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

September 12, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 36

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…
Obama Cites Public Transit As Priority In Speech
   Before Congress
  Political Lines…
Republicans Throw The Gauntlet Again To
   Zero-Out Amtrak
Dem Leader Blasts House Subcommittee Vote That Would
   Destroy Amtrak, Other Rail Programs
Senate Committee Passes SAFETEA-LU Extension
  High-Speed Lines…
Northern Lights Project To Get Funding
  Expansion Lines…
MassDOT Names New Manager For
   South Coast Rail Project
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Events…
Vermont Rail Action Network Annual Meeting
  Restoration Lines…
September 16 Will See Re-Start Of Full
   California Zephyr Service
  Across The Pond…
France Marks Official Inauguration Of The Rhine-Rhône
   High-Speed Corridor
Dubai Metro Opens Green Line
  Editorial…
A Hostile Minority Takes Aim At Amtrak
  Publication Notes …


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

Obama Cites Public Transit As Priority In Speech Before Congress

From Passenger Transport, Weekly News Report Of
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

WASHINGTON, DC -- In his Sept. 8 speech before a joint session of Congress, President Obama cited the nation’s crumbling infrastructure—including public transportation—as a major priority in his proposal to lower U.S. unemployment levels and return people to work.

The president’s plan calls for $50 billion in immediate federal investments for transportation, including $9 billion for public transportation; $4 billion for high-speed rail corridors; $2 billion for other intercity passenger rail; and $5 billion for the multimodal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) programs. It also calls for a National Infrastructure Bank and includes enhancements to infrastructure-related job training opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups to ensure that small businesses can compete for infrastructure contracts.

“Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower,” Obama said in his survey of the proposed American Jobs Act. “And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America? There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work.”

Obama specifically referred to “a public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country.”

“Those of us here tonight can’t solve all of our nation’s woes,” the president said. “Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives.”

Earlier, in his Sept. 3 radio address, Obama addressed concern over the Sept. 30 expiration of the latest extension to the long-term, well-funded, multimodal surface transportation bill—SAFETEA-LU (the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users). The address, titled “Extending the Transportation Bill to Keep America Moving,” included a call for Congress to pass a “clean” extension—in other words, a bill focused solely on transportation with no attachments or amendments.

“At the end of September, if Congress doesn’t act, funding for our roads and bridges will expire. This would put a stop to highway construction, bridge repair, mass transit systems, and other important projects that keep our country moving quickly and safely,” the president said. Calling the expiration of this bill “a disaster for our infrastructure and our economy,” he predicted that “serious consequences” would result: to cite just three examples, 19,000 jobs placed at risk in Virginia, more than 12,000 in Minnesota, and more than 35,000 in Florida.

“This isn’t a Democratic or a Republican issue—it’s an American issue,” Obama said, noting that many groups, including 128 mayors from both parties, are asking Congress to pass this extension.

At the local level, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a Sept. 7 post on his blog, The Fast Lane, “the economic impact—in addition to the lost jobs—will be severe. Because state and local authorities expend their own resources before being reimbursed by federal surface transportation accounts, letting the law expire will subject them to significant financial exposure they will be unable to withstand.”

“These are outcomes we simply cannot afford,” LaHood continued. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce knows this. The AFL-CIO knows this. And the U.S. Conference of Mayors knows this.”

Reiterating the need for this funding program, LaHood said: “We need to put differences aside and do the right thing for our economy. The clock is ticking.”


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Republicans Throw The Gauntlet Again
To Zero-Out Amtrak

From Passenger Transport And Other Internet Sources

WASHINGTON, DC, SEPTEMBER 8A little history: Efforts by politicians to cut Amtrak loose from federal funding are not new. Whenever the Republican Party has won control of the White House or one branch of Congress, the battle to save Amtrak begins anew. Ronald Reagan regularly tried to zero out the Amtrak budget. Under pressure from Democrats in Congress, the elder George Bush reluctantly authorized funds for improving rail service that had been approved during the Carter administration. George W. Bush tried to spin off Amtrak's profitable Northeast Corridor service by offering it up to private bidders. In 2009, complying with legislative requirements, the U.S. Department of Transportation solicited private bids for the Northeast Corridor, but nobody showed up. (From an article by Michael Dukakis in American Prospect, August 19, 2011.)

The late Paul Weyrich, a staunch conservative who recognized the value of a robust national rail system in our country, revealed what a political game this was.

“When Ronald Reagan’s budget zeroed out Amtrak,” wrote Weyrich, “the President knew full well that Congress would restore the money.  It was one of those ‘wink-winks’ which take place in Washington.  Reagan satisfied a part of his conservative constituency by pretending to be against Amtrak funding while his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) people planned for the restoration of the money.”

Today, with Republicans holding the majority in the House, the battle lines are drawn again, as Rick Harnish describes in his Midwest High-Speed Rail Assn news report: On Wednesday, September 8, the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development committee passed a bill that cut the 2012 highway appropriation—a sacred line item in the federal budget--from $42 billion to $27.7 billion. The appropriators determined that 2012 highway spending must not exceed the revenues collected from the Federal Motor Fuel Tax. At the current federal gasoline tax rate of 18.3 cents per gallon, those collections cut the highway budget by more than one third.

But as roughly as the House treated highways, it reserved its severest abuse for passenger rail. High-speed rail funding was zeroed out, and Amtrak was put on a diet that would terminate the company’s long-distance trains and strangle the 15 successful state-supported corridor-train programs, including the four fast-growing state programs in the Midwest. (Additional details in the bill listed in the next article.)

APTA President William Millar, in his statement responding to the House bill, deplored the cuts as the wrong direction for our economy, the jobs crisis and our infrastructure needs:

“The proposed 30 percent cut  in public transportation for Fiscal Year 2012 approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing today runs completely counter to our country’s ability to create jobs and provide access to jobs necessary to move the economy forward.

This budgetary action underscores the urgent need for Congress to pass the long-stalled surface transportation authorization legislation. The current SAFETEA-LU legislation expired on September 30, 2009 and the extension expires on September 30.

Now is the time that our country should be increasing investment in transportation infrastructure, not significantly curtailing it.  For every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 are generated in economic returns, and every $1 billion in public transportation investment supports and creates 36,000 jobs.”

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, para-transit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.


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Dem Leader Blasts House Subcommittee Vote That
Would Destroy Amtrak, Other Rail Programs

From Internet Sources

WASHINGTON, DC --- House Appropriations Committee Ranking Democratic Member Rep. Norm Dicks has blasted GOP-dominated committee vote to essentially dismantle American infrastructure. He made the following comments after release of the FY2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill text:

“The Republican leadership has presented a subcommittee bill with a completely inadequate funding level that ignores both our nation’s jobs crisis and the drastic need for infrastructure investment.

“We were all discouraged to see the most recent jobs report that indicated no job growth for the month of August. With stimulus funds exhausted; federal agency budgets either reduced or frozen; and state and local governments laying off workers in record numbers, many economists have warned of a potential double-dip recession.

“In response, the Republican majority has once again decided to double down on its bogus ‘cut and grow’ economic theory and has proposed a bill that drastically slashes infrastructure funding. The last thing this economy needs is more bad news, yet the Republican Leadership is proposing a cut to highway and transit funds that would result in layoffs of nearly 600,000 construction workers. This is mindless budget slashing. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our road and highway infrastructure a “D-” while economists, organized labor, and the U.S.

Chamber of Commerce concurs that infrastructure investments are immediately necessary. However, the Majority proposes highway funding at levels not seen since 2000.

“We should be sending paychecks to American construction workers instead of unemployment checks at this critical time. 

“The bill also strikes a devastating blow to public transportation and passenger rail programs. Local transit agencies will have to defer replacing old rolling stock, equipment and facilities. Our nation’s growing cities will have to wait even longer for federal assistance to help build new subway, light rail and commuter rail systems to help relieve the congestion that is already choking our highways. The bill terminates the President’s initiative to provide high-speed rail to corridors around the country and makes deep cuts to Amtrak. These cuts will jeopardize short distance routes that are funded in cooperation with states and serve nearly a third, or roughly 9 million, of Amtrak’s annual passengers.

“Housing funding also comes under the ax in this bill with no funds at all provided for the HOPE VI and Choice Neighborhoods programs. HOPE VI funding goes entirely toward construction. Funding would mean jobs and ultimately better public housing for those communities. Also the Republicans continue to refuse to fund Housing Counseling Assistance to low-income renters and home buyers, helping them avoid homelessness, foreclosure, and providing sound advice on reverse mortgages, purchasing a home and avoiding predatory loans.

“However, I do appreciate that Chairman Latham has addressed a few priorities from our side of the aisle such as fully funding the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program which provides much needed long-term housing to homeless veterans. The bill also ensures that critical aspects of the Federal Aviation Administration’s critical Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) program will move forward, such as FAA’s program to improve data communications between controllers and pilots; modernization efforts for terminal facilities; and FAA’s system-wide information management system which will help set up a system architecture for the efficient operation of NextGen programs. The bill also provides an increase in funds for the FAA’s alternative fuels program which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation sector.

“Despite these gestures, I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose this bill. As our economy struggles and unemployment remains stubbornly high, I will not support a bill that completely disregards the jobs and infrastructure crisis in this country.”

Below is a brief summary of funding amounts and other key provisions in the Transportation, HUD bill:

Total Bill: $55.15 billion   |   $217 million below the FY2011 enacted level   |   $19.81 billion below the President’s FY2012 Request.

PROGRAMS NOT FUNDED IN THE BILL


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Senate Committee Passes
SAFETEA-LU Extension

From Passenger Transport, The Weekly Newsletter Of
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

On Sept. 8, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) voted unanimously to approve a four-month extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which expires Sept. 30. This legislation, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, would fund surface transportation programs at current levels through Jan. 31, 2012.

Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said following the vote: “I look forward to early action on the Senate floor. The EPW Committee has shown it can work together so that we can put people to work rebuilding the infrastructure of our nation.”

Last week, Boxer and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, released DOT figures showing that 1.8 million jobs would be threatened nationwide if Congress failed to pass an extension to SAFETEA-LU.

A just-released report from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), The Impacts of Failing to Extend Surface Transportation Funding, states that if the funding were not extended, it could imperil close to 5,600 active public transportation projects. California is home to the most transit projects to be affected (615), followed by 333 in Texas and 319 in Florida.

The Senate is currently working on a bipartisan proposal that would reauthorize transportation programs at current funding levels for two years.


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

Northern Lights Project To Get Funding

U.S. Department Of Transportation
Office Of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C.
www.dot.gov/affairs/briefing.htm

MINNESOTA, SEPTEMBER 09 -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a $5 million grant to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) to complete preliminary engineering and environmental reviews for the Northern Lights high-speed rail project between Minneapolis and Duluth. The 155-mile project will have station stops in Coon Rapids, Isanti, Cambridge, Hinckley, Boylston and Duluth, MN, through Superior, WI, and travel at speeds up to 110 mph. As part of this grant, the Minnesota Department of Transportation must complete an environmental review for the corridor. The U.S. Department of Transportation had already provided grants of $2.2 million and $500,000 for the initial phases of that environmental review. The Minnesota Department of Transportation will contribute $3 million to the preliminary engineering/project environmental review phase of the project.

Contact: Brie Sachse (202) 493-6024 or go to:
http://www.rail.co/2011/09/09/minnesotas-northern-lights-high-speed-rail-project-receives-5m-grant/


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Jean Fox-MassDOT South Rail Project

Photo: MBTA

Jean Fox announced as the new manager of the South Coast Rail project.
MassDOT Names New Manager
For South Coast Rail Project

From an MBTA Press Release
And DF Staff

BOSTON – Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary Richard Davey today announced Jean Fox as the new manager of the South Coast Rail project. A Freetown, Massachusetts resident, who serves on the Board of Selectmen of that township, Fox has worked at the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board (WIB) since 2007.

“We have built positive state and local partnerships during the planning process for South Coast Rail and with Jean’s strong connection to the community, we anticipate these will continue,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “South Coast Rail is a priority that will deliver real economic benefits for the region for decades to come and I look forward to working with Jean as we move this project forward.”

“Jean is the right person at the right time for this project,” said Davey. “Her energy, attention to details, and close ties with the community will serve the project well as we work hard to deliver passenger rail service to southeastern Massachusetts.”

At the WIB, Fox has worked closely with many community leaders and elected officials. She has developed strong relationships with civic organizations and other community-based groups in southeastern Massachusetts.

As manager of the project to bring commuter rail service to the cities of Fall River, New Bedford, and Taunton, Fox’s responsibilities will include securing funding for construction and operation of the lines, shepherding the project through the environmental review and permitting process, and keeping the public fully engaged throughout the design phase.

“South Coast Rail is a priority for the Patrick-Murray Administration and the communities in the region,” said Fox. “My predecessor, Kristina Egan, made great strides during her tenure in catalyzing public engagement and enthusiasm for commuter rail service that will build on the region’s many assets. This project will also enhance growth an opportunities for South Coast residents and businesses.”

Fox earned her B.A. from the University of New Mexico and M.B.A. from George Washington University. She lives in Freetown with her husband, Lou, and has three grown children. In addition to the Freetown Board of Selectmen, she serves on the Bristol County Commission on the Status of Women, the South Coast Education Compact, as well as a number of school and education advisory boards in New Bedford.

She begins her new job at MassDOT September 12.

For transportation news and updates, visit the MassDOT website at www.mass.gov/massdot, the MassDOT blog at www.mass.gov/blog/transportation or follow MassDOT on twitter at www.twitter.com/massdot.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)67.7769.37
Canadian National (CNI)68.5271.66
Canadian Pacific (CP) 51.6955.40
CSX (CSX)19.5820.56
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)46.9248.10
Kansas City Southern (KSU)49.6250.98
Norfolk Southern (NSC)64.8365.12
Providence & Worcester(PWX)11.9612.85
RailAmerica (RA)12.2912.72
Union Pacific (UNP)85.0988.27

Beginning August 29, 2011, we will be adding Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B)
as an indicator for BNSF Railroad, as well as RailAmerica (RA).
 


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EVENTS... Events...  

Vermont Rail Action Network
Annual Meeting

October 17th in Montpelier, 6-9 PM

Save the date!

Registration is now open:   www.railvermont.org/2011-annual-meeting

This will be an enjoyable evening meeting others from the railroad community around Vermont.  The program is still being put together, but we do know we will have some very dramatic slide coverage of the floods and the reconstruction.  And good food!

While you have your calendar open, you can erase this weekend's Glory Days of the Railroad festival in White River Junction.  They are redirecting their attention to help victims and restore the damage.

On that subject, a quick update: the New England Central is now open from the south as far as Bethel and from the north to Northfield.  In between is the worst-hit section.  Even as crews are working to restore the damage, rail laying and tie installation work continues on the “high-speed” grant funded improvement.  Meanwhile NECR freight trains are detouring over the Vermont Rail System, Canadian Pacific Railroad via Albany and Pan-Am.

One last thing: As you know, Amtrak is regularly in the cross-hairs of certain Washington DC politicians.  A house appropriations subcommittee has just proposed slashing Amtrak funding, ending funding for the high-speed rail program (which is funding work on the Vermonter route and which we hope to tap again) and worst of all is proposing to effectively prohibit Amtrak from running trains in the state of Vermont (and other states that contribute state funds).

We in Vermont are blessed with an effective congressional delegation that is supportive of Amtrak.  If you write, your thanks is the best thing you can say.  Your message will show that this is important.

The National Association of Rail Passengers has provided a very handy on-line system for doing so at
http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6487/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8076

Christopher Parker, Executive Director:      802-579-3394


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RESTORATION LINES... Restoration Lines...  

Flooding Had Knocked Out Service

 

September 16 Will See Re-Start
Of Full California Zephyr Service

By David Peter Alan And By DF Staff

NCI Commentator David Peter Alan Contributed Heavily To This Story, And Is Its Primary Author

CHICAGO-DENVER-OAKLAND --- Amtrak’s Trains 5 and 6, the California Zephyr, is accepting reservations for a re-start of service on September 16, after a more than three-week outage due to heavy flooding in the Midwest.

Service between Denver and Chicago was halted August 28 due to the flooding, which forced BNSF to re-route scores of freight trains from a more Southerly BNSF route to the route normally used by Amtrak’s Zephyr.

Rather than have long, unpredictable delays in the Zephyr’s service, Amtrak chose to stop the service altogether on that route, until the BNSF was able to resume normal routing of its trains.

Initially, reports NCI’s David Peter Alan, an extensive Amtrak traveler, the website listed the trains as “sold out” between Denver and Chicago, but the “Julie+Humans” Amtrak reservation system was more accurate in informing callers of the outage, and of the re-start date.

NCI contributor David Peter Alan writes: “This summer has been a bad one for the Zephyr.  On June 24th, it was hit by a truck in Nevada, killing the truck driver and five persons on board the train.  Service was suspended for a few days, and lawsuits were filed in the wake of the incident.  On August 26th, the train hit a construction crane that was parked at a grain elevator near the tracks in western Nebraska.  There were no fatalities or serious injuries, but several cars were derailed.  These incidents occurred against the backdrop of massive flooding, especially in the Omaha area, which caused significant delays to the train in both directions.  Despite all this, the train managed to run until the August 26th incident; people eventually got to their destinations, even if they were late.”

The service disruption has only served to highlight the critical importance of Amtrak’s long-distance trains, which because of declining bus service over the past two decades in the Midwest are often the only way for people of modest means, or who cannot drive, to travel.

“The situation is especially serious for riders who wished to go to destinations in Nebraska and Iowa, because there is little bus service in the region.  Two buses per day serve portions of the line, and many of the destinations served by the Amtrak train are not served by any bus at all,” writes David Peter Alan.

Right now, notes Alan, “The only transportation that Amtrak is providing between Chicago and Denver is the option to take the Southwest Chief, Trains #3 and #4 between Chicago and Raton, New Mexico and change there for a scheduled Greyhound bus that is considered an Amtrak Thruway bus connection.  Westbound, the schedule calls for the train to arrive at 10:56 a.m. and the connecting bus to leave at 5:00 p.m., a layover of 6 hours and 4 minutes.  The bus is scheduled to arrive in Denver at 9:05 p.m., for an overnight layover of more than ten hours for the next day's train to California.  Eastbound, the connecting bus is scheduled to leave Denver at 5:35 a.m., after a similar overnight layover of about twelve hours.  The bus is due to arrive in Raton at 10:20 a.m., with a layover of 6 hours and 30 minutes before Train #4 leaves for Chicago.  The current bus schedule is geared to the needs going between Denver and points west of Raton, including Los Angeles.  Amtrak has never provided a bus connection at Raton for riders going to or from points east of Denver on the Zephyr route.”

Amtrak did not say whether or not it would reimburse customers for hotel and other overnight expenses in Denver, as is customarily done in Chicago when trains misconnect.  Aside from the expense of spending the night in Denver, riders until September 16 need more than twice the customary travel time between Chicago and Denver; 31 hours and 5 minutes to Denver, and 32 hours and 40 minutes to Chicago.  Regularly-scheduled travel times are 18:15 and 18:30, respectively.  For riders going west of Denver, travel time in each direction has been increased by 24 hours.

David Peter Alan, who is an attorney as well as holding an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, is asking a series of probing questions about this service disruption: “The current service disruption gives rise to a number of other questions.  Service ran through the summer, although late, until the accident with the construction crane in Nebraska.  Why is it now allegedly impossible to keep running the same service?  Why did Amtrak not supply buses to cover the portion of the route affected by the disruption?  Amtrak has customarily done that in the past, even over long distances, so customers would at least be able to get to their destinations.  Has BNSF refused to allow the Zephyr train over its rails since the August 26th accident, even though the Amtrak train ran until that date?  Why has the train not been combined with the Southwest Chief as far as La Junta, Colorado and detoured to Denver, where it could continue its regular route?  Why was no connecting bus service operated between Raton and Denver for passengers going to Denver or points west of there?  It appears that the single bus that Greyhound typically runs on the route would be insufficient to handle all potential Amtrak riders, and it does not provide a convenient connection to Denver.  Has Amtrak or anyone else requested government intervention to keep the passenger train operating during this period?

Another factor in the service disruption is Amtrak’s chronic shortage of equipment, the product of decades of under-funding by Congress. In especially short supply due to recent accidents, none of them the fault of Amtrak, is the two-story “Superliner” equipment used on long-distance trains west of Chicago and New Orleans.  Running the train from the Bay Area in California to Denver, instead of Chicago, saves essentially two train sets, by using only four instead of six, Alan reported.

Richard Rudolph, Chair of the Rail Users' Network (RUN) criticized Amtrak for the sudden imposition of the suspension, as well as its length.  He said that Amtrak's mission is to operate passenger trains, so people can get to their destinations and criticized Amtrak for not providing any alternate transportation for their customers.  The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) declined to comment.

“If you wish to travel between Chicago and Denver or points west before service comes back, “ writes David Peter Alan, “you can still make the best of your day in Raton.  The downtown area has an ‘Old West’ look, and there are attractive historic neighborhoods within walking distance of the commercial area downtown.  There are American and Mexican restaurants open for lunch, and you can learn about the history of the community at the Raton Museum.  The museum is open from 10 to 4, Wednesday through Saturday.  If summer hours are still in effect, the museum is open on Tuesdays, also.”    

“Amtrak riders, and the advocates who represent their interests, remember that the demise of rail service between New Orleans and Florida began as a “suspension” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and never came back,” noted Alan.

David Peter Alan is a frequent Amtrak rider and rode the affected trains extensively during the month of August.  The trains ran significantly behind schedule during that time, but they did get to their destinations.  He also visited Raton, New Mexico several years ago, on a planned visit that used the same schedule; arriving on Train #3 and leaving for Denver on the late-afternoon bus.


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

France Marks Official Inauguration Of
The Rhine-Rhône High-Speed Corridor

Via RFF Press Release

Besançon, France – Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, officially opened on September 8 the new Rhine-Rhone high-speed line between Dijon and Mulhouse at the invitation of Hubert du Mesnil, President of Réseau Ferré de France. Through a symbolic ribbon cutting, the President wanted to show his gratitude to the participants in this exceptional project. He personally congratulated some workers involved in the construction of the line.

For Hubert du Mesnil, President of RFF “The presence of the President of the Republic reflects the strategic importance of this line in the French and European railway landscape. It shows the respect of commitments by the state of the Grenelle Environment Forum. This is a great pride for the teams that built the line and especially those of RFF.”

Two lines for a line with a European dimension

The LGV Rhine Rhône is the seventh high-speed line in France and the first to simultaneously provide two new lines of travel: Paris – Mulhouse (France) / Basel (Switzerland) as well as a route from Provence in southeastern France to Switzerland and Germany.

Ribbon cutting ceremony in Besançon, France.

Photo: RFF

French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the ribbon cutting ceremony in Besançon, France.

The 190 km (118 mile) long high-speed rail line between Dijon and Mulhouse was constructed by Réseau Ferré de France (RFF), the rail infrastructure company in France, and will offer new travel opportunities to almost 12 million passengers in France, Switzerland and Germany. The new line has received funding from Switzerland and was chosen by the European Union under the European transport plan with priority status. The first phase of the eastern branch, which opened on the 8th of September, connects Villers-les-Pots (east of Dijon) in Petit-Croix (north-east of Belfort), a line length of 140 km. It will commence revenue service operations on the 11th of December 2011. The high-speed line Rhine-Rhone offer the largest time savings per km built by trimming more than 1h-30 minutes on certain routes.


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Dubai Metro Opens Green Line

Latest Of Series Of Passenger Rail Projects In The Gulf Regions Debuts

Via Press Release From Dubai RTA

Dubai, UAE – Mohammed bin Rashid inaugurated official operation of Dubai Metro Green Line last Friday (9th of September). Now the Red & Green lines of Dubai Metro will intersect at two locations; the first at the Union Station; which is the biggest underground metro station worldwide spanning an area of 25,000 square meters, and the second is Khalid bin Al Waleed Station; which is one of the most dazzling metro stations across the globe. Metro riders can transfer between the two lines through these two stations.

The Dubai Metro Green Line; which stretches 23 km and comprises 18 stations in addition to the two transfer stations; Union and Khalid bin Al Waleed Stations intersecting with the Red Line. All stations will be opened except Al Jadaf and Creek Stations as the property projects intended to be served by these two stations have yet to be completed, although both stations are ready for operation.

His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), commented on this event saying: “16 stations will be opened on the Green Line; namely Etisalat Station, situated at Al Qusais near Emirates Road; which is the starting point of the Green Line. The station is linked with a multi-level Park-and-Ride terminal with a capacity to house 2350 vehicles as well as a bus station in order to encourage the public to use the Metro in traveling within Dubai Emirate. The design of the station provides sufficient space for public buses to feed the station and ensures a smooth flow of a large number of buses at a time. The parking lot is also fitted with air-conditioned footbridges linking with the other side of the Road, and all essential safety standards are in place to ensure smooth passenger movement within the facility.”

In the center city area the Green Line runs through an underground tunnel extending 8 km (5 miles), starting with Salah Uddin Station; which is the ninth on the Green Line, following which the Green and Red Lines intersect at the Union station; which is considered the largest underground metro station in the world spanning an area of 25,000 square meters with a capacity to handle about 22,000 passengers per hour. The station comprises two levels and measures 230 meters in length, 50 meters in width and 18 meters in depth. It accommodates business & service outlets for the metro riders and has two entry points fitted with elevators and escalators. Four tunnels branch out of the Union Square Station linking up with Baniyas Square & Salah Al Din Stations on the Green Line as well as Khalid bin Al Waleed and Al Rigga Stations on the Red Line.

Al Tayer further added that RTA opted to hold the opening of Al Jadaf and Creek Stations, though being ready for operation, due to the non-completion of property projects to be served by these two stations and the lack of passengers to use these two stations for the time being, adding that RTA would consider opening them in the next stage.

He emphasized that the number of the metro riders will pick up considerably following the operation of the Green Line as it serves dynamic and high-density commercial, government and residential areas. He anticipated that the Green Line would be used over the remaining months of this year by about 100 thousand passengers every day. Al Tayer revealed that the total number of Dubai Metro riders from the start of operations on 09/09/2009 up to the end of last August clocked 84.2 million riders.

The Operator of the Dubai Metro has completed the Technical Trial Run of the metro; which comprised two key phases. The first one is known as the 'Static Test' that involves placing a motionless car of the rolling stock on the track and performing tests covering communication systems, automatic train operation systems, power supply, air-conditioning, on-board electronics, and lighting systems in addition to integration and co-ordination tests between various sub-systems and components. On passing the first test, the Operator shifted to the second phase known as the “Dynamic Test” to a car without passengers on board. It involves tests of various systems while the train is in motion, including propulsion and brake tests, load tests, traction power tests, electromagnetic compatibility tests, automatic train operation tests, communication tests and speed tests.

The RTA confirmed that the Red Line of Dubai Metro has brought about a quality shift in the integration of mass transit modes in the Emirate as it formed the initial phase of a project considered the first of its kind across the region. This line proved to be absolutely important in inspiring the RTA personnel to vigorously proceed ahead with the completion of the second phase of the project represented by the Green Line.

The Dubai Metro Green Line covers the main business districts of the Emirate and is poised to bring about a substantial integration of mass transit modes as three key metro stations on this line (Etisalat, Al Ghubaiba and Abu Hail) are being fitted with parking spaces for vehicles and public buses; offering metro riders highly comfortable services and easy access to their intended destinations.

The Green Line meets the mobility requirements of individuals in various key parts of parts of Dubai Emirate as it in a vital route starting from Etisalat station with its important geographical location at Al Qusais on Al Nahda Street in a high population density area making it an attractive point to many commuters particularly those coming from Sharjah and other neighboring Emirates.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

A Hostile Minority Takes Aim At Amtrak

As reported elsewhere in this edition of Destination:Freedom, a Congressional subcommittee has voted to kill Amtrak service to some 9 million riders served by state-funded trains, by prohibiting Amtrak from spending any of its Federal money on them. If supported by the Congress these cuts would take effect October 1.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on HUD and Transportation, voting along party lines and under Republican control, voted out its 2012 appropriations budget bill containing an amendment forbidding Amtrak from spending any Federal funds on state-supported trains. It also zero funds the critical infrastructure-oriented TIGER grants program, and the President’s High-Speed Rail program.

This bizarre act, which penalizes both Amtrak and the states that have supported rail service with state and local tax dollars, kills off infrastructure grants for freight railroads, and wipes out the High-Speed Rail program, is a direct assault on the one mode of transportation that showed it could bounce back quickly after 9/11, whose tenth anniversary we observed on Sunday. It also punishes the very states who have stepped up to the plate, financially.  As Amtrak Chairman Tom Carper correctly states: “The GOP plan penalizes states that have made investments in passenger rail, some of which have contributed toward costs for nearly 40 years. It kills an engine of local and regional economic growth much needed today, harms the future economic vitality of the nation and is unnecessary.”

We call upon the full Congress to reject this madness --- cutting infrastructure support at a time of massive unemployment and economic stag nation --- and get back to the business of building America, instead of dismantling it.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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