The National Corridors Initiative Logo

July 25, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 29

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

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

  Commentary …
Amtrak vs. Food
  Expansion Lines …
FRA Approves Passenger Rail Blueprint To Connect 
   Boston And New Haven To Montreal,
   Add Service For Central Massachusetts
FRA And TxDOT Outline Passenger Rail Options
   Between Oklahoma City And Southern Texas,
   Seek Public Input
USDOT Moves Forward On Gateway Program
  Political Lines …
55 Members Of Congress Urge Treasury Probe
   Of Chinese Company Set To Build
   MBTA Railcars In Springfield
USDOT Constructs Build America Bureau
  Selected Rail Stocks …
  Builders Lines …
New York MTA To Order 1025 Subway Cars
First Metrolink F125 Locomotive Unveiled
   In Los Angeles
  High-Speed Lines …
US Surface Transportation Board Denies Texas
   Central’s Claim As Part Of National Network
Oregon Rail Officials Look To Push High-Speed
   Passenger Rail Service Into Distant Future
  Safety Lines …
Maker Of SEPTA Rail Cars Blames Cracks
   On Flawed Weld
  Freight Lines …
Freight-Rail Industry Opposes, Unions Support
   FRA’s Two-Person Crew Proposal
  Across The Pond …
‘Video Game’ Dispatcher Charged With
   Fatal Train Crash In Bavaria
German Police:  Trains Need Better Protection
   Against Terror Attacks
  Publication Notes …

COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Amtrak vs. Food

By David Peter Alan

The latest downgrade in Amtrak food service occurred last Wednesday.  The Lake Shore Limited, the only train which runs directly between New York and Chicago, has again lost its dining car.  The train now runs with two lounge cars, which are used to serve meals, such as they are.  Amtrak did not break the news; it came to this writer through posts on, a web site where advocates and other Amtrak observers post news items.

Historically, long-distance trains carried dining cars.  Even as recently as the 1970s, some trains with running times as short as six hours or less featured diners, where crews proudly cooked and served meals to riders, who considered eating on the train to be a highlight of the trip.  The railroads also understood that food service was never a profit center in itself, but it attracted people to the train.  Essentially, it induced people to spend the fare and ride.

Today,  Amtrak management sees food service differently: as a cost center, purely and simply.  Over the years, Amtrak has downgraded dining service in a number of ways, from plastic places and paper cups instead of china, to replacing freshly-cooked food with institutional fare from Aramark and similar mega-suppliers.

Since last Wednesday, however, food service on the trains that serve New York has hit an all-time low.  These trains must operate with single-level equipment, since Superliner equipment cannot fit through the tunnels between New Jersey and Penn Station, New York.  So the diners and other cars on the Western trains and the Capitol Limited cannot be used on trains that originate and terminate in New York.  Today, there are 31 weekly departures and arrivals of trains that carry sleeping cars to or from New York: the Silver Star and Silver Meteor to Miami, the Crescent to New Orleans, the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, and the Cardinal, which runs to Chicago through West Virginia and Cincinnati three times per week.

Only 14 of those 31 weekly trains carry dining cars: the Silver Meteor to Miami and the Crescent to New Orleans.  The other trains have lost them, so there are more long-distance trains to and from New York without dining cars than with them.  This has never happened before in Amtrak history, but it might be a harbinger of things to come.

According to reports on, Amtrak is blaming a lack of Heritage dining cars for the Lake Shore downgrade.  That train had lost its diner several years ago, when food was heated in the microwave ovens in a second lounge car.  The dining cars came back, but now they are gone again.  It is understandable that Amtrak would lack vintage single-level dining cars.  Except for the single Viewliner diner built as a prototype in the 1990s and rebuilt a few years ago, all cars in use were built by the railroads prior to the Amtrak era; in the 1950s or as far back as the late 1940s.  They have too many miles on them, which Amtrak management knew.  The problem is that Amtrak has not made sure that new dining cars were delivered for service.  Amtrak has ordered and taken delivery on cars for bags, but not on cars for people, including dining cars.

While it is reasonable to ascribe the loss of the Lake Shore’s dining car to a shortage of serviceable Heritage diners, that does not mean that the dining car will return to that train, or to the other Eastern trains that have also lost their diners.  At this writing, Amtrak has not issued a press release announcing the loss of the dining car, and has certainly not promised that it will return when new cars are delivered and placed into service.

The case of the Silver Star is instructive here.  That train makes the 31-hour trip between New York and Miami with no food service, except lounge-car snacks.  It does not even carry a second lounge with a microwave oven for heating pre-plated food, as the Lake Shore carries.  It has been dubbed the “Silver Starve” and the “Silver Starvation” as a result of this lack of meal service.  When Amtrak announced the removal of the diner from the “Star” early last year, it claimed that the removal was temporary and experimental.  Some advocates were skeptical, and Amtrak confirmed that skepticism by making the removal permanent.  Amtrak never officially blamed the lack of dining cars, or assured the public that dining service would return to the train when new dining cars are placed into service

There are still persistent rumors that Amtrak’s decision to remove the dining car form the Silver Star was a political one, designed to please Congressman John Mica, former Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee and one of the nation’s most vocal critics of Amtrak’s food service.  For many years, Mica has complained that it costs too much to provide food on Amtrak, so removing the diner could demonstrate Amtrak’s concern about saving money.  In addition, Mica represents a district in central Florida, along the route of the train.  Amtrak has never acknowledged that the dining car was removed to please Mica but, if it was, it will not return anytime soon; probably not until after Mica retires from Congress.

It has been many years since the Cardinal carried a dining car on its leisurely ramble through the West Virginia countryside.  To an extent, it is also a political train.  It was slated for elimination in 1981, but West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd used his considerable influence to save it.  The train lost its protector when Byrd died, but it still survives on a tri-weekly schedule. , with only a single lounge car for passengers who order a meal or sit while they sip coffee or eat a snack.

Dining service may return to the Lake Shore Limited some day; it did happen in the past.  Still, the precedent has been established that Amtrak can run a train with a running time exceeding 30 hours with no food service other than a lounge car serving snacks.  From New York, it takes longer to go to Miami on the Silver Star than to New Orleans on the Crescent or to Chicago on the Cardinal.  If Amtrak can remove the diner from the Star permanently, it can do the same with every other train whose running time is shorter, which includes every train that goes to or from New York.  If Amtrak considers it a useful political move to save money on food service, they will not come back.  If the decision is driven by the lack of road-worthy heritage dining cars, it is only a matter of time before there are no more such cars available for service.  Maybe new dining cars will arrive some day, but nobody seems to expect to eat in them soon.

Are there ways for Amtrak to provide good dining service and still save money?  The rider-advocacy community does not know, and can only conjecture.  On the operating side this writer and other advocates asked an Amtrak official for the portion of the Amtrak books concerning payments to Aramark for food and related services, in an effort to determine whether Amtrak was paying Aramark too much for what it was getting.  Amtrak replied that such numbers were secret information.  On the capital side, Amtrak altered the lounge cars on its single-level New York fleet to include an additional refrigerator and a steam table.  For a brief time, these features were used on the Cardinal, but they are not used any more.  Now the lounge-car attendant on that train heats pre-plated portions in a microwave oven for riders who order meals.  So Amtrak spent money to build new features into lounge cars that it does not use.  Riders got an additional drawback: half the tables no longer allow the people sitting there to face out a window.  Instead, those tables now front on the segment of bulkhead between windows.

There is one place on Amtrak where passengers can still get a fresh-cooked meal in a dining car, served on china.  The experience is available four days a week on the Hoosier State between Indianapolis and Chicago on days when the Cardinal does not run.  Former Amtrak manager Ed Ellis owns Iowa Pacific Holdings (IPH), and his railroad supplies the equipment and on-board services for the Hoosier State on non-Cardinal days.  The consist includes vintage coaches with more leg room than Amtrak offers, and a dome dining car that features a freshly-cooked dinner.  This is much more than Amtrak trains with running times of more than two days offer, and we will feature the Hoosier State experience in a future column.

In the meantime, it seems unlikely that meals will be part of the Amtrak experience east of Chicago or New Orleans much longer.  More New York trains run without dining cars than with them.  Our advice to riders on these trains is to bring your own food, or look for a station with sufficient standing time to jump off the train and grab a bite quickly.  That is what riders did in the 19th century, before trains carried dining cars.  Chicago advocates James E. Costen and F.K. “Fritz” Plous gained some fame when they had a meal delivered train-side from a restaurant in Illinois.  Maybe Amtrak’s riders should begin to place take-out menus in the lounge cars.  

Alternatively, if you can hold out until you get to New York, Chicago or New Orleans, there are plenty of good restaurants in those cities.

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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

FRA Approves Passenger Rail Blueprint To Connect Boston And New Haven
To Montreal, Add Service For Central Massachusetts

One New Route Would Run From Boston Through Springfield, (MA) To New Haven (CT);
Two Additional Routes Would Connect Montreal, (Canada) To Boston (MA), New Haven (CT)

From a USDOT Press Release

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently  announced a Finding of No Significant Impact on the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative (Initiative).  The finding clears the way for states and the federal government to invest in future passenger rail service in New England.  The Initiative proposes to restore service between Boston and New Haven through Springfield and Hartford and add new service between Boston and Montreal.

“Existing passenger rail service through New England is limited and already at capacity for a region that is growing,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “With an approved blueprint in hand, New England can now move forward to connect people to key job centers and allow students to easily travel to and from New England’s numerous colleges.”


Map via FRA

Proposed routes connecting Boston, New Haven, and Montreal using existing rights-of-way.

FRA awarded $942,775 to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) through FRA’s Next Generation High-Speed Rail Program to study potential service options and complete the Tier 1 Environmental Assessment, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

FRA found that no significant environmental impacts would result from adding more frequent and higher speed intercity passenger rail service, in large part due to the use of existing operating rail lines within existing rights-of-way.  The proposed infrastructure improvements also would be located within existing right-of-way along areas that were in the past double or triple tracked.

“More than two million people live within three miles of a station along this corridor,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.  “For everyone to move safely and efficiently, the region needs a robust rail system, and this blueprint will help achieve that goal.”

MassDOT and VTrans will coordinate the Initiative with other projects, including NEC FUTURE, FRA’s ongoing comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate, and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC).  The NEC runs from Washington, DC to Boston.  Together, this Initiative and NEC FUTURE would provide greater connectivity to central Connecticut, Massachusetts, northern New England, and Montreal.

From a USDOT press release at:

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FRA And TxDOT Outline Passenger Rail Options Between
Oklahoma City And Southern Texas, Seek Public Input

Public Hearings And Comment Period On 10 Proposed Options To Begin

USDOT Press Release

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have released 10 service and route options for new and improved conventional and high-speed passenger rail service connecting Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and South Texas.  The options are evaluated in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).  

“This corridor is home to major financial, energy, and education centers that people rely on every day,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “Providing efficient, more reliable, and faster higher-speed passenger rail options to move between cities is crucial for the economy and the population to thrive.  I encourage those along the I-35 corridor to participate in the comment and public hearing opportunities so that they are able to learn more and share their input.”

During a 45-day public comment period, FRA and TxDOT will take comments on the 10 options and the seven recommended preferred options that the two agencies identified.  Four public hearings will also be held to give residents a chance to learn about the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study, understand how their communities may be affected, and provide comments.

Current passenger rail service along the Interstate 35 (I-35) corridor includes three intercity Amtrak services from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth (Heartland Flyer), Fort Worth to San Antonio (Texas Eagle), and Los Angeles to New Orleans through San Antonio (Sunset Limited).

The DEIS addresses the relationships of the major regional markets within the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Program corridor in three geographic sections, and preferred alternatives are recommended for each geographic section separately.  The three sections of study are:

More than 10 million people currently live along the 850-mile corridor, which is expected to grow by 39 percent in Texas and 25 percent in Oklahoma City by 2035.  As a state with some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, spread out over hundreds of miles, Texas is now in high demand for alternative modes of transportation.  Since the majority of the state’s population is centered in the eastern half of state, along I-35 stretching into Oklahoma City, the highways have experienced increased congestion.

“More passenger rail service will help relieve already congested roads along the I-35 corridor and help this region manage the significant population growth on the way,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.  “I encourage everyone to provide feedback on the 10 options that FRA and the Texas DOT have presented to continue moving this effort forward.”

In fiscal year 2012, FRA awarded a $5.6 million grant to TxDOT to fund a study of new and improved passenger rail service to meet future intercity travel demand, improve rail facilities, reduce travel times, and improve connections with regional public transit services as an alternative to bus, plane, and private auto travel.  The Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study evaluates routes and types of service for passenger rail service between Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and South Texas.

More information about the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study can be found here.  The Final EIS is projected to be released by early 2017.

Three hearings will be held in Laredo, Austin, and Arlington.  The hearing times and locations are below:


From a press release at:

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USDOT Moves Forward On Gateway Program

From Railway Age

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has moved the Hudson Tunnel Project and Portal North Bridge – both critical elements of the Gateway Program in the New York City area – into the Project Development process for a New Starts Grant available through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Project Development is the first phase that these projects will be required to complete before a construction grant could be awarded. In this phase, the Hudson Tunnel Project and Portal North Bridge will move forward with identifying a specific development plan and, in the case of the Hudson Tunnel Project, completing the environmental review process. The Portal North Bridge has already completed the necessary environmental review. The move also authorizes the project sponsor, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and its partners Amtrak and New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) to begin incurring costs related to the environmental review and engineering and design activities.

“Building on our previous investments to date, the U.S. Department of Transportation is taking a concrete step toward making a substantial federal investment in the Hudson Tunnel and Portal North Bridge projects and we’re looking forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in New York and New Jersey to make a new rail tunnel a reality,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The existing Hudson tunnel is more than 100 years old and was badly damaged by Super Storm Sandy and if it fails, it would effectively shut down passenger rail service from Manhattan to New Jersey and the southern portion of the Northeast Corridor.”

The Hudson Tunnel Project is a new, two-track heavy rail tunnel along the Northeast Corridor from the Bergen Palisades in New Jersey to Manhattan that will directly serve Penn Station New York. It consists of three major elements: the Hudson Yards right-of-way preservation project, the Hudson Tunnel and the rehabilitation and modernization of the existing North River tunnel. Amtrak and NJ Transit operate approximately 450 trains carrying more than 200,000 passenger trips each weekday through the 106-year old North River Tunnel. Construction of a new Hudson Tunnel will enable closure of the existing tunnel for reconstruction and once renovations are complete, the reopening will greatly increase rail reliability and operating flexibility and will provide greater redundancy in the event of malfunction.

The Portal North Bridge Project entails the construction of a new, two-track fixed structure bridge across the Hackensack River in Hudson County, N.J., along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The existing moveable swing span bridge has only 23 feet of vertical clearance above the mean high water level and must pivot open to allow maritime traffic to pass through, closing the bridge to rail traffic and interrupting operations on the NEC for both Amtrak and NJ Transit. Additionally, the “miter rails,” which allow the rails to disengage and the bridge to open and close, permanently restrict speeds on the bridge to 60 miles per hour, while trains can operate at 90 miles per hour on adjacent portions of the NEC. These conditions create bottlenecks along the NEC, especially during peak commute hours. The new bridge will provide enough vertical clearance to accommodate current and forecasted maritime traffic and allow trains to operate at higher speeds.

Found at:

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POLITICALLINES... Political Lines...  

55 Members Of Congress Urge Treasury Probe Of Chinese Company
Set To Build MBTA Railcars In Springfield, MA

By Andy Metzger
Statehouse News Service
Via MassLive.Com

Dozens of members of Congress have asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew for an investigation into the Chinese railcar company building Red and Orange line subway cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

The China Railroad Rolling Stock Corporation, or CRRC, has used subsidized financing from the Chinese government to “underbid private competitors” for contracts in Boston and Chicago, the 55 members of Congress wrote in a letter dated July 15.

The letter led by Oregon Democrat U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Republican Virginia U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes also keys off China’s alleged cybercrimes to raise concerns that “critical rail infrastructure and the sensitive cargo that it carries will become increasingly vulnerable to hackers as the proliferation of Chinese state investment continues without adequate scrutiny.”

DeFazio is the ranking member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“As with all vehicle contracts, CRRC MA completely complies with the specification and provides vehicles of high quality and competitive pricing,” said company spokeswoman Lydia Rivera. “As the world’s largest railcar builder, supplying railcars to more than 13 countries, we have not been notified of any security problem.”

The deal for the Chinese company to build 284 new subway cars includes the construction of a giant assembly facility in Springfield. MA. where the company made plans to establish its U.S. headquarters.

Last year a judge denied Hyundai-Rotem Company’s attempt to block the deal. The rival alleged there must have been improper communications when officials from the company met in Hong Kong with Patrick and former Transportation Secretary Richard Davey.

The product of a recent merger, CRRC is the largest railcar manufacturer in the world and “four times larger than the entire U.S. rail manufacturing sector,” according to the congressional letter.

For the full story see:

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USDOT Constructs Build America Bureau

From Railway Age

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the establishment of the Build America Bureau, “which will drive transportation infrastructure development projects in the United States by streamlining credit and grant opportunities while providing technical assistance and encouraging innovative best practices in project planning, financing, delivery and monitoring.”

“The Build America Bureau will be a one-stop shop to help develop projects and provide financing in a single streamlined, effective and comprehensive manner,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It will allow USDOT to be responsive to America’s changing transportation needs and opportunities, so we can deliver real, tangible infrastructure development for local, regional and national population centers.”

The Build America Bureau combines the following USDOT programs: the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF), the private activity bond (PAB), the Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) and the new $800 million Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant program.

The bureau will utilize the full resources of all the modes within USDOT and continue to promote a culture of innovation and customer service. To the customer, there will be a single entity in charge of USDOT credit, large scale and intermodal project development and a single point of contact for working with USDOT on infrastructure finance and development.

The Bureau Outreach and Development team, continuing the work of the BATIC, will work with the project sponsors to support them on how they can best combine credit, funding and innovative project delivery approaches, such as public-private partnerships (P3s) and then offer project-level technical assistance to get them ready to pursue it.

The department’s credit team will be able to underwrite loans from multiple sources together, so that the customer is no longer getting a TIFIA loan or a RRIF loan, but instead a single credit package from USDOT to help them build the infrastructure they need. Also, the bureau will manage the application and evaluation process for the FASTLANE grant program, which funds high-impact projects that address key challenges affecting the movement of people and freight.

BATIC, which was announced in 2014, has expanded the department’s ability to meet the needs of the nation’s transportation system. BATIC serves as a single point of contact and coordination for states, municipalities and project sponsors looking to utilize federal transportation expertise, apply for federal transportation credit programs and explore ways to access private capital in P3s. Since BATIC’s formation, USDOT has closed more than $10 billion in financing to support $26 billion in projects.

Found at:

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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

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BUILDERS LINES... Builders Lines...  

New York MTA To Order 1025 Subway Cars

By  Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal

Design studies for the next-generation of New York subway trains and refurbished stations were revealed as part of the $US 27bn Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) five-year capital program, which was unveiled by New York state governor Mr. Andrew Cuomo at Brooklyn Transit Museum on July 18.

Under the program, MTA is planning to order 1025 R-211 metro cars, including 750 with full-width gangways, a first for the New York subway network. Passenger door widths on the new trains will be increased to 147cm, compared with 127cm on the current fleet, to improve passenger flow. Simulations have confirmed that this could reduce dwell times by up to 32% during peak periods.

The new trains will also feature passenger Wi-Fi, USB passenger information sockets, color passenger information screens, digital advertising, illuminated door opening alerts and CCTV. External enhancements will include LED headlights, larger cab windows, and a new livery.

The new subway train design has been developed by Antenna Design with CH2M acting as engineering consultant on the project.


MTA Concept Drawing

Artist concept drawing of new MTA vehicles.

In addition to new trains, the capital program calls for the comprehensive modernization of 31 stations across the five boroughs that make up the New York Metropolitan Area.

Enhancements will include new lighting, improved signage, new real-time passenger information systems, improved mobile phone reception, Wi-Fi, and new artworks. MTA says the renovations will consider the architectural legacy of each station and be sympathetic to the historical nature of many structures.

MTA will issue requests for proposals (RFPs) later this week for the first three stations - Prospect Avenue, 53rd Street, and Bay Ridge Avenue, which are all located in Brooklyn. RFPs for the remaining 28 stations will be issued over the next year and the first contract will be awarded in the autumn. All works will be tendered on a design-build basis and station closures will be limited to a maximum of six months.

Improvements will also be carried out at a further 170 stations across the subway network.

Design studies for the station modernization program were led by Grimshaw Architects and Arup.

Found at:

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First Metrolink F125 Locomotive
Unveiled In Los Angeles

By  Dan Templeton
Railway Age

Southern California locomotive commuter rail operator Metrolink unveiled its first EMD F125 diesel locomotive at Los Angeles Union Station on July 18. The F125 is compliant with the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 emissions standards and will reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 85%.

Metrolink became the first commuter rail agency in the U.S. to buy Tier 4 locomotives when it placed an order with EMD for 20 F125s in June 2013.


New F125 Locomotive

Image via Railway Age.

Funding was provided through the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) Carl Moyer Program and the State of California’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP).

SCAQMD has approved $74.9 million to Metrolink with an additional $36 million to be considered in future requests. $41.2 million was provided from TIRCP and an additional $2.7 million was added by the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP).

The first F125s are due to enter service with Metrolink at the end of this year.

Found at:

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

US Surface Transportation Board Denies Texas Central’s
Claim As Part Of National Network

From Texas Rail Advocates

The Surface Transportation Board struck a blow to Texas Central Railway recently in stating that the board does not have jurisdiction over the railway since it would operate entirely within the state of Texas and is not connected to the national rail network.

Texas Central had asked the Surf Board for a Petition of Exemption and Petition for Clarification, which were denied.

The anti-high-speed rail group called Texans Against High-Speed Rail posted on Facebook that the legal ruling could not have been better news for them. “This marks a major victory for (attorneys) Blake and Patrick’s legal efforts. More importantly, this is a devastating blow to Texas Central.”

This means that all regulation of the high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston would be at the state level. Some rural legislators and city/council officials have been pushing to kill the project. The stand-alone high-speed rail project is currently in the middle of a Environmental Impact Statement required by the federal government before it can proceed with construction.

Texas Central issued the following statement after the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) July 18th ruling: “The Surface Transportation Board clarified today that it does not have jurisdiction over the Texas high-speed rail project being privately developed by Texas Central connecting North Texas and Houston, and therefore no STB approval of the project is necessary prior to commencing construction.”

The statement issued read that “Texas Central’s decision to seek clarification regarding the STB’s role followed precedent set by other rail projects.  Without such clarification, regulatory uncertainty could have impacted Texas Central’s project timelines. However, Texas Central will study the STB decision before making any determination regarding actions in response to the ruling.  The project continues to move forward with development activities.”

From an item at:

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Oregon Rail Officials Look To Push High-Speed
Passenger Rail Service Into Distant Future

Tentative Plan Would Keep Passenger Trains On Union Pacific Railroad Tracks

By Diane Dietz
The Register-Guard

The Oregon Department of Transportation spent four years and $10 million mulling where the Willamette Valley passenger rail line of the future should go — and is about to decide that it should stay put, on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, where the long-standing intermingling of passenger and freight service guarantees sluggish passenger service.

The agency hopes to publish a draft environmental impact statement by December, take public comment on the proposed train route in early 2017 and designate a final plan in 2018. The Federal Railroad Administration has authority over the final decision.

If Oregon passenger train service stays on the Union Pacific line, it will be a bitter disappointment for the proponents of high-speed rail, who dream of a bullet train running parallel to Interstate 5, whisking riders from Eugene to Portland in an hour.

It also means for the foreseeable future that passenger service would remain at the mercy of railroad track owners, whose primary purpose is to move freight.

Even now, the railroad owners are seeking leave from a federal regulatory board to delay passenger trains whenever they become a drag on freight routes, Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore, said.

That plan could wreck on-time performance for the Amtrak Cascades and dampen ridership. “It would hurt our region a lot potentially,” DeFazio said.

High-speed rail enthusiasts have wanted the state to, instead, build a new rail line alongside Interstate 5, the second (but less favored by the state) alternative in the draft environmental impact statement.

That plan — which would allow train speeds of 120 mph — also would require building new train stations near the freeway right-of-way, including at Springfield and perhaps at Wilsonville or Tualatin.

A big drawback: It would be hugely expensive, some $3.7 billion to $4.5 billion, according to the draft environmental impact statement.

High-speed rail advocate Rudy Niederer said keeping passenger service on the freight tracks would be a mistake.

“Union Pacific, itself, told us: ‘We don’t have any additional capacity to put anymore passenger trains on the UP corridor,’ ” the Troutdale resident said.

The state estimates that under its preferred plan of keeping passenger service on the freight tracks, the government would spend $660 million to $775 million improving the Union Pacific tracks. But Niederer questions the sense in that.

For the full detailed review see:

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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Maker Of SEPTA Rail Cars Blames
Cracks On Flawed Weld

By Jason Laughlin
Philadelphia Enquirer

A flawed weld that attaches a plate to a key weight-bearing beam is at the root of SEPTA’s rail-car woes, the company that built the cars acknowledged for the first time last Tuesday.

“The design of how it was welded and the weld itself are in question,” Andrew Hyer, marketing and business-development manager at Hyundai-Rotem, said Tuesday in the company’s first extended comments since cracks in the beams forced SEPTA to pull one-third of its rail cars from service.

“How we decide to weld the material may make all the difference,” Hyer said.


Graphic from SEPTA

Artist drawing of flawed area

Weld problems led to fatigue cracks in equalizer beams on 115 of SEPTA’s newest Regional Rail cars. Losing those cars has created a scheduling nightmare, as SEPTA has tried to keep up with demand with far fewer rail cars than it needs.

The weld work on the Silverliner V rail cars was designed and executed by HiCorp., a Zelienople, Pa., company subcontracted by Hyundai-Rotem, Hyer said.

A woman answering the phone at HiCorp. Tuesday said no one at the company would comment.

SEPTA officials have said they are still reviewing tests of the equalizer beams before saying what caused the cracks.

“We are focused on making the proper fixes so that we can restore safe and reliable service to our customers,” said Andrew Busch, a spokesman for the transit agency.

For the full story see:

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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Freight-Rail Industry Opposes, Unions Support
FRA’s Two-Person Crew Proposal

From Progressive Railroading

Freight-rail industry representatives last week called on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to drop its proposed rule mandating two-person crews on freight trains.

At an FRA hearing last week, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) officials noted that the railroad industry is committed to safety; however, there is no evidence or data to support the theory that two-person train crews would improve the safety of railroad operations, railroad employees or the public.

“The proposed rule is a textbook example of unnecessary regulation. In fact, while perhaps well-intentioned, the proposed rule is actually misguided and will undermine the very goal of both the FRA and the freight rail industry — making a safe rail network even safer,” said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger in a press release.

Joining Hamberger at the hearing were Cindy Sanborn, executive vice president and chief operating officer at CSX; Robert Babcock, senior vice president of operations and development for the Indiana Rail Road Co.; David Brown, COO of Genesee & Wyoming Inc.; and John Graham, dean of the Indiana School of Public and Environmental Affairs and former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Hamberger also noted that in its notice of proposed rulemaking, the FRA acknowledged that it had no safety data to support its proposed rule calling for two-person train crews.

“We have said time and time again that the FRA should conduct a fact-based — not emotionally driven — data-gathering process,” Hamberger said. “If a safety risk is identified, then rulemaking might be appropriate. But we are confident that an independent, objective analysis will conclude that no regulation is needed.”

ASLRRA President Linda Bauer Darr told FRA officials that the rule fails to consider the economic impact on small railroads. Of the 450 railroads that make up ASLRRA’s membership, more than 100 operate with fewer than four operations employees on as little as 2 miles of track.

Economic margins on many of those railroads are sometimes thin, she noted in a press release issued after her testimony.

“We are truly a small business industry and we do a lot of good work on a shoe string budget,” said Darr. “This efficiency is the reason that many small railroads survive today. We operate efficiently and we operate safely. That’s how we make our livelihood and that’s how we keep our people going home safely to their families each night.”

Darr also noted the disparity between the direction of the rest of the transportation industry is taking toward technology-assisted operations to improve safety, such as driverless commercial vehicles and the positive train control mandate.

“Given this confused regulatory environment combined with the effects of the DOT’s current and pending regulations, we are creating an enormous disincentive to make investments in small railroads as viable businesses,” she said.

Transportation union representatives testified that they support the FRA’s rule proposal.

“It’s time to put to rest the absurd notion that operating a 19,000-ton freight train with a single crew member is safe,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, in a press release. He was joined at the hearing by John Risch, national legislative director of the SMART Transportation Division.

“The American public understands that having massive freight trains travel through their communities operated by one-person crews is a safety menace that should be barred by our government,” Wytkind said. “We need a strong rule from the FRA mandating a certified conductor and certified engineer on all freight trains, and we need it this year.”

Wytkind and Risch recommended the FRA strengthen the rule in its final form, as it “provides too much leeway for the railroads to evade the two-person mandate,” stated the unions’ press release.

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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


‘Video Game’ Dispatcher Charged With Fatal Train Crash In Bavaria

Via Deutsche Press Agentur (dpa)

German prosecutors said on Monday (18th of July), that they had brought criminal charges against a Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) rail dispatcher accused of causing a head-on train collision back in February which killed 12, because he was seriously distracted with playing a video game on his personal mobile phone while on duty.

Two commuter / regional trains crashed head-on at speed on a single track rail line near the southern Bavaria town of Bad Aibling in the outer suburbs of Munich on the 9th of February in one of Germany’s deadliest accidents in years. The collision also left 89 injured.  The dispatcher, whose name has not been released, stands accused of 12 counts of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor’s office in the nearby town of Traunstein stated in a press release.


Photo: Bild newspaper.

Carnage – the two EMU trains involved in the head-on collision last February in Bad Aibling, Bavaria were nearly completely destroyed by the forces of impacting each other at a collision speed estimated to be approximately 200 km/h (125 mph).

“There is reason to believe the dispatcher, in violation of an official prohibition, was distracted by using an online computer game directly before the collision of the trains,” it said.  The two trains, carrying about 150 passengers in total, were travelling towards each other on the single track route.  Prosecutors said the dispatcher had mistakenly cleared both drivers to proceed and overrode technical precautions, which normally would prevent a collision.

Frantic emergency calls to the drivers did not go through because of a mistake using radio equipment, “which had the effect that the drivers could not be warned in time.” The trains collided in a forest area about 60 km (40 miles) southeast of Munich, the Bavarian state capital.  Authorities said an investigation had ruled out a technical defect as a cause of the disaster.

The accident was Germany’s first fatal train crash since April 2012, when three people were killed and 13 injured in a collision between two regional trains in the city of Offenbach near Frankfurt am Main.

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German Police:  Trains Need Better Protection Against Terror Attacks

Via Focus Magazine And Deutsche Press Agentur (dpa)

Ed.:  As D:F staff started developing material for this coming week’s edition of Destination: Freedom, a deadly mass shooting was underway in Munich, Germany.  All public transport in the Munich area was ordered shut down and a large scale manhunt was initiated.


Trains are a soft spot in the German security system which terrorists are likely to target unless necessary steps are taken, German federal investigators warn.  After a Pakistani teenage asylum seeker, who pledged allegiance to terror group ISIS attacked rail passengers with knives and an axe on Monday (18th of August), the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigations (BKA) warned that further attacks on trains are possible.  The Pakistani teenage terrorist had entered Germany claiming to be a refugee from Afghanistan.  

In an internal report seen by Focus magazine, the BKA assess the risk of an attack on trains as “high” saying that “at any time an attack could take place.”  Threats against rails services and train stations “must be treated with special importance.”

The German Police labor union (DpolG) also called for the police presence on trains to be beefed up in the wake of the attack, which left four people seriously injured.

Complaining that the police presence at train stations has been severely cut down in recent years, the chairman of the police officers’ union Ernst Walter claimed that “if we continue to be pulled back from these areas we won’t have a means of countering these attacks.  Rail journeys would therefore come with an incalculable risk.”

Mr. Walter further called on the government to increase the presence of security cameras in stations and on trains and to put police officers inside trains. The axe attack, which took place outside the city of Wrzburg, was not the first time that a radicalized individual attacked people on a train in Europe.

In August 2015, a Moroccan man armed with an assault rifle and a pistol opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris.  In summer of 2006, Lebanese students attempted to fire bomb a commuter train in Cologne, Germany as revenge for a number of European magazines and newspapers publishing cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed earlier that year.  The attack was unsuccessful due to the improvised ignition devices on the LPG and gasoline bombs failing to work as intended.

Authorities in Germany have warned repeatedly over recent months, that the risk of a terrorist attack in the country is high and two major events - a football match in Hanover and New Year’s celebrations in Munich - have been cancelled due to terrorism fears.

German government officials have also stressed – with no substantiation nor credible analysis – that the recent influx of refugees has not increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks in Germany.  Indeed the opposite seems to be the case, as a number of the terrorists involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks came through a number of European countries including Germany posing as Syrian refugees.  

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