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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December 5, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 48

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

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

  Commentary…
Amtrak: The Airline That Runs On Rails
Virginia Amtrak Travel Exceeds Capacity
  News Items…
National Freight Rail Strike Averted;
   One Union Of 13 Still ‘Cooling Off’
  High-Speed Lines…
California High-Speed Rail Goes Forward
   Despite Cries It Is A ‘Boondoggle’ Project
  Commuter Lines…
Massachusetts’ Transit Agency Weighing Major
   Changes In Operations, Contracts
 
  Regional And Intercity Lines…
NY-VT Launch Intercity Rail Study
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Stuttgart 21 Station Project Approved By Voters
UK Government Approves Major Rail Investment
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …



COMMENTARY... Commentary...

Amtrak At 40: A Rider’s Perspective

 

Amtrak: The Airline That Runs On Rails

Sixth In A Series
By David Peter Alan

In 1966, the back of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s system timetable featured a drawing of a duck with an obviously fearful expression on his face. He was afraid that he would soon become dinner for a happy passenger on the railroad’s fabled Broadway Limited train. The ad praised the railroad’s dining service and said that riders could enjoy a fresh-cooked and properly-served dinner in the dining car because the Broadway Limited was not an airliner; “it’s a train.”

Today, that duck’s descendents need have no fear of being sacrificed to the artistry of a dining car chef. The Broadway Limited been relegated to history, at least for the foreseeable future. So have many of the traditional railroad practices, from a standard tariff of fares, to certain on-board services. In many ways, today’s Amtrak travel experience seems closer to airline travel than to traditional rail travel.

When Amtrak took over the few intercity trains that remained in operation in 1971, it began life with an airline-style orientation. Roger Lewis, Amtrak’s first president, came from the airline industry. At that time, it was at least arguable that adopting the style of the airlines would be good for Amtrak. The 1960s was the era of the “jet set” who believed that trains belonged in the past, not the present or the future. After all, trains were slow and air travel was fast and “glamorous,” to use a word of the period that now appears quaintly obsolete. The 1960s was a decade of change on many fronts, and one of the changes was that passenger trains were removed from the rails as airlines caught on with the general public. Everybody seemed to believe that “Pan Am makes the going great,” and that they somehow needed to “fly the friendly skies of United.”

Forty years later, an unrelated Pan Am is a railroad; successor to the Boston & Maine. The Downeaster trains between Boston and Portland run on it. The airline of the same name is relegated to the realm of nostalgia. The skies are also not so friendly these days. American Airlines has filed for bankruptcy protection and many of the “legacy” airlines that did so well in the 1960s and 70s are either part of transportation history or moving swiftly in that direction.

People still flock to the airport, take hours to wait for and then endure security screenings that some riders complain are overly invasive, sit in an uncomfortable seat on the plane, and take an expensive taxi ride from the airport to a city’s downtown core, complaining all the way. In short, people still use the airlines, because they perceive air travel to be faster than any other mode. Nonetheless, to use another expression reminiscent of the airline heyday, the airline experience has lost its pizzazz.

It seems that Amtrak did not notice the change. Today, America’s railroad serves airline food, distributes airline-style miniature pillows, uses airline terminology and adheres to airline fare practices. New stations look more like airport interiors than train stations (examples are located in Milwaukee and Trenton), but at least they are still located downtown.

Some of the airline fads of the 1970s that Amtrak incorporated are gone, while others remain. Lewis made his crews get rid of their railroad uniforms and exchange them for new ones that made them look like airline pilots or flight attendants. When the disco-era uniforms eventually looked too dated even for Amtrak’s management, traditional uniforms came back. Amtrak redecorated the interiors of most of its cars in the 1970s in paint schemes of purple, orange, magenta and other “mod” colors. Fortunately, these garish cars can only be seen in railroad museums today. Unfortunately, this was some of the best equipment Amtrak ever ran, and most of it was taken out of service in the 1990s. Amtrak’s Amfleet equipment assumed an airline look, as well. The transverse cross section of those cars is more cylindrical than that of conventional railcars, mimicking the cross-section of an airliner. These cars have less headroom, side-room and luggage rack space than the “heritage” cars offered. The same is even more true of the cars that run on the extra-fare, high-speed Acela trains in the Northeast Corridor.

Even if Amtrak looks somewhat less like an airline than it did a few years ago, it still acts like one in many ways. Amtrak uses airport codes “LAX” for Los Angeles and “PDX” for Portland, Oregon, as if they were taking their passengers to the airport. Changing the symbols to LAU and PDU would indicate that Amtrak customers were going to Union Station, instead. Before Amtrak, the railroads offered comfortable pillows to overnight passengers, even though some charged a rental fee. Today, Amtrak’s overnight passengers are issued airline-style pillows, some of which squash down to a thickness of less than one inch. Amtrak often refers to its customers as “guests” (an airline term), rather than “riders” or “passengers.” The term could apply to sleeping car passengers, since the service includes hospitality features, but coach passengers are certainly not treated like “guests” in a hotel.

Airline customers often complain that the airlines do not serve food anymore. Ironically, airline food is still available, and it has moved to Amtrak. For the most part, none of the food served in Amtrak’s dining cars is prepared on board. As a concession to popular demand, chefs cook some breakfast items, as well as the steaks for dinner, on the grill. Otherwise, everything is pre-cooked, just like the airlines used to make. When Amtrak eliminated its own commissary operations, it contracted with well-known airline caterer Dobbs, which changed its name to Gate Gourmet. Prices for Amtrak food have doubled in the last six or seven years, so the change from an in-house operation to a caterer that formerly specialized in airline food has been expensive for coach passengers. Sleeping car fares include meals, but the difference between coach and sleeping car fares can often be greater than the cost of accommodations at a resort hotel, which includes freshly-prepared meals (American Plan).

Amtrak also serves this food on disposable plastic plates rather than on china, on most of its trains. Some rail advocates have argued that it would be less expensive for Amtrak to hire a second person to work in the kitchen, washing dishes and helping with food preparation, so more menu items could be prepared on board. At this time, Amtrak does not appear to be moving in that direction.

Amtrak has also adopted “yield management” fare practices, which also come from the airlines. Riders going from Trenton to New York on New Jersey Transit, or from New Haven to New York on Metro North, know how much they must pay to ride. While regional railroads offer commutation discounts and reduced fares for senior citizens and persons with disabilities, and some still offer reduced fares at off-peak hours, the base fares are always the same. This is not so on Amtrak. Riders going from Washington D.C. or Boston to New York can get a fare quote from Amtrak, but it may only be good for that day. Fares on Amtrak can rise at any time, without notice. This is especially true on long-distance trains since, as seats or sleeping-car rooms are sold, the price goes up for the remaining seats or rooms. Amtrak does not have “a fare” between any two points. It has a variable fare structure, and those fares can change daily, especially during the period immediately preceding the day of departure.

Unfortunately, this may be one airline practice that is appropriate for Amtrak. Airlines essentially have a fixed capacity on a route, since it is expensive and difficult to run an extra section if a flight is sold out. Amtrak has a similar problem today. Amtrak is short of equipment, so every train has a limit to its capacity. Therefore, the entire system has such a limit. Amtrak was able to add a coach to its normal consist for the Silver Meteor between New York and Miami during the busy Thanksgiving travel period (a fifth coach; the normal consist calls for four), but that is about all the flexibility Amtrak has. Fifty years ago, the Atlantic Coast Line could have added two or three sleeping cars, four coaches and an extra dining car to feed the crowd. Amtrak cannot do this today.

It would be more convenient for the riding public if they knew in advance how much they would have to pay to get to their destination. Amtrak defends its variable fares by saying that it charges what the market will bear for the limited space available. Unfortunately, although Amtrak is ordering more equipment, it is not ordering the large number of coaches that would be needed to generate significant additional capacity on the long-distance trains, or to add trains to give riders a choice of departure times. States like California and Washington ordered specific equipment for their Amtrak-operated corridors, and Illinois is considering placing an order for new equipment for the corridors in that state. This could liberate some of the Amfleet I or Horizon equipment now running in corridor service, but growth in corridor ridership may cause that equipment to be pressed into service for the additional frequencies that such increases in ridership will eventually require. Still, this will not help increase capacity for even the few long-distance trains that are running today.

Even though many airline passengers complain about the airline experience, Amtrak passengers can still find some features of it on the train. It is beyond the scope of this series to speculate about the future of the airline industry. However, it appears increasingly clear that the riding public does not like the airline experience, even though they still seem to like the idea that the airlines can get them to their destinations quickly, whether or not this is actually true in any given situation. Amtrak cannot offer the speed of the airlines point to point over a long distance, even though airline regulations and practices have lengthened downtown-to-downtown travel time by air, during the past decade. That means rail is more time-competitive with air over longer distances than it was before. If Amtrak and local authorities can establish strong corridors between many city pairs up to 600 miles apart (to use the Federal Railroad Administration’s standard to define a “corridor”), this could provide a significant new ridership base.

The situation on the long-distance trains is different. Many riders take these trains for relatively short rides, since the train is often the only non-automobile transportation available. Others ride long distance trains to a major city, and still others ride the entire route and enjoy taking their time to get to their destinations. With more people retiring, this should become an increasingly-important market segment.

Vacationers want to enjoy the travel experience, however. Rail travel is not as fast as air travel over a long distance, but it is civilized and comfortable for people who have the time. In the past, the railroads offered comfortable seats, delicious food in the dining car, and a convivial atmosphere in the lounge car. Amtrak can still provide these amenities today, but this would require a change of attitude on the part of Amtrak management.

It would also require spending some money, which Amtrak does not wish to do, with some justification. However, small touches like bigger pillows, a free refill of coffee in the lounge car (each cup now costs $2.00) and fresh-cooked food in the dining car are not expensive and may actually be cost-effective. If Amtrak makes the travel experience so pleasant that most of its trains are sold out, that would bolster Amtrak’s case for funding to buy more equipment.

Despite this, Amtrak seems more interested in cutting costs than in improving the customer experience. In effect, it would rather shrink than grow. The next article in this series will focus on that policy and where it is taking America’s railroad and the people who ride it.

David Peter Alan has ridden approximately 500,000 miles on Amtrak during the past 15 years, including every train currently operating on Amtrak and some that no longer exist. He is a Board Member of the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and has previously been a Director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of any other individual or organization.


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Virginia Amtrak Travel Exceeds Capacity

Virginia Rail Observations And Commentary
Volume III, No. 22        By Richard L. Beadles

Recent Thanksgiving Holiday train travel in Virginia appears to have produced some record numbers; in fact, many of the boarding and detraining crowds far exceeded station waiting area and shelter capacity. Parking lots were overwhelmed, creating congestion, fraying nerves and constraining ingress and egress.

Among Virginia’s eighteen (18) Amtrak train-served stations, it appears that Alexandria, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, the two Richmond stations, Williamsburg and Newport News may have set new records. We shall have to await receipt of the official numbers. Of one thing we are certain; some of the boarding and detraining crowds were truly impressive: For example, about 375 passengers boarded the morning northbound regional train at Charlottesville on the day before Thanksgiving. With limited parking and station shelter, anytime an “on” or “off” crowd exceeds 100 passengers at any of these stations, parking and passenger shelter capacity constraints are being reached. At the Staples Mill station in Richmond, where legal parking is only about 250 autos, there were more than twenty such occasions. Charlottesville, with perhaps even less capacity, witnessed about one-dozen such events. Newport News, with a tiny station and limited parking, saw more than fifteen such occasions over the course of the holiday when crowds of greater-than-100 passengers boarded or alighted.

While it is laudable to spend money on rail line capacity, designed to speed up and ensure more reliable train service, commensurate station, parking, and access improvements are also very much needed. This situation will only grow worse, as more Virginians every year take to the trains. Amtrak, which built the Staples Mill station in the mid-1970’s, will not construct any more stations in Virginia. They should not do so even if they had the money. Moreover, in their current austerity mode, Congress is going to see to it that they don’t. Rail passenger stations, related parking, and access -- including transit – must be a local municipal, or regional, responsibility in the future.

Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Richmond and Newport News, and/or the regions in which they are located, have spent big bucks on airport terminal facilities. Now it is time they faced up to their rail passenger terminal needs, to meet both short-term and future requirements. Henrico County, in which Staples Mill is located, needs to address that issue without delay. Norfolk, basking in the apparent success of the new Tide light rail line, is stepping up to their responsibility in preparation for re-establishment of Amtrak train service in the near future. How adequate that facility will be remains to be seen.

Rail passenger service in Virginia becomes more mainstream, and more essential, with each passing year. Richmond airport boardings continue to be depressed, while rail is up. Something is going on, something that public policy makers and infrastructure planners would not have expected just a few years ago. It’s time to take stock and to react accordingly. If you have a newly-elected representative, urge them to look into this phenomenon. For the time being, have someone drop you off at the train station.


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NEWS ITEMS... News Items...  

National Freight Rail Strike Averted;
One Union Of 13 Still ‘Cooling Off’

From The American Public Transportation Association
And The Association Of American Railroads

WASHINGTON, DC, DECEMBER 2 --- The National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents 30 freight rail carriers, reached an agreement on December 1 with 12 of its 13 unions to avoid a national rail strike.

The strike, which could have begun as early as December 6, would have had a severe impact for a number of APTA commuter rail systems that run on track owned by freight railroads, as well as crippling fright railroad service in general.

AAR reported, “The nation’s major freight railroads today reached tentative agreements with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the American Train Dispatchers Association, which together represent about 26,500 employees in collective bargaining. The last remaining union without a settlement, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE), has agreed with the railroads to extend the ‘cooling off’ period until February 8, 2012, eliminating the immediate threat of a national rail strike.  This cooling off period will allow rail travel and shipping to continue unimpeded.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee had already introduced a resolution November 30 to begin the process of a congressional intervention had an agreement not been reached to prevent a shutdown. The Dec. 1 agreements and creation of the cooling-off period prevent the need for such action.


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HIGH-SPEED LINES... High-Speed Rail...  

California High-Speed Rail Goes Forward
Despite Cries It Is A ‘Boondoggle’ Project

From The New York Times
By Adam Nagourney

SACRAMENTO — Across the country, the era of ambitious public works projects seems to be over. Governments are shelving or rejecting plans for highways, railroads and big buildings under the weight of collapsing revenues and voters’ resistance.

But not California.

With a brashness and ambition that evoke a California of a generation ago, state leaders — starting with Gov. Jerry Brown — have rallied around a plan to build a 520-mile high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco, cutting the trip from a six-hour drive to a train ride of two hours and 38 minutes. And they are doing it in the face of what might seem like insurmountable political and fiscal obstacles.

The pro-train constituency has not been derailed by a state report this month that found the cost of the bullet train tripling to $98 billion for a project that would not be finished until 2033, by news that Republicans in Congress are close to eliminating federal high-speed rail financing this year, by opposition from California farmers and landowners upset about tracks tearing through their communities or by questions about how much the state or private businesses will be able to contribute.

The project has been mocked by editorial boards across the country — “Somebody please stop this train,” The Washington Post wrote — while Republicans here have denounced it as a waste. In an unfortunate turn of timing, state officials announced this month that revenues this year were so far behind projections that California was likely to have to impose $2 billion in cuts in January.

“This will go down in history as one of the great white elephants in California history,” said Bob Dutton, the Republican leader of the State Senate. “It’s a boondoggle. The state cannot afford it.”

But for many Californians, struggling through a bleak era that has led some people to wonder if the state’s golden days are behind it, this project goes to the heart of the state’s pioneering spirit, recalling grand public investments in universities, water systems, roads and parks that once defined California as the leading edge of the nation. That was a time symbolized, in part, by another governor named Brown, Mr. Brown’s father, Pat.

“It’s not putting someone on the moon, but it’s a state version of making a giant leap forward,” said Bob Blumenfield, a Democrat in the State Assembly. “We in California pioneered the public project. It’s not a luxury; it’s a critical piece of infrastructure.”

For the complete story go to:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/us/california-rail-project-advances-amid-cries-of-boondoggle.html


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Massachusetts’ Transit Agency Weighing
Major Changes In Operations, Contracts

From The Boston Globe
Found At: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2011/11/30/mbta-considers-future-commuter-rail-service/0PYjB4oKlvxRvXijm0CDXO/story.html

BOSTON --- The Board of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has begun talks on the future of one of the largest contracts in Massachusetts state government, at one of the largest transit agencies in the country --- the nearly $300 million-a-year deal to run the T’s commuter rail, responsible for moving 70,000 suburban workers in and out of Boston daily, the Boston Globe is reporting.

“With the contract expiring in June 2013, T leaders are first considering whether the MBTA should end the outsourcing deal and run commuter rail itself,” reported The Globe’s Eric Moskowitz reported this past week.

“If they decide to stick with a contractor, they will weigh whether to continue with something like the current arrangement - a 5- or 10-year deal to manage the system using MBTA-owned trains and coaches - or try a new one, such as a decades-long, multibillion dollar pact requiring the contractor to provide some of its own equipment,” reported Moskowitz.

The board’s discussion came the day before a Boston transportation planning and advocacy organization was scheduled to release a report encouraging the T to consider such a long-term deal, with a round table planned for this morning on the subject.

“We would be very disappointed if the future of commuter rail looks like it looks today,’’ said Richard A. Dimino, president and chief executive of A Better City, an organization representing hospitals, universities, financial firms, and other large employers on transportation and land-use planning.

The T runs its own bus, subway, and trolley systems, but has historically outsourced operations and maintenance of the commuter rail to contractors who use MBTA-owned equipment along rail routes that date to the 19th century.

After 16 years with Amtrak --- which declined to bid, according to its then-President David Gunn, because of contract requirements it saw as infeasible --- the T awarded a five-year contract to Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Co. starting in July 2003, with extensions running to 2013. The original contract contained a mix of penalties and bonuses to encourage on-time performance, but a Globe review in May found that T administrators had softened the terms through a series of amendments, even as service deteriorated, the Globe reported.

[NCI note: The Globe report essentially proved that Gunn was right not to have Amtrak bid; he was convinced that the contract language was designed to prevent Amtrak, or any other bidder without strong Massachusetts political connections, from bidding on the contract, because of the severe penalties included in the original contract specifications. The Globe eventually discovered and reported that the T had essentially erased those contract penalties, thereby giving up the taxpayer protections originally touted; in Gunn’s view that was the plan all along.]

The Globe continued: “The company drew flak last winter for a welter of delays that left thousands waiting in the cold or sitting on stalled trains. ‘The board shares the frustration that has been articulated by many of our customers,’ said Ferdinand Alvaro of Marblehead, a corporate lawyer who chairs the board’s finance committee and has said the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority should strongly consider running the service itself.”

“That may not be the only solution,” wrote Moskowitz: “In a presentation to the board, Eric Waaramaa, MBTA deputy director of financial planning, said that T staff is working with advisers for a better contract. That includes hiring the global audit and consulting firm KPMG to review other commuter rail arrangements nationally and internationally and consider the merits of short- and long-term deals.”

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at: emoskowitz@globe.com.


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REGIONAL AND INTERCITY LINES... Regional And Intercity Lines...  

NY-VT Launch Intercity Rail Study

Found At: http://www.ny-vt-passengerrail.org/

NY and VT--- The Vermont Agency of Transportation and the New York State Department of Transportation have obtained funding from the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program for a planning study to significantly improve intercity passenger rail service between Vermont and New York State’s Albany region.

The study will develop a corridor analysis, Service Development Plan and associated preliminary engineering (PE) and environmental documentation for an intercity passenger route that would serve the communities between Albany, NY and Rutland, VT, the New York State Department of Transportation and its Vermont equivalent, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, have announced.

The two state agencies have also created a website dedicated to the project --- http://www.ny-vt-passengerrail.org/ --- to make it easier for the public to participate in the planning process.

“The desired outcome of this study is to develop a preferred transportation alternative that will continue forward into design and construction,” the agencies state.

Intercity passenger rail has long been a transportation priority in Vermont and New York. Vermont has been a major supporter of intercity passenger rail, allocating a substantial part of its State budget to passenger rail services through Amtrak operations, and New York has one of the largest networks of intercity passenger rail in the nation. Passenger rail is a vital and integrated component of both the Vermont and New York multimodal transportation systems. Both states have developed state rail plans to provide a strategic policy framework for maintaining and enhancing their respective rail systems. Despite this commitment to multimodal options, Vermont’s western corridor and parts of east central New York lack intercity passenger rail options – in fact many of these communities do not have any form of intercity passenger transportation,” the agencies said.

“The goal of the New York-Vermont Bi-State Intercity Passenger Rail study is to provide intercity passenger rail services to parts of Vermont and New York that are currently underserved or unserved.

The purpose of this study is to complete all necessary planning work needed to get the study into the Federal Rail Administration’s (FRA) "pipeline of future projects" and to establish passenger rail service along the corridor,” the agencies reported.

Public meetings will be held on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 7PM at the Bennington Fire Station, located at 130 River Street, Bennington, VT 05201; and Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 7PM at the Mechanicville Senior Citizen Center, located at 178 North Main Street, Mechanicville, NY 12118; and 

The study is scheduled to be completed by summer 2012. 

The project study area, which is generally located between Albany/Rensselaer, NY and Rutland, VT, includes Bennington and Rutland Counties in Vermont, and Rensselaer, Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties in New York.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)77.4472.89
Canadian National (CNI)77.5573.37
Canadian Pacific (CP) 61.1055.48
CSX (CSX)21.8920.09
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)60.0253.98
Kansas City Southern (KSU)67.8662.81
Norfolk Southern (NSC)75.0170.72
Providence & Worcester(PWX)11.9811.97
RailAmerica (RA)14.2512.94
Union Pacific (UNP)102.6995.82
 


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Stuttgart 21 Station Project
Approved By Voters

Via Deutsche Agentur (dpa)

Despite Electoral Victory Stuttgart’s Super-Station Project Still Clouded In Controversy

Opponents of the controversial Stuttgart 21 (S21) rail station project failed by a wide margin to get enough votes in last Sunday’s (27th November 2011) state-wide referendum to force the state of Baden-Württemberg to stop funding it. Approximately 59 percent of those who voted approved to let the state of Baden-Württemberg to continue to financially participate in the project. Even in the city of Stuttgart, where opposition has been strongest, the project was approved by 52% of the voters participating in the referendum. Voter turn-out on Sunday was approximately 48 percent of the total registered voters in the state - considered low in Germany, but well above the minimum 33% quorum required for the referendum to be considered valid.

The opponents needed to get a clear majority to force the state government to pull out of the multi-billion-euro project. Winfried Kretschmann (Green Party), the state’s premier (governor) who was elected on a wave of frustration at the previous government’s support of the project, conceded defeat, having himself voted against. “The people have spoken,” he said on SWR radio. “We will accept this vote. The whole state government will do so.”

He also called for Deutsche Bahn, which is leading the project, to be clear about costs. “I do not want to allow myself to be put in the position where the building work has started, then the costs explode and I have to contribute more whether I want to or not,” he said on ZDF television on Sunday evening.

He said Deutsche Bahn should commit itself to taking on any costs over €  4.5 billion (US $6.2 billion) estimated total costs for the redevelopment of the station and the directly related tunneling, track work and other construction work in the city . “We will not pay more than our share of the €  4.5 billion,” he said.

The cost estimate of €  4.5 billion for transformation of the central station from a surface level terminal to an underground through rail station represents a massive increase compared to earlier studies from one to two years ago, which showed the station project would cost just under €  3.0 billion. A related project to build a high-speed rail line to nearby Ulm, Germany has recently been estimated to cost €  2.5 billion (in addition to the €  4.5 billion for the station), which is nearly 25% more than a cost estimate of the new high speed line from slightly over a year ago.

Despite the wide margin of defeat which S21 opponents suffered in the referendum, a number of opposition groups stated that they will continue to fight the project legally based on environmental concerns and fears of significant damage to ground water, and possible side effects of instability of the geology under the city created by new tunnel construction, pumping and draining of huge volumes of ground water and contamination of nearby rivers and streams.

Opponents mounted massive protests against the project last year, calling it too expensive and unnecessary. In October 2010, more than 100 demonstrators were injured in a violent clash with police. This summer nine police officers were hurt in further clashes.

Lengthy talks between state officials, national rail provider Deutsche Bahn and Stuttgart 21 opponents have taken place. But officials ultimately said they were making a few adjustments while still going ahead with the project, after a “stress test” in July showed the project should continue.


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UK Government Approves
Major Rail Investment

British National Infrastructure Plan Includes Major Rail Projects

Via Railnews UK

London – UK Chancellor Exchequer George Osborne has unveiled a National Infrastructure Plan which contains more than 500 individual projects covering railways, roads and airports, as part of his autumn spending statement in the House of Commons. He has told MPs that efficient transport systems are essential to the economy.

Among the major rail projects to go ahead are electrification of the northern TransPennine route, an extension of the Northern Line of the London Underground (subway / metro system) to Battersea, and construction of the East – West rail link, which will connect the central England cities of Oxford, Aylesbury, Bletchley and Bedford by 2017. Mr. Osborne has also referred to support for the overnight sleeper-train services between London and Scotland, following concerns by Transport Scotland that the service was costing £21 million (US $33 million) per year and that its rolling stock was now out of date.

Mr. Osborne presented his autumn spending review to MPs, saying that his plans would create jobs and make the United Kingdom more competitive. As part of that aim, he has also confirmed that January’s increase in regulated rail fares in England is to be held to RPI plus 1 per cent, rather than the previously-planned RPI plus 3 per cent. Transport for London fares will also rise by the same amount. However, he said nothing about the possible rises in 2013 and 2014, which had also been planned to be RPI plus 3 per cent.

Network Rail is to receive another £1 billion to invest in the network. Electrification is to be extended to the TransPennine line between Leeds and Manchester, and the East-West rail link between Oxford, Aylesbury and Bedford, which has been previously approved.

Alstom Pendalino train-set in operation with Virgin Trains

Photo: Virgin Trains Ltd.

Electrification Expansion – a key element in the recently approved infrastructure plan is electrification of significantly more of the UK rail network, which lags far behind other western European countries in terms of percentage of the rail network which is electrified. In summer 2011 an electric Alstom Pendalino train-set in operation with Virgin Trains cruises through Tebay in northern England along the Carlisle – Preston rail line (electrified in the mid 1970s), which forms part of the UK’s West Coast Main Line.

In London, a proposed extension of the Northern Line subway / metro rail line to Battersea has been approved, including two new stations. The chancellor said this scheme alone would create at least 20,000 jobs.

Light rail is to benefit as well, with investment announced for Tyneside and South Yorkshire. The upgrade and modernization of Tyne and Wear Metro is to be accelerated, and four additional trams are to be bought for Sheffield.

Mr. Osborne’s plans have triggered a bleak response from the rail labor union RMT, which found the investment plan to be too little, too late. The union’s general secretary, Bob Crow, said: “Rather than a thin-scraping of jam tomorrow, robbed from other parts of the cupboard, what Britain needs today is real investment for growth, and we could start by ending the nonsense of sacrificing thousands of manufacturing and supply chain jobs in the East Midlands, which are threatened by shifting train building to Siemens in Germany.” Mr. Crow’s comment were in reference to the UK government’s recent decision to award a major order for new EMU train-sets for Southeast England to Siemens in Krefeld Germany, rather to Bombardier Transportation, which would have built the new trains in its Derby, England plant.

“While George Osborne is talking about some limited investment in transport infrastructure thousands of jobs on the trains, tracks and stations are threatened by the Government’s McNulty rail review. That is a glaring inconsistency that sticks out like a sore thumb,” added Mr. Crow.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

To The Editor:

When the Koch brothers, through their Cato Institute/Reason Foundation fronts, say "free market," they just want things in a very selective regulatory sense that’s in their favor.

Even their lap dog Randal O’Toole, has admitted that roads are "there regardless of economic conditions," and O’Toole is right about that!

There isn’t a political/fiscal gun pointed at the street in front of your house about its continued existence.

So why should there be political/fiscal guns pointed at rail lines continued existence?

The reality is that "free markets" don’t exist, just like free lunches.

In transit,

Andrew Dawson
Montreal, Canada


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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