leading railways for safety, reliability, customer service and cost efficiency.”

MTR is indeed seen by industry observers as a world-class transportation company, whose innovative use of Transit Oriented Development (station district real estate development) and Value Capture from those assets --- neither of which term existed when MTR first started practicing those principles --- has been the key in Hong Kong Subway’s ability to operate at a profit, unlike the vast majority of the world’s transportation systems of any kind.

“What MTR has done is essentially to re-invent and perfect the “land grant” which was also used in America to build the Transcontinental Railroad in the 19th century, but whose success was destroyed by completely unregulated “Robber Barons” who essentially gamed that Land Grant system for their own private benefit. “The Transcontinental Railroad – and America --- got built, but at a great cost, and with billions of dollars of mistakes that a more publicly-spirited effort, such as MTR brought to Hong Kong, has avoided,” stated NCI Chairman James P. RePass in noting Walder’s departure to China.

“I would be very surprised if MTR were not, by hiring an American with great transportation experience, positioning itself to jump into the turbulent but potentially huge American rail transportation marketplace.”

In announcing Walder’s departure, which is effective in October, the MTA said:

“Jay H. Walder today informed Governor Cuomo of his intention to resign his position as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority effective as of the close of business on October 21st, 2011. Mr. Walder will be joining the MTR Corporation in Hong Kong as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors. The MTR is a publicly-traded company that operates rail services in Asia and Europe, and is involved in a wide range of business activities, including consulting and property development.”

The MTA also said, “Walder joined the MTA in October 2009, and in less than two years led an unprecedented overhaul of how the MTA operates, bringing fiscal stability and advancing a series of projects that are improving the daily experience of the MTA’s 8.5 million riders.”

Mr. Walder assumes his position as Chief Executive Officer of MTR on January 1st, 2012. He will become both a Member of the Executive Directorate and a Member of the Board of Directors. To ensure a smooth transition, Mr. Walder will be appointed as CEO Designate on November 1st, 2011.

“This is an exciting opportunity for me to lead a publicly-traded, multi-national corporation with a broad set of business activities,” Walder said. “The MTR Corp. is widely recognized for its world-leading rail systems and the innovative property developments that are built around stations.”

He MTA noted added:

“The MTR operates commuter rail in Hong Kong and intercity rail services from Hong Kong to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong in China. The MTR is also building new rail lines in Hong Kong and China. In addition, the MTR operates rail systems in London, Stockholm and Melbourne and provides rail consultancy services in Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe. Beyond its transportation services, the MTR is involved in a wide range of business activities, including a successful property development business that creates fully integrated commercial and residential communities around stations. It has completed developments at 27 rail stations with nearly 75,000 housing units constructed and operates more than 18 million square feet of commercial space. MTR shares have been traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since October 2000. The corporation announced total revenue of $3.8 billion in 2010 with $1.1 billion of underlying profit.”


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ENERGY LINES... Energy Lines...  

MBTA Engine Terminal
May Get Solar Boost

By DF Staff And From An Article By
Justin A. Rice, Boston Globe (
www.Boston.Com)

SOMERVILLE, MA --- The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) facility known as the Boston Engine Terminal (BET) has a nearly-8-acre rooftop that could be used to mount solar panels. The massive commuter rail maintenance facility located just north of Boston’s North Station, may well become an energy generator for the MBTA.

A solar power company has approached the “T” about installing solar panels on the Boston Engine Terminal’s roof. Transit officials are not only considering installing solar photovoltaic arrays on the Boston Engine Terminal — known as the BET — but also at the Readville Repair Facility on the Boston-Dedham border and at Billerica’s Iron Horse Park.

Currently, there are no solar panels in the MBTA system, and Stuart Spina of the T Riders Union is thrilled by the idea of making a building such as the BET “less dirty.”

“There’s thousands of square feet on these buildings with megawatts ripe for the taking,” he said.

The largest electricity consumer in Massachusetts, the MBTA is currently studying the feasibility of installing solar power at the three facilities as part of a larger energy conservation program.

“The GM [Richard A. Davey] has pushed a lot on the renewable energy piece as well as anything associated with budget efficiencies and budget savings,” said Andrew Brennan, the T’s director of environmental affairs. “His big push has been on a lot of the renewable energy components, solar components particularly, and wind turbines.”

Boston Engine Terminal

Photo: MBTA

Looking south toward Boston, The Boston Engine Terminal (BET) sits in the rail yard at the junction of the Lowell/Haverhill/Rockport (Left) and Fitchburg (Right) branches which extend north and west away from Boston. This image, taken some years back shows much vacant acreage around the BET which served as a construction staging area for Boston’s Big Dig and the Bunker Hill-Zakim suspension bridge which was yet to be built. Land to the right of the image will eventually serve as a new location for the MBTA’s Green line “Lechmere” station when that transit line is extended north into Somerville and Medford in coming years.

Because the MBTA will officially begin the process of contracting third-party solar installation firms by putting out a request for proposals around Labor Day, Brennan declined to identify the company that originally approached the T.

“We gave [the company] a little bit more information on it because we had looked at building our own solar panels on [the BET] but we weren’t able to get grants for it,” said Brennan, who added that it is too early to determine how much solar energy the roof could produce. “It got us thinking there might be an economic model out here that’s worth pursuing.”

The T is considering a variety of business models for this project, including leasing the space for solar panels for about 25 years at a time. It also could engage in a land lease while simultaneously purchasing the solar power to run the facility that houses the panels.

The T, which is currently re-bidding its energy contract in hopes of saving $4.7 million on electricity in fiscal year 2012, would only buy the solar energy if the installation firm can compete with the wholesale rate.

“We’re going to let the developers propose that to us,” Brennan said. “They might have a client they want to sell the energy to and need the space to build it or we could buy the electricity for our operations.”

Brian Kane of the MBTA Advisory Board — which provides public oversight of MBTA expenditures — said the proposal looks flawless other than the fact that the savings probably won’t put a dent in the T’s budget deficit.

“There’s no downside I can see as long as they can get the numbers to work,” Kane said. “I would hope the energy would be used in-house rather than sold back to the grid. That would make more sense.”

Brennan said the T could pick an installation firm as early as this winter and start generating solar power by the spring. “With solar, it survives on the margins economically,” he said. “It could be the right site for a lot of reasons but the construction might be difficult and that would kill the economics of it. We’ll put it out there and see what the market says.”

Officials from the City of Somerville in which the BET facility lies welcomed the idea to the city, which last week was named a “Green Community” by the state as a clean energy leader now eligible for renewable power and energy efficiency grants.

“We wholeheartedly embrace any and all efforts to incorporate solar or wind energy in any development within our borders, as demonstrated by existing solar arrays on several of our public school buildings,” Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone said in a statement. “Our current focus is on expanding and improving green development, and I applaud the MBTA for this decision.”

Curtatone is also a long-time proponent of the extension of the Green Line transit service through his city and beyond into adjacent Medford.

Somerville Board of Aldermen president Rebekah L. Gewirtz said putting solar panels on the BET is long overdue.

“Any steps we can take to increase energy efficiency is going to be better for us in the long run economically and environmentally,” she said.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)79.0177.91
Canadian Pacific (CP) 62.2561.89
CSX (CSX)25.3825.32
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)59.1658.50
Kansas City Southern (KSU)61.7457.07
Norfolk Southern (NSC)76.2173.91
Providence & Worcester(PWX)13.8514.25
Union Pacific (UNP)103.80100.74


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COMMUTERLINES... Commuter Lines...  

New Mexico Local Rail Line
May End Weekend Service

By David Peter Alan

A number of commuter rail lines have opened for service during the past twenty years or so, mostly in the West. Local rail now serves Seattle, Dallas-Fort Worth, Salt Lake city, Albuquerque and other places. The New Mexico Rail Runner Express, running from Albuquerque north to Santa Fe and south to Belen, had been one of the most successful.

But if an action taken by the line’s governing authority, the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) is upheld, the line will lose its week-end service by the end of next month.

Many of the line’s riders are commuters going to Albuquerque or Santa Fe, or from one to the other. Weekday service comprises a small number of commuter trains to each city, plus one mid-day round trip. Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, and Santa Fe is the state capital.

In addition, the railroad operates four round trips over the entire line and an additional round trip between Belen and Albuquerque on Saturdays. Another Saturday trip was cut last year. There are two round trips on the entire line on Sundays, as well. On June 17th, MRCOG voted to eliminate all week-end service by the end of August.

According to the railroad’s web site, www.nmrailrunner.com, the Rio Metro Regional District Board decided to eliminate week-end service to close a $1.2 million budget shortfall. The Board statement on the web site said: “This was originally envisioned as a commuter service, and that’s the piece we want to maintain without affecting our core weekday service. While we recognize the week-end service from a tourism and convenience point of view, we think it’s more important to support the initial mission of the train without affecting the people who use it to get to and from work during the week.”

There have been some cuts to weekday service in the past, and more are coming. Two early-morning trains will be replaced by buses, and the remaining mid-day train will be rescheduled to save a train set.

The week-end trains have been popular for visitors to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, especially on Saturdays. Both cities boast a number of museums, along with active art scenes, each having its own flavor. Downtown Santa Fe and Old Town Albuquerque are famous historic neighborhoods, which draw large crowds of tourists. Some of those tourists traveled the last segment of their journeys on the Rail Runner train, but they probably will not be able to do that much longer.

Local observers link the prospective service cuts to politics. Former Gov. Bill Richardson started the line and pushed it as a vital part of the state’s transportation system. He had also envisioned restoring service between Albuquerque and El Paso, Texas, to serve Las Cruces, and began the process of the state’s purchase of the former Santa Fe Raton Pass Route from BNSF. The plan was to keep the line open for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and regional passenger service. BNSF had proposed downgrading or abandoning the line, since little freight runs on it today.

Now, under a Republican administration, the prospective purchase of the line may be canceled. If that happens, the Chief may be discontinued or rerouted through Amarillo, Texas. In that event, the line it would use does not join the Raton Pass Line until Gallup, so Albuquerque would lose its Amtrak service. In theory, rail service would still be available at Belen, with Rail Runner service from there to Albuquerque. If the current plan to eliminate week-end service is implemented, the trains from Belen would only run to and from Albuquerque on weekdays.

Much of the tourist industry in Santa Fe and Albuquerque would suffer if the week-end trains are eliminated. One company that would probably lose some business is the Santa Fe Southern Railroad, a tourist railroad that runs from Santa Fe to Lamy on an old Santa Fe branch line. The SFSRR currently offers a “circle trip” that includes Rail Runner from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, SFSRR to Lamy and Amtrak’s Southwest Chief back to Albuquerque. The trip can also start form Santa Fe, with Rail Runner as the last segment. If Rail Runner service is eliminated on week-ends, the circle trip will no longer be available on Saturdays. It would still be feasible on Fridays, when the SFSRR operates on a seasonal basis.

Local rail advocates are not taking the news lying down, and they have vowed to fight to keep their week-end trains. Rails, Inc. is the region’s rail advocacy organization. Their web site, www.nmrails.org, lists a number of potential improvements that rail could bring to New Mexico. Rails, Inc. President JW Madison told the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) that his organization would work at the grassroots and political levels to avert the elimination of week-end rail service.

Not all local railroads value non-commuters as customers; an attitude that local advocates in many places view with concern. On their “Frequently Asked Questions” page, the question: “How did the Rio Metro Regional Transit District decide which services to reduce?” was answered as follows: “The Rio Metro Board decided to eliminate week-end trains because the original intent was for this train to be used as a commuter train for work purposes during the week.” In 2006, George Warrington, who was Executive Director of New Jersey Transit at the time, referred to riders outside of peak commuting hours as “incidental” following large-scale cuts in off-peak service. Local advocates are working to keep this incident of history from repeating itself in New Mexico next month.

According to the railroad’s web site, it is not yet impossible to save the weekend service. The site states: “Rio Metro will continue to look for funding to keep the week-end service intact.” Will that actually happen? Time will tell, but the answer will come before the end of next month.


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Federal Funds Released For
Sunrail Commuter Train

Construction To Start In 2012

From The Orlando Sentinal And DF Staff

WASHINGTON ---When Forida’s Tea Party Governor Rick Scott refused the $2.4 billion for the Tampa-Orlando High-Speed Rail project and sent the money back to Congress last February, nervous Floridians feared the same fate might nix the SunRail Commuter Train project. Their fears were allayed when Governor Scott approved SunRail on July 1 after putting it on hold for six months. Last week, reported the Orlando Sentinal, “U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood turned loose almost $78 million in federal tax money to help build the much-contested SunRail commuter train during a sun-baked ceremony Monday near one of the system’s future depots.” The signing opened the way for the first 31 miles of the $1.2 billion train to be up and running by May 2014.


Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood signs on the dotted line. LaHood authorized $77 million in Federal tax dollars for the the controversial rail project.

“When you get your act together, unbelievable things can happen. ... And look what’s happening: SunRail is coming,” LaHood said.

His comments were greeted with applause from a crowd that had gathered near the railroad tracks and just north of the stop that will serve Florida Hospital Orlando.

“These are the days we live for,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who leads a panel of local governments that eventually will own and operate SunRail.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, who helped secure the federal money for SunRail, said he had worked with three presidents, three governors and six secretaries of the state and federal departments of transportation to get a commuter train for Central Florida.

Governor Scott did not attend the ceremony, saying, “I have plenty of other things to do.” He had worried that the train would not attract enough riders, but he did not have the legal ability to scuttle it. His key constituency, conservative tea party members, had loudly opposed the project. One protester did show up at the ceremony: James Fraleigh, a 52-year-old day laborer from Casselberry, held a homemade sign saying, “Have A Brain No Train.”

Supporters say the project will generate 8,000 construction jobs, plus more than 245,000 jobs over 30 years, from development expected to occur around the stations. Critics say the job estimates are vastly overblown.

For the complete story, go to http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-07-18/news/os-sunrail-lahood-signing-20110718_1_sunrail-levitated-train-lahood


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HIGH=SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

Report Examines Whether High-Speed Rail
Should Be Public, Private ---- Or Both

From The Public Interest Research Group

WASHINGTON --- A first-of-its-kind report released this past week examines whether high-speed rail should be public, private or both. The research report released by U.S. PIRG examines the experience with public-private partnerships for high-speed rail in other countries. In addition to outlining the promises and pitfalls, the report recommends ten principles to protect taxpayers and the public under private financing deals.

The report, High-Speed Rail: Public Private or Both? Assessing the Prospects, Promise and Pitfalls of Public-Private Partnerships comes at a time when Congress and state officials are debating future funding for high-speed rail. Meanwhile, the chair of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure committee has proposed privatizing Amtrak with the hope of garnering private financing for new bullet trains along the Northeast. California is seeking private funds as part of a planned route connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“The report shows that private financing can be a supplement but not a substitute for public support of high-speed rail,” said Phineas Baxandall at U.S. PIRG. “In other nations the majority of support comes from the public sector. The rail companies overseas often have public ownership and the public on their board like a public utility or Amtrak.”

The report cautions that public-private partnerships in other countries have a mixed record. When private financing has been a short cut around public investment, taxpayers often end up paying dearly. Partnerships must have the highest levels of transparency, clear rules of accountability, and strong public capacity for monitoring and enforcing agreements, says the report.

President Obama has put forth the goal of linking 80 percent of the U.S. population via high-speed rail by 2035. Compared to the United States, other industrialized nations around the globe tend to be far ahead of the United States in developing high-speed rail and investing a far greater portion of Gross Domestic Product on infrastructure.

“While many in Congress are having trouble finding money to invest in high-speed rail, they need to consider the costs of not moving forward,” said Baxandall. “Without high-speed rail, we will be more dependent on oil and will pay dearly to build more airport runways and ever-wider highways.”

The report is available at http://www.uspirg.org/HSR-PPP-report for download.

(U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (U.S.PIRG), is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization)


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

Installments From David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Stuttgart 21 Passes Stress Test

Opponents Don’t Buy Results

Via DPA

Stuttgart – The conflict over the controversial Stuttgart 21 rail station project flared up again last Thursday (21st July 2011) when opponents to the plan said they would not take part in the presentation of a ‘stress test’ report on how it would function, branding it nothing more than a show. Opposition representatives Brigitte Dahlbender and Hannes Rockenbauch said they would boycott next Tuesday’s presentation of the test’s result, which apparently is set to give the green-light the to the massive project to convert Stuttgart’s main train station from a surface level dead-end terminal into an underground through-station.

The crucial section of the long-awaited report of Swiss engineering firm SMA was leaked to the press on Thursday – and it supports the claim of railway operator Deutsche Bahn that the project could result in at least 30 percent increased capacity compared to the existing dead-end terminal.

“Our review of the simulation results has shown that the required 49 arrivals in Stuttgart main station during the busiest hours, and using the provided timetable, with economically optimal quality of operation, can be achieved,” said the report’s decisive sentence. “We are happy with the result,” said Wolfgang Dietrich, the project’s spokesman.

But Stuttgart 21 opponents said the report was worthless as it did not examine how the new underground station would perform in the case of problems or emergencies. “A stress test without any stress does not deserve the label stress test,” said Rockenbauch in reference to scenarios such as a stalled-train on one of the platforms due to mechanical failure or a serious injury of someone, who unintentionally or intentionally fell onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train.

Artist drawing of Stuttgart 21 under station

Image by Deutsche Bahn AG

A heart attack waiting to happen in the “Heart of Europe”, or at least that is the claim of various Stuttgart 21 opponents, including ProBahn, the largest pro-rail transportation advocacy group in Germany, who do not believe that the recent computer simulated “stress test” of the proposed underground station is a valid real-world analysis of the concept.

The opposition has now also walked out of the arbitration talks, chaired by Heiner Geissler, which were started after weeks of protests in Stuttgart last year. The rail project controversy contributed to the election of a Green-led coalition for the state of Baden-Wüttemberg in March.

Deutsche Bahn, the state government, Geissler and opponents had met three times in the last weeks to prepare for the presentation of the report, but opponents have been complaining about a lack of information from the side of the railway. They also criticized Geissler, saying he was not as neutral as they had thought. He in turn said they were making a mistake by leaving the forum.

The official price tag is capped at € 4.5 billion (US $6.1 billion) but several recent media reports suggest the true cost may be higher with allegations that project supporters have actively suppressed information about higher cost estimates. Opponents have continued to mount protests against the project over the past year, calling it too expensive and unnecessary. Rail transit advocacy groups in Germany are almost all universally opposed to the current Stuttgart 21 project.

Switzerland Issues Warning to Germany – German Rail Connector to Gotthard Base Tunnel Must Be Built

In a related news development Switzerland reacted angrily to statement from Winfriend Hermann (Green political party), the new transportation minister in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg, that the planned four-track freight rail line from Freiburg to Basel may have to be postponed or canceled altogether due to financial pressure caused by Stuttgart 21. “Germany must finish the AlpTransit approach on time regardless of Stuttgart 21,” said Maximilian Reimann, a member of the powerful Swiss federal council and president of a parliamentary delegation for Swiss-German relations.

The rail approach through the Rhine Valley would represent the primary northern link for the Gotthard base tunnel, so it needs to be wide -- four rail lanes across. If Germany fails to build it, Reimann said, German transport trucks might be banned from crossing Switzerland. Reimann added that a separate deal to ease airplane noise over Baden-Württemberg from Zürich’s international airport might also be under threat.


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Huge Public Protest Over UK
Train Purchase Decision

Thousands March In Support Of
Bombardier’s UK Operations

Via UK Press Association

Derby, England -- Thousands of people have joined a demonstration in support of the UK’s last remaining train manufacturer, Bombardier Transportation, winning applause from Saturday shoppers and families on the 23rd of July.

Organizers of a march and rally in the central England city of Derby said 10,000 workers and supporters took part, in protest of a British central government decision to award a lucrative contract to build new EMU trains to Siemens Mobility, rather than to Bombardier Transportation. Both companies are based in Germany, but Bombardier has typically built the vast majority of trains and rail transit vehicles for the UK market in its Derby, England facilities, which it acquired more than a decade ago. Siemens builds passenger trains, which it sells in the UK, in its facilities in Krefeld, Germany.


Photo: Siemens Mobility

Siemens Desiro UK dual voltage EMU train set (BR class 350) in London Midland colors.

The management of the Bombardier Derby plant has warned that 1,400 jobs will be axed as a result of losing out on the GBP 1.4 billion (US $2.2 billion) contract to build EMU train sets for the Thameslink network which operates between the outer northern London suburb of Bedford and the town of Brighton, on the southern coastline of England. The southern portion of this route is electrified with 750 VDC third rail, the portion of the route from central London northwards is electrified with standard overhead catenary at 25 kVAC 50 Hz, thus the EMUs which operate on this line are built to operate from both systems. The Siemens Desiro UK model was selected for the upcoming purchase of new rolling stock for this heavily used route.

Workers left offices while shoppers stood and applauded as the demonstrators marched through Derby city centre to a rally, where Diana Holland, assistant general secretary of Unite, called on the Government to reverse its decision.

“We have created a huge alliance here and we must keep the campaign going because it is not too late to persuade the Government to change its mind,” she said. “The Government last week opened an attack on manufacturing so the only thing they have to offer is cutting workplace safety standards and employment regulations. What they need to do is support workers and invest in manufacturing.” Ms Holland asked why the Government had not taken social costs and jobs into account when awarding the contract, which she claimed had been structured to disadvantage the Derby plant.

Unions were continuing to press politicians to support a change of heart from the Government and were considering a legal challenge, said Ms Holland, who described Saturday’s protest as “absolutely incredible”.

A poll of more than 25,000 adults for the Unite union showed that 88% wanted the Government to reconsider its decision and 95% believed the coalition should actively support manufacturing jobs in the UK.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “This Government strongly supports British manufacturing. However, the Thameslink procurement was set up and designed by the previous Government and we are legally bound by the criteria set out at the beginning of that process.

“Going forward, we fully recognize that there is a need to examine the wider issue of whether the UK is making best use of the application of EU procurement rules and this will be examined as part of the Government’s growth review.”

As a member of the European Union, the UK is not legally able to enact domestic content laws, which are common in the USA for public transportation projects, against manufacturers in other EU countries and is obliged to consider products and services offered from other EU countries on strictly commercial and business terms.


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And Finally . . .

 

Mayor Of Wolfsburg:
“We Don’t Get Any Respect”

Citizens Of Wolfsburg, Germany Tired Of Being The Butt Of Late Night TV Talk Shows’
Jokes After Yet Another ICE Train Misses A Scheduled Stop

Via NDR-2 Radio, Pro Sieben TV and the HAZ newspaper

Photo: newsclick.de

I don’t get any respect! Mayor Rolf “Rodney Dangerfield” Schnellecke of Wolfsburg.
Wolfsburg – This city of about 120,000 residents is perhaps best known in Germany and around the world as being the headquarters for Volkswagen AG, one of the largest automobile producers in the world, similar in size to Toyota, General Motors, Ford and Renault – Nissan. Its founding / incorporation date of 1938 is remarkable in a country in which the vast majority of cities, towns and villages were founded or incorporated anywhere between 700 A.D. and the 18th century.

And in the past ten years, Wolfsburg has a new unique attribute among German cities: the city that is most often passed by Intercity Express (ICE) trains, although they have scheduled stops in this city just a few km west of the former pre-unification border between East and West Germany. The most recent incident happened on the 18th of July when train number ICE 551 from Cologne (Köln) to Berlin sped through the city and thereby missing its scheduled stop. Approximately 40 passengers, who wanted to disembark in Wolfsburg, were allowed off at an unscheduled stop in Stendahl, about 90 km away. An ICE train from Berlin was diverted to Stendahl to pick-up these passengers and drop them off in Wolfsburg.

The incident was the second time in just four weeks that an ICE train completely missed its planned stop in the auto-city. In all ICE trains have missed scheduled stops in Wolfsburg eleven times since 2001 and between 2001 and 2004 a significant number of slower Intercity (IC) and InterRegio (IR) trains also missed scheduled stops in Wolfsburg.

The series of missed station stops did not escape the attention of late night TV talk-show hosts and morning drive-time radio DJs. Once again Wolfsburg became the butt of their jokes and one-liners. One late night talk-show host asked his audience “What do the city limit signs heading into Wolfsburg say?” Answer: “Welcome to Wolfsburg – step on the gas pedal”, or “no stopping allowed”, or “thank you for visiting Hannover– now you have just 210 km to go to reach Berlin”, and “Welcome to Wolfsburg – please leave immediately!”.

The latest incident prompted the mayor of Wolfsburg, Rolf Schnelllecke to write a stinging official letter of complaint to Deutsche Bahn, which operates ICE trains. He soon received a personal phone call from the GM of intercity passenger train operations at Deutsche Bahn. The DBAG executive apologized to the mayor and committed that the incident would be fully investigated. A DBAG spokesman later stated that the train driver had been issued a train schedule / trip plan that was not suppose to be valid until August.

A number of ICE trains running between Berlin and points west and south do not have scheduled stops in Wolfsburg, these trains simply pass through the Wolfsburg station, which is situated on the Hannover – Berlin high rail speed corridor, as per plan at speed without a stop. High-speed trains from Berlin to Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart and Zurich exit the Berlin – Hannover line just west of Wolfsburg, run along a rail line to Braunschweig, then follow another rail line from Braunschweig to Hildesheim, then finally merge onto the Hannover – Würzburg high-speed line just several kilometers southwest of Hildesheim.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Virginia Rail Observations And Commentary

The Poughkeepsie Bridge And Rail Prosperity
By Richard L. Beadles     Volume III, No. 13, July 15, 2011

We have been following the financial and physical health of the private rail industry for more than sixty years.

Never before, during these years, has the financial health of private rail companies been so good, nor have rail stocks been so highly regarded for both income and potential appreciation. Never in our memory has most main line rail infrastructure looked to be in better condition. The explanation is long and complex, going back at least fifty years.

Nevertheless, current rail executive management deserves appropriate credit, which they are now receiving in record compensation. Their predecessors worked long and hard to bring about political and structural changes that made today’s rail prosperity possible. Rail labor also made important concessions. Then, there is serendipity. Who would have imagined, years ago, an environment in which rail competitors would be facing such challenges as they are today? High cost of fuel, driver shortages, congestion, more demanding environmental and safety regulations, etc. The rails now look like a winner, but can it last? One wonders if we are at the cusp of unprecedented growth in rail freight -- at least unprecedented since WW II -- or are we near the zenith of private freight rail prosperity?

Which brings us to an abandoned rail bridge across the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, N.Y., about 70 miles north of Manhattan -- the only rail bridge crossing of the River until one gets almost up to the Albany area. The Poughkeepsie Bridge was an engineering marvel when completed in 1889, some 6,700 feet long and slightly more than 200 feet above the water. It’s two tracks funneled rail traffic to and from southern New England and Metro New York, north and east of the Hudson.

The Bridge was a casualty of the 1960’s era northeastern railroads bankruptcy crisis. Now a recreational feature of the region, the structure remains an iconic proxy for all that was lost in the process of “saving” the northeastern rail system. How many additional “Poughkeepsie” bridges will come up for critical review, costly maintenance, or replacement in the future? Will some of them go the way of this historic structure, with corresponding loss of direct rail access to major consumer markets, such as NYC? Who will pay to replace those structures which cannot be “worked around?” Will the private rails be able to fund such massive projects from revenues, or will that fall to the public sector? If it’s the public, how will such investment be “credited?” Or will it be another case of “socializing costs and privatizing profit,” for the benefit of shareholders, executives, and their customers?

Part of the economic renaissance of the private freight railroad companies has been a business strategy which focuses only upon the lines of business that can be most efficiently and profitably handled, with a corresponding attempt to charge “what the traffic will bear.” This often impacts customers who have the fewest transportation alternatives. While not unique in the business world, many rail shippers have long been unhappy. Now, the Surface Transportation Board is cutting the filing fee for shipper complaints from $20,600 to as low as $350. We may soon learn how sustainable the rail freight business model really is. This could have real consequences for rail transportation in the U.S.. Keep your eye on the STB docket in D.C.


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LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Paying For Safety

Dear Editor:

In David Peter Allen’s commentary, he noted two collisions between trucks and trains, and asked when the third would be.

Well, it already happened, in mid-May, on the train I normally take to work. I would have been onboard had I not been out of town.

I don’t recall it being mentioned in DF, but an inbound Metra train operated by Union Pacific slammed into a gravel truck after the driver drove diagonally across the grade crossing to avoid the gates. The cab car and second coach both derailed, shutting down the busy Northwest line at the tail end of the Friday morning rush hour. No injuries to the train crew or passengers, but the truck driver was killed.

Eric Olesen
Mt Prospect, IL


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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