The National Corridors Initiative Logo

January 19, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 2

Copyright © 2016
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 16th Newsletter Year


A Weekly North American Transportation Update For Transportation
Advocates, Professionals, Journalists, And Elected Or Appointed Officials,
At All Levels Of Government.

James P. RePass, Sr.
Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor
David Beale
Contributing Editor
David Peter Alan
Managing Editor / Webmaster
Dennis Kirkpatrick

Facebook Logo

Twitter Logo

Green Energy Badge
Green Energy Badge

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

  Guest Editorial…
Keeping Mattapan’s Trolleys On Track
  Transit Lines…
Trans-Hudson Mobility: Will They Get It
   Right This Time?
New Light Rail Stops In Seattle ‘On The Cusp’
   Of Opening
“L” Train Might Shut Down Manhattan-Brooklyn
   Service For “Sandy” Repairs
  Funding Lines…
Uber, Lyft Taxes Could Go To The MTA
Group Pledges More Than $600,000 For High-
   Speed Rail From Twin Cities To Chicago
  Expansion Lines…
The MBTA Green Line Extension’s Fate
   Could Be Decided This Spring
  Ridership Lines…
Amtrak’s Downeaster “Chugs” Into 2016
   In Timelier Fashion
  High-Speed Lines…
California Unveils Bids For High-Speed
   Rail Construction
  Safety Lines…
Two Rail Issues Make NTSB’s Most Wanted
   List For 2016
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
STB Now Showing The Letters
AAR Sets Incremental PTC Goals
  Across The Pond…
Germany’s DB Slows Down ICE Trains In Snow
Germany Will Regulate Track Access Fees
RUN To Boston
  Publication Notes …

GUEST EDITORIAL... Guest Editorial...  

Keeping Mattapan’s Trolleys On Track

Boston’s MBTA Looking Closely At Its Heritage Streetcar Fleet;
Last Of Its Kind In Revenue Service In Boston.

By Bill Forry, Publisher
The Dorchester Reporter News

How long can the Commonwealth of Massachusetts keep the existing Mattapan “High-Speed” Trolley Line running with its current fleet of classic but increasingly antiquated Presidential Conference Cars?

The answer is not yet certain, but it’s likely to come into sharper focus over the next year now that existential questions of transportation are being posed by members of Governor Baker’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board.

[Last] Monday, T officials briefed the board on the state of its vehicle fleets – 639 subway and trolley cars and 991 buses – that make up the MBTA system. In the larger scheme of things, the 10 PCC trolleys that run on the Mattapan Line constitute a fragment of the total picture, especially when weighed against the hundreds of Green Line vehicles, for example, most of which are in line for replacement.

According to an account of Monday’s presentation by the State House News Service, MBTA Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gonneville told the control board that the PCC cars – which first entered service in 1945 – are a challenge to the T’s coffers as well as to its employees, who literally have to manufacture replacement parts at the T’s Everett workshop.

“At times we actually need to reach out to trolley museums to get components and parts to be able to keep these vehicles in revenue service,” Gonneville said.

Steve Poftak, a member of the control board who professes a fondness for the Mattapan trolleys and enjoys riding them with his children periodically, said that the novelty of keeping the vintage cars operational needs to be studied with a cold eye on costs.

“It’s not really clear how much we are spending crafting hand-built parts for the cars. If we get a forensic accounting of it, my suspicion is that it will be too much,” said Poftak. “I will change my mind when the data changes.”

Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the MBTA, told the Reporter this week that a “thorough analysis of the line’s infrastructure and vehicles will be completed this year.” It will include “options for the future, some of which were mentioned yesterday at the board meeting,” said Pesaturo, referring to ideas that were floated at the meeting, such as replacing the trolleys with buses. “As is always the case, the communities served by the line will play an important role in the public process of deciding how to best meet the area’s transit needs.”

Even the hint of putting the PCC fleet out to pasture has sparked pushback on social media, with one rail buff launching a Save the Mattapan Line Facebook page. Is it too soon for all that? Perhaps, but it speaks to the special place the high-speed trolley line has in our community.

PCC car

Image Derek Yu via Wikipedia and Flickr

PCC car 3263, a vintage “Commonwealth Car” unit rounds the return loop at Mattapan station and is entering the inbound platform for passengers destine for Ashmont station and stops between. This unit is shown before the air conditioning unit was added.

State leaders should know that they will face an uphill climb in these parts if their starting point on the subject is anything less than neutrality. The Mattapan trolleys are a unique and cherished part of our neighborhood’s daily life. And, for many thousands of people, they are still a convenient and efficient means of getting around. They also have historic value and enhance the quality of life in this community.

The costs of keeping these vintage cars on the tracks needs to be measured in more than just dollars and cents and timesheets.

Bill Forry is the owner and publisher of the Dorchester Reporter community newspaper, His wife Sen. Linda Dorcena-Forry is a member of the State Senate representing Dorchester.

Found at:

DF Managing Editor comments: The Mattapan (matt’-uh-pan) trolley, which this streetcar is known locally, connects Boston’s Ashmont Station (Red Line subway) with several neighborhoods of Boston’s neighborhoods and one edge of the township of Milton, MA.

The line is hardly “high-speed” as its name suggests. The term dates back to the line’s inception when rail travel moved at a higher speed than local roadway traffic.

The PCC streetcars which operate on that line were refurbished and updated during a rebuild of the Ashmont station some years back. The station rebuild forced a closure of the line. During the closure of this extension of the Red Line, additional track and wire work was done to assure that the PCC cars would continue for up to an additional 25 years, or so it was stated then. As of this date less than half of that has passed.

The PCC cars were chosen to remain for several reasons. First, two river crossing bridges of some vintage now have weight restrictions due to their age, Newer streetcars owned by the MBTA may exceed those limits. Also, as the name “trolley” implies, the catenary wire service that powers the PCC cars are designed to accommodate a trolley pole, whereas newer streetcars have a pantograph. The suggestion here is if newer rolling stock were moved in, the MBTA would be facing additional retrofitting of the rolling stock, the catenary, some sections of track, as well as the bridges, or some combination of those. So transferring existing streetcars from Boston’s Green line may not be an option, at least not one without cost.

A total of 10 PCC units are dedicated to the Mattapan line, the last such PCC units operating in revenue service in Boston. Of those, 6 are needed for frequent and continuous peak service during morning and evening rush hours. Two of these units are currently side tracked at the Mattapan repair shop awaiting replacement parts. The branch is known to be the only rapid transit line that passes through the middle of a cemetery (Cedar Grove Cemetery). Due to its short length and lower ridership (comparatively) it is usually the last line to see snow removal efforts in the winter, forcing substitute buses to fill the need.

In the last generation-plus time period, the MBTA has eliminated or truncated two streetcar lines. The “A” line from Boston to Watertown was completely eliminated and the “E” line had most of its Jamaica Plain neighborhood section truncated. Both were street-running lines intermingled with auto traffic. Both have replacement bus service instead.

The Mattapan trolley still provides a robust service for riders needing to reach both their homes and bus lines that radiate from Mattapan station to outlying neighborhoods.

DF Managing editor Dennis Kirkpatrick is a resident of Boston, MA and has ridden the Mattapan Trolley innumerable times in his lifetime.

Return to index
TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Trans-Hudson Mobility: Will They
Get It Right This Time?

Politicians Endorse Gateway, But Where is the Money?

Ninth In A Series
By David Peter Alan

There seems to be little doubt that there is a compelling need for more passenger capacity on the portion of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) under the Hudson River between New York City and nearby New Jersey. Today, there is only a two-track railroad from Newark to the beginning of New York’s Penn Station. Under the Hudson, there are two tunnels, each of which contains a single track. These tunnels and tracks have been in service since 1910, and are running at or close to capacity during peak-commuting hours. To make matters worse, the storm surge from Hurricane (“Superstorm”) Sandy flooded low-lying portions of the tunnels in October, 2012. Amtrak officials stated in 2014 that they will have to be taken out of service for repairs within twenty years. The clock is ticking, and the actual deadline may be significantly earlier than 2034.

While there appears to be little doubt about the problem, there appears to be a great deal of doubt about the solution. Much of that doubt revolves around the cost of a solution, and how it would be funded. Recent estimates have placed the cost of Amtrak’s Gateway project in the neighborhood of $20 billion. The original proponent of Gateway was the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat. He unveiled his plan, in the presence of other elected Democrats and Amtrak officials, in February, 2011. Appropriately, he made his announcement at the Hilton Gateway Hotel in downtown Newark, exactly four months after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, terminated the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) Project in October, 2014. Despite widespread support for ARC from the business, labor and political communities, both Democrats and Republicans, many rider advocates fought against it. Their objections: it was slated to end in a dead-end deep-cavern terminal twenty stories below street level (dubbed “the tunnel to Macy’s Basement”), it would not go to Penn Station, Amtrak could not use it, and it could not be extended to Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s East Side. Christie mentioned these flaws when he killed the plan, but he cited cost overruns of several billion dollars which New Jersey would be required to shoulder, as his primary reason for refusing to build it.

In terms of cost-effectiveness, the ARC Project’s flaws made it a worse deal than anyone could discern merely by looking at the price tag. Even on its face, the price was high, and it had more than doubled in the fifteen years since the project was first proposed in 1995. Christie’s predecessor, Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat and a professional financier, was anxious to build the project, even though it had been downgraded in several stages during his administration and those of his predecessors. Corzine had run for re-election in 2009, but Christie defeated him, campaigning strongly on issues related to the Garden State’s financial woes. Christie supported the ARC Project at first, but changed his mind as the cost continued to rise and cost-overruns became known.

When Corzine left office in January, 2010, New Jersey Transit (NJT) still maintained that the project could be completed for $8.7 billion. The Corzine Administration had put together a funding plan that included a $3 billion grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) and $2.7 billion from state sources in New Jersey; primarily toll revenue from the Turnpike Authority. That number did not include the cost of two bridges over the Hackensack River to replace and augment Portal Bridge (estimated at $1.7 billion), or for new cars that would be needed when the new service would begin ($400 million). State officials believed New Jersey could afford $8.7 billion, but not the additional $2.1 billion for the bridges and cars that were not included in their cost figures, but were needed for the overall project. No one had identified a funding source for these two additional items.

The FTA did not believe the Corzine Administration’s numbers, either. The FTA’s August 16, 2010 cost estimates spanned a range of $10.7 billion to $14.5 billion for the project. Christie concluded that New Jersey could not afford to pay for any cost overruns, which would not be covered by a grant from the FTA, but would be entirely New Jersey’s responsibility. The Obama Administration sent Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff to make a deal with Christie, so the project could be built. They and Christie agreed to reduce the cost of the project by $1 billion. LaHood and Rogoff also offered to contribute $378 million in additional grant funding and a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan for another $2.3 billion, toward a new targeted price of $11.7 billion. Christie maintained that New Jersey did not have the money to repay such a loan, and that New Jersey would be on the hook for any amounts over $11.4 billion, and he closed the book on the project on October 27, 2010.

Christie stood firm in his belief that New Jersey could not afford its share of the cost of the ARC Project when he terminated it. If anything, New Jersey’s financial picture has become worse in the past five years, so any financial constraints under which the Garden State operated in 2010 were not as severe as today’s. As expensive as ARC was, Gateway is even more expensive. Current estimates for the cost of the entire Gateway project have risen to $20 billion. Even if the project could be built for less, it is not prudent to assume a lower cost, due to the inherent risk that the money could run out before the project is completed.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Final Demand Producer Price Index (PPI; not seasonally-adjusted) rose from 102.5 in October, 2010 to 109.6 in November, 2015, the last month for which numbers are available at this writing. That represents an increase of 6.9% over the five years since Christie killed the ARC Project. Using this value of the PPI, the final FTA/New Jersey estimates for the cost of the ARC Project would range from $11.3 billion to $14.4 billion in today’s dollars.

Christie refused to commit New Jersey to repay the loans that would have been required to finance the former ARC project. Given the significantly-higher cost of Gateway, it would cost more to repay the amount of loans need to finance it, than to repay the smaller loans which LaHood and Rogoff offered toward ARC five years ago. In addition, New Jersey is unable to finance the existing transportation system in the state. The Christie Administration and the Legislature have been unable to renew the state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), which pays for highway projects and capital projects for NJ Transit. That would require raising the levy on gasoline and diesel fuel, which is the second-lowest in the nation and has not been increased since 1988. Christie is strongly opposed to such an increase, while the Democrats who control the Legislature are not enthusiastic about the prospect. In this financial climate, it is highly doubtful that New Jersey could help to pay for any expensive transportation projects. The $20 billion price tag for Gateway ranges from 48% higher to 77% higher than the cost of ARC, which Christie stated that New Jersey could not afford.

On October 1st of last year, New York Times transportation reporter Emma G. Fitzsimmons posed three questions concerning funding for Gateway: “How would the states pay for their share when leaders are already struggling to fund existing infrastructure plans? Could Congress, already wracked by leadership questions, be persuaded to provide significant federal funding? And would the Port Authority, shadowed by scandal and a continuing federal investigation, be the best agency to oversee one of the biggest construction projects in the country?” Another question arises from her report: Would “significant federal funding” exceed the $3.4 billion offered by the Obama Administration toward the cost of ARC in 2010?

At this writing, there does not seem to be a satisfactory answer to the first question. Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo both point their fingers across the Hudson River and claim that the other state is the primary beneficiary of any new project, so the other state should pay for it. Christie points out that New York collects tax revenue from New Jerseyans who commute to New York City to work, so New York has a stake in those commuters’ fortunes. He argues that New York should chip in for Gateway, so New Jersey residents would have a better commute into the City, where they work and pay taxes. Cuomo counters that New Jerseyans commute into the City and compete with New York residents for jobs, so New Jersey gets most of the benefit and should pay most of the cost for improving the infrastructure on the railroad. Both call for Amtrak to pay for the project, since Amtrak owns the railroad, but Amtrak is facing its own financial difficulties. At this writing, the Cuomo Administration is also having trouble finding the funds needed for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Amtrak was a minor participant, at most, in the now-defunct ARC Project, and was excluded completely when the project was downgraded in 2007 to bypass Penn Station. This reduction eliminated a proposed track connection to Penn Station, which would have precluded Amtrak from using the new tunnels. Although Gateway is an Amtrak project, it is NJT that needs the additional capacity. Amtrak’s current schedule does not require more tunnels into Penn Station, and it is possible that Amtrak could live with one tunnel in service while the other is rebuilt; an arrangement that has been in effect on week-ends for several years. NJT riders, especially peak-hour commuters, could not be accommodated with only a single tunnel in service. While Amtrak and NJT would both benefit from new tunnel capacity, it is NJT, and not Amtrak, that needs it. In addition, Amtrak only needs one span to replace Portal Bridge; the second bridge is also included in the plan to accommodate NJT trains at peak-commuting hours. So is the proposed Penn South; a new station that would host NJT trains at all times. With Penn South, Amtrak would have exclusive use of the existing Penn Station, except for allowing a limited number of NJT trains to use it at peak-commuting times. In short, Amtrak would have the existing Penn Station to itself most of the time, while NJT’s riders (which outnumber Amtrak’s by about 4 to 1), would be relegated to the proposed Penn South. While Amtrak is planning its next generation of high-speed trains (“Next-Gen”) in the region, that is a separate project, unrelated to Gateway.

On August 10, 2015, Stephen J. Gardner, Vice-President of Amtrak for Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Investment Development, appeared before the New Jersey Senate Oversight Committee. He suggested that Gateway be financed primarily by the federal government on an 80/20 basis. While it would be easier for New York and New Jersey to pay 20% of the cost than 50%, most rail and transit projects are financed on a 50/50 basis. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat and Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, called for the 80/20 match that Gardner suggested. Nonetheless, the governors agreed to propose a 50/50 split.

On September 15th, Governors Christie and Cuomo agreed to commit their states to pay half the cost. The Port Authority would be the lead agency on the “local” side, since it is a bi-state agency, accountable only to the governors of the two states but not an instrumentality of either state government. A report by Fitzsimmonns in the Times that day quoted Cuomo as saying: “We’re hoping to break the gridlock by making what I think is more than a good-faith effort to say 50-50,” and he continued: “Otherwise I’m afraid this is going to go on forever.” A series of delays and breakdowns that had disrupted NJT commuter service several times during the summer may have provided the incentive for the governors to move forward on pushing for Gateway, even agreeing to pick up half the cost. Later, the Feds committed to funding the other half of the cost of the project, but not solely with grants. Federal funding would include grants, loans, and revenue earned by Amtrak for use of the NEC. This is similar to the commitment they made toward ARC; a combination of grants and loans.

On November 12th, the governors announced the formation of Gateway Development Corp., a subsidiary company within the Port Authority, which would take the lead in securing funding for the Gateway Project. There would be four members of the Board of Directors: one for the U.S. Department of Transportation, one from Amtrak, and two from the Port Authority; a New York appointee and a New Jersey appointee. As Christopher Maag reported in that day’s edition of the Bergen Record and on the paper’s web site, “The governor’s announcement states only that the development corporation will include members from New Jersey, New York, Amtrak and the federal transportation department.” Maag’s report continued:

Also unclear in the governor’s statement is where any of the money for Gateway will actually come from. While U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has committed to 50 percent of the money from the federal government, Congress this week moved in the opposite direction, voting to strip $1.3 billion from transit projects. That bill must be reconciled with a surface transportation measure passed by the Senate that contains no such cuts.

The threat which Maag mentioned was averted. The Republican-dominated House had voted to eliminate a program that gave federal transit grants to Northeastern states, and give it to rural states for small bus systems, instead. Three Democrats from New Jersey were on the Conference Committee, which restored the program.

In a political climate where Congress is reluctant to fund transit in the Northeast, it appears highly unlikely that the same Congress would authorize the Federal share of 50% in the form of grants to build the Gateway Project, which primarily benefits rail riders in New York and New Jersey. In fact, the Feds have only promised a combination of grants, loans and revenue from NEC operations, so far. Fiscally-conservative Republicans control the House and, despite the fact that Christie is a Republican, many elected officials in the two states are Democrats. This does not bode well for the federal government paying for Gateway through grants. It is much more likely that the federal contribution will be RRIF or TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loans, which the states would be required to repay. The federal government offered similar loans in 2010 for the ARC Project, but Christie refused to commit New Jersey to pay back those loans or pay for any cost overruns.

Even if the federal government comes up with grants to pay its share, the other $10 billion for the local match would be the responsibility of the states and the Port Authority. Maag’s report continued:

How those loans might be repaid is anybody’s guess. The transportation funds in both New Jersey and New York are fully tapped out, and the Port Authority has little room to raise tolls on its bridges and tunnels - among the agency’s primary sources of revenue - especially after a controversial toll hike passed in 2011 that will cause tolls on the George Washington Bridge to climb to $15 next month.

The tolls have increased, along with fares on the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) trains between New Jersey and Manhattan, operated by the Port Authority. New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for highway projects and capital projects for transit, has not been renewed. New York is having financial woes, too, including funding the MTA’s capital program. So it is difficult to imagine how the states could pay for Gateway. Their contribution would also be significantly greater than the amount that Christie refused to pay toward the ARC Project five years ago.

The Port Authority had committed $3 billion toward the former ARC Project, but times have changed since then. Most of that money was spent on highway projects. The agency’s financial picture has also deteriorated, to the point where it proposed eliminating overnight service on PATH trains to save money. That did not occur, because of a strong outcry from local elected officials and residents.

Now the Port Authority is talking about replacing a number of facilities, including the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. On March 17, 2015, Andrew Tangle reported in the Wall Street Journal that it would cost $8 billion to $11 billion for a new bus terminal. Another Port Authority proposal calls for spending $1.5 billion to extend PATH from Newark Penn Station to the Port Authority monorail at Newark Airport, which is also slated to be demolished and replaced. Advocates have said that NJT already runs between Newark Penn Station and the airport monorail, so the money should be committed toward new trans-Hudson tunnels, instead.

The Port Authority’s problems extend far beyond financial woes. The agency is widely blamed for the “Bridgegate” scandal, which has resulted in several criminal prosecutions of Port Authority officials. In September, 2013, two of the three traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge between Uptown Manhattan and Fort Lee, New Jersey were closed, for reasons that remain unclear and controversial. The Port Authority owns the bridge, and the lane closures caused severe traffic jams in Fort Lee. Democrats allege that Christie ordered the lane closures as retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat who refused to endorse him for re-election. At this writing, Christie himself has not been implicated, but a number of his appointees are being prosecuted or have been forced to leave the agency.

The Port Authority has also been criticized for its lack of disclosure of information to the public. Last year, every member of both legislative houses in both New York and New Jersey voted to approve a plan to reform the Port Authority and provide increased transparency. In another rare moment of agreement, Governors Christie and Cuomo vetoed the reform plan that all four state legislative bodies had unanimously approved. It is unclear if and when such an opportunity for reform could occur again.

In addition to the funding issue, can the Port Authority be trusted to oversee such a large project as Gateway? Because of the agency’s participation in the former ARC Project, the cost of acquiring real estate for it had skyrocketed. Many advocates, as well as ordinary residents of New Jersey and New York, do not trust the Port Authority. It has a negative reputation with the public, made even worse in light of recent scandals, and a federal investigation is ongoing.

To some advocates, the mix of a hostile Congress, a lack of money at the state level, and the influence and questionable performance of the Port Authority renders it unlikely that Gateway can be built as proposed. Still, the tunnels are filled to capacity and the infrastructure deteriorates. So where do we go from here? We will attempt to answer that question, as we conclude this series in our next edition.

Return to index

New Light Rail Stops In Seattle
‘On The Cusp’ Of Opening

By Josh Green
KING 5 News

In a matter of weeks Seattle will have two new light rail stops. They will be in Capitol Hill and the University of Washington as Sound Transit extends north.

“We are on the cusp of opening University Link,” Ric Ilgenfritz told Seattle City Council members Monday. “We will be announcing an opening date any time now. We have always said this project will open the first quarter of 2016 and it is the first quarter of 2016 and there’s a lot of work going on to get ready to flip the switch. So you’ll be hearing about that soon ... as in within a matter of weeks.”

Ilgenfritz, Executive Director, Department of Planning, Environment and Project Development at Sound Transit said there will be an additional 4.5 to 5 miles this year because of the additions at the University of Washington, Capitol Hill and Angle Lake station to the south of the airport.

Ilgenfritz briefed council members about those projects and the Sound Transit 3 initiative, which voters will weigh in on in November.

Municipalities like Seattle have a deadline later this month to let offer Sound Transit know what they think about the broader proposals as they are.

“We don’t have to get down to specifics of which corner things are going to be on but to lay out kind of some of the perimeters that we would like to see in this plan,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

Later this year, likely in April and May, there will be more public comment to help shape ST3 for the ballot.

“Ballard is sort of the tail that wagged the dog on ST3 no question about it and that’s a good thing because it brought the rest of the region into the conversation,” Ilgenfritz told council members.

Found at:

Return to index

“L” Train Might Shut Down Manhattan-Brooklyn Service
For “Sandy” Repairs

By Danielle Furfaro And Frank Rosario
The New York Post

The MTA might totally shut down L-train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn for more than a year — creating a nightmare for hundreds of thousands of straphangers on the already cramped route.

The drastic measure on hipster heaven Williamsburg’s transit lifeline would be the quickest and cheapest way to repair damage to the 80-year-old Canarsie Tube under the East River caused by Hurricane Sandy, said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg.

The step would be similar to when the MTA shut down R-train service through the Montague tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 14 months from August 2013 to September 2014 to repair Sandy damage to that aging tunnel.

“We could do what we did with Montague, where we shut the train down for more than a year,” said Lisberg. “We do all the necessary work around the clock, doing it as fast as humanly possible and not forcing people to suffer through reduced service.”

But daily ridership through the Canarsie tunnel is 225,000, far more than the 65,000 daily passengers who take the R train through the Montague tunnel.

The Bedford Avenue station in Williamsburg is often packed with so many straphangers during rush hours and late nights that they barely fit on the platform.

L Train

Photo: Gregory P. Mango

An “L” Line Train arrives at one of its stations

And while there were other subway options within walking distance of most R stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, it would be a trek for riders to get to other trains from many spots along the L line.

Riders said the shutdown would be devastating.

“Hearing this news just ruined my whole day, maybe even the next few years of my life,” said Kelly Pittman, 24, who lives in Bushwick and works retail in Union Square.

Her alternative would be “schlepping” to the M train and then transferring to the packed 6 line.

“Just thinking about it stresses me out,” she said. “I think it’s a big mistake.”

During Hurricane Sandy, the Canarsie Tube took on 7 million gallons of saltwater and it was closed for 11 days as the MTA pumped the water out.

Totally shutting down the tunnel for a long stretch is just one possible plan. The MTA might also decide to close one of the two tracks under the East River, meaning trains would have to alternate going back and forth. That plan would likely mean more than two years of delays, said sources.

The MTA announced last week that it plans to start closing down stations and tunnels completely until it finishes repairs instead of just closing them on nights and weekends.

From an item at:

Editor’s Note: The “L” train runs under Fourteenth Street in Manhattan, and through northern Brooklyn and southern Queens to Canarsie, in eastern Brooklyn. It does not connect with many other lines in the system, except on the Fourteenth Street side. It began as part of the historic BMT system and runs mostly underground, although it is elevated at its eastern end. Ridership has increased sharply in recent years, due to the emerging popularity of Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Greenpoint and Williamsburg, which are served by the line. The designation “L” should not be confused with “L trains”; Chicago’s generic designation for elevated lines. In New York, such lines are referred to as “El trains” instead.

Return to index
FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Uber, Lyft Taxes Could Go To The MTA

Ride An Uber, Save The MTA

By Dan Rivoli
New York Daily News

Two state lawmakers introduced a bill on Tuesday that would give the Metropolitan Transportation Authority 25% of the sales tax passengers pay when they take a trip through Uber, Lyft and other car service apps.

The bill from State Sens. Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Brooklyn) and Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) would give the MTA a funding boost and redeem part of the profits lost due to Uber’s rise.

The transit agency has been collecting 50 cents from every yellow and green taxi trip — on the decline since car service apps hit the road.

If passed, the bill would also take about 50 cents a ride, but that money would be divvied up by the state and city, with just a sliver going directly to the MTA.

“Public transit ridership continues to increase as does the disparity between necessary upkeep and the funds to do so,” Dilan, the top Democrat on the transportation committee, said in a statement. “Traditional ride services have played a part in closing this gap. It only makes sense that new technology-based services do the same.”

City officials are planning to address transit funding from these car app services, according to Wiley Norvell, spokesman for Mayor de Blasio.

With each trip a cab loses to an app, the MTA misses out on a 50 cent fee. Agency officials said in November that the competition cabs face from apps like Uber and Lyft is costing the MTA $10 million a year.

Dilan and Hoylman’s bill is being introduced amid efforts to legalize app car services statewide as “Transportation Network Companies.”

Their legislation would also give Upstate New York transit agencies a cut of the sales tax revenue, depending where the trip begins.

Lyft spokesman David Mack said in a statement the bill recognizes “the success of ridesharing and its imminent expansion to New York.”

From a news item at:

Return to index

Group Pledges More Than $600,000 For
High-Speed Rail From Twin Cities To Chicago

From KXRA News

A coalition of private and public groups in Minnesota and Wisconsin have pledged 660-thousand dollars to expand high-speed rail service between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

The Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission wants to develop the state’s first high-speed rail corridor to connect the Twin Cities with Milwaukee and Chicago. The funds will pay for an environmental analysis to be completed by next year.

A feasibility study completed in 2015 estimated more than 150-thousand passengers a year would use a daily train leaving Chicago in the morning and returning from St. Paul in the afternoon. Preliminary estimates put the price tag at more than 141-million dollars.

Found at:

Return to index
EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

The MBTA Green Line Extension’s Fate
Could Be Decided This Spring

If The Project Moves Forward, It Will Definitely Be Scaled Down.

By Adam Vaccaro

If you’re keeping tabs on the uncertain future of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford, MA, you’ll want to circle a couple spring dates on your calendar.

On April 7, 2016 the MBTA plans to present a new proposed project design, budget estimate, and schedule, MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola said last Monday.

And May 11 may bring the next major decision about the extension’s fate, as the MBTA expects to present a new finance plan for the project to the two boards that oversee the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on that day.

The rail extension’s schedule has been severely disrupted after the “T” revealed in August that it was as much as $1 billion over budget. Consultants said the T mishandled a previously unused contracting method, allowing consultants to take advantage of the process. They also said the state has likely never seen a reliable budget of the extension’s costs.

The state has since canceled several contracts related to the project, and has not ruled out calling it off entirely it if it can’t get costs down.

The project redesign will help form the basis of a new cost estimate, and the new budget will inform the new funding plan, DePaola said.

“We need to revisit our designs and develop a project that incorporates those scope reductions,” he said. “And we need to develop a revised cost estimate reflecting those scope ... reduction items, so we can bring that forward in front of the board and developing a funding plan.”

DePaola said the T has brought on an interim team for the next “four to five months” to oversee the project. Jack Wright, a former state transportation official who worked on the Big Dig and now works with the engineering firm Weston & Sampson, will be the interim project manager.

Another consultant, John Karn of the engineering firm Arup, will handle the redesign portion of the planning process. Karn had previously provided analysis to the T on the project. In December, he gave a presentation saying the state could save money on the project by cutting down on the size of stations, redesigning the planned route so that one set of commuter rail tracks does not need to be moved, axing the planned extension branch to Somerville’s Union Square, and other options.

The project management team also includes Matthew Poirier of the construction management firm Keville Enterprises. The rest of the team is comprised of three existing Department of Transportation employees.

The T’s control board voted last Monday to allow the contractors to get to work quickly, allocating money to pay them in the short-term as the agency negotiates deals to cover the next several months.

A permanent project management team would be put in place if the Green Line extension is kept alive past this spring.

Original article found at:

Return to index
RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

Amtrak’s Downeaster “Chugs”
Into 2016 In Timelier Fashion

The Rail Service Was Clobbered By Delays And Disruptions That Led To A 30 Percent On-Time Performance
In The Last Fiscal Year, But In December Of 2015, 86 Percent Of Downeaster Trains Arrived On Time.

By Tom Bell
Portland (ME) Press Herald

Amtrak’s Downeaster service has rebounded from its dismal performance last year and plans to add more train trips to Freeport and Brunswick later this year before the fall foliage season begins. Also on the docket: a potential new stop in Kennebunk.

The Boston-to-Brunswick rail service was hammered in 2015 by service interruptions owing to construction delays, a relentless winter and other factors. Once the model for customer service on a regional rail line, the Downeaster ended the fiscal year with a 30 percent on-time percentage. By December – six months into the new fiscal year – the service had recovered. Eighty-six percent of Downeaster trains arrived on time that month – more than 10 percentage points above the national average.

The Downeaster has been more dependable than the Acela Express, the premium high-speed Amtrak service between Boston and Washington, D.C. In the 12-month period ending in November, the on-time performance of the Acela Express was 71 percent, while the Downeaster’s was 85 percent.


Photo: John Ewing/2012 - Press Herald file

The Downeaster crosses Bow Street in Freeport en route to Brunswick.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, says she’s focused now on regaining the confidence of the traveling public.

“Last year was a difficult year for many reasons,” she said, “but going into 2016 we are very confident that operations are strong, trains are running reliably and customer satisfaction is high.”

Customer satisfaction took a nosedive last year.

In May, the Downeaster’s worst month, not a single train arrived on time. In June, fewer than 8 percent arrived on time. In addition, in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 13 percent of trains – 488 trains in all – never made it out of the station because their trips were canceled, mostly because of an ambitious tie replacement project that took months longer to complete than planned.

Moreover, plummeting gasoline prices in 2015 made public transit less financially attractive for travelers, a trend that is ongoing. To make matters worse, the rail authority last year encountered something it never faced before – organized opposition. The authority was engaged in a high-profile public feud with a neighborhood in Brunswick over the construction of a train layover facility.

Opponents criticized not just the project but the entire service and its management.

The rail authority won that battle, and the facility is now under construction.

Quinn said she will meet with Amtrak officials early next month to discuss when to add a round-trip service to Freeport and Brunswick, bringing the number of daily round trips from two to three.

She said she believes the new service can be in place in September, a high travel month because the state’s tourism season is still going strong and Bowdoin College students are starting the academic year. She said the additional service will make the Downeaster more attractive because it will give travelers more options.

Another change: Downeaster trains this summer could begin stopping in Kennebunk if the town is able to complete a temporary platform in time, Quinn said.

Trains would stop at the old Boston & Maine Railroad station on Depot Street, just south of downtown. The depot hasn’t been used as a train station since B&M stopped running trains between Boston and Portland on Jan. 3, 1965.

Quinn said there are no plans to raise daily fares. However, the authority’s board of directors will consider a proposal to raise the price of a monthly pass this spring for travelers departing from all stations, to $299. That’s the fare currently paid by travelers who use stations between Portland and Durham, New Hampshire. Travelers to the south of those stations currently pay $279.

In fiscal year 2015, which ended on June 30, the train service carried 438,000 passengers on one-way trips – down nearly 98,000 passengers from fiscal year 2014. The service ended fiscal 2015 with $7.65 million in revenues – down nearly $1 million from the previous year.

From an item at:

[ Ed Note: Pet peeve. Trains no longer “chug.” and have not since just after World War II, except maybe in some select railway museums. The press seems to like to evoke this term out of convenience yet it can create a bias in the readership that suggests rail is a quaint mode of transportation from a bygone era. Yet rail is on the move and being expanded nationwide – sometimes with difficulty – to accommodate a burgeoning population. The Amtrak Downeaster is a prime example of modern transportation options. It hardly “chugs.” ]

Return to index
HIGH-SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

California Unveils Bids For High-Speed
Rail Construction

By Keith Laing
The Hill

California officials have unveiled bids for construction of a controversial high-speed railway that is being partially financed by the federal government.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority said California rail builders has offered to build a 22-mile segment of the high-speed railway for $347 million, which is less than the agency’s previous estimate of $400-$500 million.

Republicans in California and Washington have questioned the viability of the golden state’s high-speed rail proposal, but officials with the agency overseeing construction of the railway said the private sector bids are proof of the line’s viability.

“We continue to attract world leading design and construction firms who want to be a part of high-speed rail in California,” California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales said in a statement.

“People are already and will continue to see major construction projects underway on over 100 miles of infrastructure in the central valley as we move this program forward,” Morales continued.

The proposed California line, which would link San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major California cities, was part of an ambitious proposal from president Obama to build a nationwide network of trains that would rival popular European railways.

The California high-speed rail project has received more than $3 billion in federal dollars, but it has been beset with delays and funding problems.

From an item at:

Return to index
SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Two Rail Issues Make NTSB’s
Most Wanted List For 2016

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its 2016 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements on January 13 at the 95th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

Two rail specific issues from the 2015 Most Wanted List, Positive Train Control (PTC) and rail tank care safety issues, have been combined into one item on the 2016 list: Promote The Completion of Rail Safety Initiatives.

New to the list in 2016 is “Improve Rail Transit Safety Oversight,” which joins other issues making their debut on the list including “Strengthen Occupant Protection,” “Reduce Fatigue-Related Accidents,” “Expand Use of Recorders to Enhance Transportation Safety” and “Promote Availability of Collision Avoidance Technologies in Highway Vehicles.”

Regarding PTC and strong tank car safety rules, NTSB said “these measures save lives – but only where implemented. They should be implemented broadly and with minimal delays.”

NTSB notes that congressional action to extend the PTC implementation deadline to 2018 should allow many more railroads to comply, but NTSB encourages implementation as soon as possible and recommends not allowing new extensions from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).

NTSB also encourages introducing safer tank cars to the industry as soon as possible.

“Bottom line: We have laws and regulations to implement PTC and improve tank car design, but we must avoid delays. Safety delayed is safety denied, and any given day without these lifesaving advances might be the day of the next Philadelphia or Lac-Megantic,” The NTSB said.

The new entrant on the list, “Improve Rail Transit Safety Oversight,” was added because “We have seen too many fatalities and injuries on rail mass transit,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart.

NTSB referenced the January 2015 Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) smoke incident where 92 people were injured and one passenger died. NTSB recommended the Federal Railroad Administration take over safety oversight of WMATA rail operations. However, USDOT is pursuing that oversight under the Federal Transit Administration, a decision NTSB said it will monitor as it aims to champion consistent oversight for all rail transit agencies.

“Rail transit must be subject to competent oversight bodies that have standards and rules, and the power to enforce these rules. Although each system has unique equipment, operating environments and challenges, all need strong safety oversight to continue safe operations,” wrote NTSB, “Rail transit riders deserve strong safety oversight whether in Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta or in any of the dozens of other American cities with rail transit systems.”

Found at:

Return to index


STOCKS...    Selected Rail Stocks...
BRKB – Burlington Northern Santa Fe

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific

      Return To Index

FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  



STB Now Showing The Letters

By William C. Vantuono, Editor-In-Chief
Railway Age Magazine

Everything is out in the open, as it should be. Today (January 8, 2016), the Surface Transportation Board established a page on its website, “Major Railroad Mergers and Consolidations Correspondence,” that contains all the correspondence connected to the proposed merger of Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern. The correspondence is in PDF form and can be downloaded by anyone.

The website page, which can be accessed by going to where it states: “The STB is aware of a recent offer by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to merge with Norfolk Southern Railway (NS). A number of stakeholders have submitted correspondence to the STB about this offer, including members of Congress, State and local officials, shippers, and members of the public. At this time, there is no proceeding before the agency related to a merger of CP and NS.”

The correspondence had previously been characterized as “leaked,” which is something that never should have occurred, given long-established and generally accepted STB protocol. If that protocol is followed as it should be—that is, making any and all correspondence a matter of public record—there’s no such thing as a leak (except perhaps in the plumbing at STB headquarters).

I need to give credit where credit is due. That credit goes to our very astute (and a bit cynical—but who can blame him?) Capitol Hill Contributing Editor, Frank Wilner, who just two days ago called out the STB on its apparent lack of transparency in his blog, “Show us the letters, STB.” I don’t think it’s pure coincidence that it took fewer than 48 hours for the STB’s website page to appear with what we (and I’m sure many others) have asked for.

Am I gloating? Well, maybe just a little. Actually, it’s a good feeling to know that this publication, which was established 103 years before I was born, is taken seriously.

For the record, Railway Age [ and Destination: Freedom - Ed ] takes no public position on the merits of a CP-NS combination—whether we think the merger should take place, or whether it will take place. Our duty is to report the events as they unfold, as accurately and balanced as possible. We commend the STB for following long-established agency protocol and making correspondence related to the proposed merger public, regardless of whether the agency needed to be prodded. As such, we appreciate that correspondence that should have been on the public record to begin with is now “on the record.”

So, download as many of the letters as you care to digest. Transparency rules, as it should. The late, much-revered Linda Morgan, I’m sure, is smiling right now. In many ways, this is her legacy.

As of this posting, there are 17 letters on the STB website page. Of particular interest is a response from the STB to the House Judiciary Committee dated Jan. 7, 2016 found at:

Found at:

Return to index

AAR Sets Incremental PTC Goals

By William C. Vantuono, Editor-In-Chief
Railway Age Magazine

Working within the up-to five-year extension Congress granted in late 2015, the Association of American Railroads has set year-end 2016 goals for Positive Train Control implementation.

“In 2016, PTC is a priority for freight railroads as they focus on getting PTC installed and implemented as quickly as possible, without sacrificing safety,” AAR spokesperson Ed Greenberg told Railway Age. “The emphasis is that it is critical to make sure PTC is done right. Field testing of PTC is essential for safely deploying the technology and will be a critical focus for the rail industry this year. Currently, rail operators are discovering failure rates of up to 40% as they install and test PTC equipment in PTC labs and designated pilot territories, underscoring the importance of proper testing.”

Currently, the AAR expects the following to occur by Dec. 31, 2016:

“As of Dec. 31, 2015, freight railroads had spent more than $6 billion on PTC with billions more to be spent as railroads continue installation and implementation,” Greenberg noted. “Final PTC implementation cost is expected to be in the $9 billion to $10 billion range. Congress extended the deadline for the installation of PTC by three years to 2018, and up to an additional two years, to 2020, to finalize full implementation and testing of the new technology, provided railroads meet specific progress benchmarks: PTC hardware is 100% installed on its system by Dec. 31, 2018; PTC technology is implemented on more than 50% of its system; employee training required by FRA regulations is completed; and all spectrum necessary for PTC implementation is obtained.”

The AAR continues to emphasize that railroad safety has seen substantial and steady improvement since long before PTC.

“Federal statistics show rail safety has been dramatically improving over the past several decades,” Greenberg said. “Derailments are down 80 % since 1980 and more than 40 % since 2000. “Statistics show 99.99% of tank cars containing crude oil and hazardous materials arrive at destination without incident. The industry recognizes continuous safety improvements are needed and it is something freight railroads remain focused on. They’re constantly incorporating new technologies to improve rail safety, including wayside fault detectors that monitor track and train integrity and specialized inspection cars that monitor track safety and identify track anomalies. Since [partial deregulation under the Staggers Act] in 1980, $600 billion has been spent on maintaining and further modernizing the 140,000-mile network. Millions are being spent on research and testing at TTCI, the industry’s research facility in Pueblo, Colo.”

From an item at:

Return to index
ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


Germany’s DB Slows Down ICE Trains
In Snow

Delays due to “Go Slow In Snow” train orders could “snow-ball”

Via Deutsche Bahn Corporate Press Release And Other Public Sources

Berlin – With the approach and impending onslaught of the first nation-wide winter storm of the 2015-16 winter season, Deutsche Bahn announced in a press release of the 15th of January, that it will restrict maximum speeds of its ICE high-speed passenger train fleet to 200 km/h (125 mph) system wide, most notably on these high-speed corridors in Germany:

ICE2 in the snow

Three Images - NCI file photos by David Beale

Dashing (somewhat slower) Through The Snow And (not) Laughing All The Way – ICE trains will not travel any faster than 200 km/h in significant snow conditions from now on. A pair of ICE 2 high-speed train sets operating in multiple blast through snow in Hohnhorst (Nenndorf township), Germany en route to Hannover and Berlin from Dortmund and Düsseldorf on the 5th of December 2010 during the first hours of major winter storm in northern Germany.

All of the above high-speed lines normally have en route speeds ranging from 230 to 300 km/h. The ICE 1 and ICE 2 train fleets are approved for a top speed of 280 km/h (assuming the speed limit on the track is at least that high), the various sub-fleets in the ICE 3 high-speed train family generally are certified for a top speed of 320 km/h.

The reason for this measure is the experience in the past of damage to the underside of passenger trains related to large accumulations of ice and densely packed snow forming on the wheel bogies, couplers, and other parts in the underside areas of the trains, which then falls away and literally bounce between the underside of the train and the ground surface between the track rails with significant impact forces, thus damaging various components, compressed air lines and electric cables mounted on the underside of the train. The damage done then results in mechanical or electrical failures in various train systems and interruption of the train’s operation. All of the various versions of the ICE family of high-speed trains are affected by this new restriction.

DB expects that trains affected by the new go-slower orders in snow could be delayed 10 minutes to 35 minutes, depending on route distance and destination. D:F Readers who may find themselves traveling on the ICE high-speed rail network in Germany in the next weeks of winter are strongly encouraged to plan for train delays in winter weather conditions and have alternate travel plans and reservations for accommodations available in case of cascading or “snow balling” schedule delays.

Temporary Speed Restrictions On Deutsche Bahn Tilt-Body Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Trains Announced

Separately from the “ICE in snow” issue, Deutsche Bahn suddenly announced over the weekend of 9th – 10th January, that it needed to immediately deactivate the tilt body function of its Class 612 “Regio Swinger” and its predecessor Class 611 – known unofficially as “Pendolino” locally – due to an unspecified safety-related incident in the tilt body mechanism with a Class 611 train set in late December 2015. The root cause is a suspect group or population of bearings installed in the wheel trucks of these trains.

DB Class 611

A single DB class 611 DMU train set speeds through the town of Aulendorf, in Upper Swabia, Germany heading to Basel, Switzerland from Ulm Germany during a snow storm on the 29th of October 2012.

DB Class 611

A single DB class 612 DMU train set in a special paint scheme of the state transportation ministry of the German state of Baden – Württemberg sits on a side track in the Aulendorf train station and marshalling yard on the 21st of May 2014 after completing a scheduled RE service from Stuttgart to Aulendorf via Tübingen and Sigmaringen.

The tilt body mechanism in both train models (although of a different design in the Class 612 train model) has been an ongoing reliability issue for well over a decade now, with several previous deactivations and reactivations of the tilt function in both fleets. The Class 611 train set model originally began service in the mid 1990s. Its production run was rather limited due to a number of design shortcomings which became apparent as the trains began operations. The Class 612 train set model came a couple of years later into service, and represented a major (near total) redesign and update of the Class 611 DMU train set, but nevertheless experienced a number of mechanical problems related to the tilt body feature. The top speed of both train models on sections of tracks with relatively tight curves and bends has been reduced by 20 – 30 km/h as a result of this latest deactivation of the tilt body feature. Both train models are normally rated for 160 km/h (100 mph) top speed in regular service. It is not yet known when the current technical issue will be resolved and the new restrictions can be removed.

Deutsche Bahn has published updated schedules for the affected trains, these updated schedules are posted in all of the train stations where the affected trains make scheduled stops. DB’s online train schedule and ticket booking system on its internet site ( has been updated to reflect the longer travel times of train routes operated either with Class 611 or Class 612 DMU train sets. The Class 611 trains are limited almost exclusively to train routes with the IRE designation in the train number running in a region bounded by Stuttgart, Ulm, Lindau and Singen in southwestern Germany and Basel, Switzerland on the southwest corner of Germany. The Class 612 DMU train sets operated typically with the RE designation in the train number on a number of regions in Germany, mostly in the state of Bavaria, but also in the Leipzig – Halle region as well as between Stuttgart, Ulm, Tübingen and Aulendorf in southwestern Germany.

Return to index

Germany Will Regulate Track Access Fees

Third Party Access To Germany’s Rail Network To Become More Transparent And Hopefully Fairer

Via Lok Report And Südkurier Newspaper

Berlin – The cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration approved a bill for a revised railway regulatory law this past Wednesday (13th of January). The bill was submitted for approval by Alexander Dobrindt, Germany’s minister of transportation and digital (internet / telephone) infrastructure. The bill is intended to strengthen the rules for discrimination-free access to rail infrastructure, thus encouraging more competition within the German rail network and increasing the utilization of the rail system. The bill now goes to the lower house (Bundestag) of the German parliament for debate and vote. The bill is expected to pass and be approved by the full German parliament.

Vossloh G2000

NCI file photo by David Beale

Fair and transparent – Independent train operators such as freight train operator OHE based in Hannover should be able to have a better chance at obtaining train paths at reasonable prices with the new legislation. A diesel-hydraulic Vossloh G2000 locomotive of independent train operator OHE with an ad-hoc freight train accelerates at full power out of a side track in Haste (Nenndorf township), Germany after waiting for a number of passenger trains to pass through back in September 2011.

Under the proposed changes, the German federal commerce regulation agency (Bundesnetzagentur) – roughly equivalent of the former ICC and present-day STB in the USA – would be given a stronger mandate in rail / train competition regulation and empowered to exercise greater control and oversight concerning how access fees and train paths are determined by Deutsche Bahn’s DB Netz subsidiary, which manages, plans and controls access to almost all rail lines in Germany and charges access / usage fees on all train operators, including train operating companies owned by DB. The agency would be granted powers to review and approve track access fees levied by DB Netz before they are introduced, obliging the infrastructure manager DB Netz to seek approval first.

Additionally, the federal agency would be charged with enforcing regulations for independent management of the German rail infrastructure. In parallel incentives would be offered to encourage infrastructure managers to reduce track access charges. The changes are expected to ensure that operators can plan their services for an entire regulatory period.

“We want to strengthen competition in the rail business”, said German Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt. “From competition comes innovation and quality of service, in the interests of the railway customer. Competition requires clear, transparent rules. With the new railway regulatory law we are creating this framework. At the core are more transparency in track access charges and unhindered access for competitors.”

A significant number of third-party / independent train operators, both passenger and freight, have over the past 10 – 15 years taken DB Netz to court numerous times over allegedly too expensive track access charges and / or manipulation of assigned train paths and track access schedules which allegedly favor DB’s in-house train operating companies and place the third party train operators at a severe disadvantage. The European Union, of which Germany is a founding member, has required via a number of EU directives over the past two decades, that member countries provide full open access to competition between train operating companies on their rail networks.

Return to index
EVENTS... Events...  

Save the Date!


RUN To Boston!

Join the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday, April 29th for the RUN Annual Conference. The conference theme will be “Who’s Looking Out for You? The State of Rail Advocacy in New England.”

Plan to stay in town for a tour of the wide variety of transit modes offered by the “T” to Bostonians and other area residents. The tour will take place on Saturday, April 30th, and there may be some other surprises, too.

So mark your calendars and plan to RUN to Boston after the upcoming winter ends and spring returns to New England. If you register now, the cost is only $45 for the conference, plus your fare (a day pass will do) for the tour. If you want more information, please check the RUN web site, or call RUN Chair Richard Rudolph at (207) 776-4961.

Return to index
PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2016 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, weíd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCIís webmaster at

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives ñ state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals ñ as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

|| Top of Page || Past Newsletter Editions || NCI Home Page || Contact Us

  || page viewings since date of release.