The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Oct 10, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 42

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...

Who Will Rebuild America?
  Guest Editorial…
LIRR Third Track Will Improve Commutes Every Day,
   And Especially After Accidents
  Guest Opinion…
Endorsement: Reinvest For A Safe And Reliable BART
  Transit Lines…
Two Accidents, Two Service Outages, And Two
    Restorations Last Monday In The New York Area
MTA Finally Starts Testing Trains On The
   Second Avenue Subway
Transdev Boosts Cincinnati Streetcar Service To
   Meet Demand
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Funding Lines…
FTA Announces $14.7 Million In Grants
   For TOD Projects
  Safety Lines…
Progress Made In Positive Train Control;
   Actions Needed To Ensure Timely Completion
New Seahawks-Themed Amtrak Cascades Train
   Debuts In Seattle
  Technology Lines…
Amtrak Launches PIDS At NY Penn
  Across The Pond…
Austria’s ÖBB Rail Company Plans Significant Expansion Of Overnight Sleeper Trains
Ethiopia–Djibouti Railway Inaugurated
  Publication Notes …

COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Who Will Rebuild America?

The National Council For Public-Private Partnerships
Hosts a “P3 Boot camp” at Boston

Publishers’ Commentary
By Jim RePass
Destination: Freedom

BOSTON--- First, a little history:

It has been more than a generation since Ronald Reagan and other vocal advocates of economist Arthur Laffer’s trickle-down economics took control, first of the Federal government and then, over the 1980’s-90’s, of many of the individual states. Cutting taxes, Laffer said, would spur economic growth, and he predicted, actually increase total tax revenues even as tax rates went lower.

President Ronald Reagan’s massive 1980’s tax cuts, continued by voodoo-economics convert President George H. W. Bush in 1988, reduced the tax rate on the wealthiest segment of the American population, leaving the rest of the country, proportionately, to foot the bill. By 1990 Bush had to strike a deal with the Democrat-controlled Congress to staunch the resulting budget-deficit blood bath that the Reagan-Bush tax cuts had caused and are causing (so much for trickle-down).

Over the decades the deficit has grown worse and worse, propelled not simply by the absence of Federal revenues needed to run a modern industrial society, but by the cost of largely U.S-funded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that between them have cost $2.3 Trillion, and $4 Trillion, respectively (Harvard and Brown University studies).

To sum up, combining Laffer-inspired tax cuts with large, unfunded foreign wars over a period of decades has created massive structural deficits, reducing available government revenues to the extent that it can set almost nothing aside from for day-to-day expenses to invest in the future, i.e., repair and/or build infrastructure.

Enter The Public-Private Partnership.

PPPs are in essence an attempt to find new ways to build infrastructure that sees the public and private sectors as true partners, not merely as customers/providers. This past week’s “P3 Boot camp” in Boston, organized by the National Council For Public-Private Partnerships, represents the steady progress of this new, and very important, wrinkle in infrastructure-finance in the United States (although Canada and Europe have been used P3’s for decades), to which governments around the world are turning more and more to build infrastructure of all types: sewage treatment plants, roads, transit systems, and so on.

What exactly is a Public-Private Partnership? First, what it is not: it is not “privatization.”

“PPP” and “privatization” often do get confused, but they are not directly related, except for the root word “private.” Some politicians therefore confuse them, and reflexively oppose PPPs because of union opposition to anything that even sounds like “privatization.” That is indeed a contentious issue. But it is not “PPP,”  per se.

Here is how the National Council For Public-Private Partnerships defines Public-Private Partnerships: “A contractual agreement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity. Through this agreement, the skills and assets of each sector (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for the use of the general public. In addition to the sharing of resources, each party shares in the risks and rewards potential in the delivery of the service and/or facility.” [Source:].

What this definition leaves out is the “Why?” of PPPs. Fundamentally, that revolves around money --- or a perceived lack thereof. As noted above, the pool of Federal money for major government projects such as infrastructure building has been reduced drastically by tax policies. That affects not only Federal projects, but state and local infrastructure projects traditionally funded largely by Federal funds, as well.

Fortunately, the well-run NCPPP P3 Boot camp hosted at Burns and Levinson LLP in Boston, a prominent regional law firm with offices in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York City, that along with other firms is becoming expert in this field, looked at both the “how and “why” of PPPs. Also, through the website of the National Council For Public Private Partnerships in Washington, the detailed presentations from the Boot camp will be available online, at

Future Boot camps are coming up in Chicago, Miami, Phoenix, Jackson and Chicago.

The number and value of PPPs in America is growing rapidly, starting from a relatively small core of projects, some of which worked well, and others of which stumbled because of poor understanding of what to many American cities, and to the private sector, is still a very new idea.

For example, via PPPs, Denver is getting an expanded public transportation network, and much better access to its remotely-located airport by high speed rail transit. Denver, as its boosters will tell you, is booming. As someone who has spoken at conferences there, over the years, I can attest personally to that. But at the same time, when first attempted, the special tax created for this PPP (that is not always done) to service the bonds issued to pay for improvements generated lower revenues than needed and cost the jobs of some of the people associated with the project. Now, of course, the project is a smash success. Things take time, even with PPPs.

How Do PPPs Work?

To oversimplify:

Someone, either a private sector firm or a government entity, recognizes the need for new infrastructure of some kind, and along with design/build/operate/maintain skills and/or oversight capacity: 1) has access to capital; 2) needs capital; 3) both.

The public and private sectors at some point then meet to develop a new business partnership to build the infrastructure needed, with various responsibilities allocated to the parties according to their funds, business capabilities and appetites for risk. This meeting can occur because the government entity asks for ideas, or because a private sector company submits or wants to submit an unsolicited proposal, and seeks the meeting.

The procurement laws of many cities and states, not to mention the Federal government, can make unsolicited proposals difficult, especially when a private sector company has come up with an unusual or even unique way of funding/building/operating that project --- it’s “secret sauce” in the current biz-speak jargon --- and is understandably loathe to share its intellectual property with potential rivals who are often quite happy to steal and copy a good idea; procurement laws often make any kind of secrecy difficult. It is an issue that is being slowly addressed, as PPPs become more popular.

Note: PPPs can cover more than one discrete project. One of the most famous PPPs is that of The Pennsylvania Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. Sponsored by PennDOT, highly regarded among state DOTs, PRBRP “.will replace 558 structurally deficient bridges across the commonwealth under a design-build-finance-maintain (DBFM) public-private partnership (P3) arrangement between PennDOT and Plenary Keystone Partners. The concessionaire will also be responsible for demolishing the existing bridges, maintaining traffic during construction, and then maintaining the bridges for 25 years following construction. PennDOT will retain ownership of the bridges throughout the concession period.”

In the normal world, replacing hundreds of small-medium bridges, as many of these are, would take many decades, while some of them fall quietly (or noisily!) into or onto the river/road/railway track over which they pass. The success of this project remains to be seen, but it is being watched closely as a kind of poster-child for aggregate PPPs.

This commentary does not pretend to be exhaustive. PPPs are a [relatively] new field in America, but it is looking to boom; in June, 2015 the Kennedy School Review, in an article entitled “US Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships: Ready for Takeoff?” reported: “Since the catalyzing $1.8 billion Chicago Skyway lease was completed ten years ago, the US P3 market has developed dramatically. From 2005 to 2014, forty-eight infrastructure P3 transactions with an aggregate value of $61 billion reached the formal announcement phase. Of the forty-eight deals, forty transactions—or more than 80 percent— successfully closed.”

Time will tell if PPPs will indeed “take off.” In the meantime, if you care about rail, highway, or other infrastructure, need it, or can build it/operate it/fund it, you might want to sign up for the next P3 Boot camp of the NCPPP, or contact NCPPP for their reports/studies. It will be time well spent.

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GUEST EDITORIAL... Guest Editorial...  

LIRR Third Track Will Improve Commutes Every Day,
And Especially After Accidents

Newsday Publications
Newsday Editorial Board

The cause of [last] Saturday night’s Long Island [NY] Rail Road collision between a train with 600 passengers and a one-car maintenance train is under investigation. But one lesson is clear.

The derailment that injured 26 passengers and seven employees spurred a major emergency response and cleanup. Service on the Main Line was out Sunday and severely hampered Monday morning. By Monday evening, the system was repaired enough to allow normal service, until a separate switch problem caused cancellations and delays. Trains ran normally yesterday.

Luckily, Monday was a holiday. But the track limitations meant there were no eastbound trains running at all on the Main Line Monday morning. With only one of two tracks open, there was just nowhere for eastbound trains to run.

A similar situation occurred Oct. 5, when a rail broke east of Mineola just before the morning rush. About 65 trains were delayed an average of 32 minutes. That served as an opportunity for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to point out that a proposed 9.8-mile third track between Floral Park and Hicksville would have let the commute run with far less trouble. And MTA officials say routine maintenance would be safer and easier with a third track to handle trains while crews work on the others.

The LIRR is the busiest commuter rail line in the nation and an economic engine for the region. Building a third track will be a short-term inconvenience, but it will also bring improvements, like the elimination of busy grade-level crossings. It will make the LIRR run better every day. And it will particularly do so on the railroad’s worst days.

Found at:

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GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

Endorsement: Reinvest For A Safe
And Reliable BART

By The “Yes On RR Campaign”
And San Francisco StreetsBlog

Streetsblog San Francisco recommends a yes vote on Measure RR, the $3.5 billion bond measure to keep BART safe and reliable.

Measure RR will replace and repair the core infrastructure of BART by upgrading its 1960s train-control system, renewing existing stations, replacing over 90 miles of worn-down rails, improving electrical power systems, and enhancing BART’s ability to withstand earthquakes.

Not only will these investments deliver essential safety and reliability benefits, they will also allow BART to increase capacity. A modern train control system will enable BART to run trains faster and closer together, accommodating nearly 200,000 additional daily riders. With BART ridership set to grow 75 percent by 2040, we need to act now to meet the demands of the future. Additionally, moving more people by train relieves pressure on our congested roads, so whether you ride BART or not, Measure RR benefits you.

Measure RR also has environmental benefits. Electrical upgrades will allow more on-site solar power at BART stations and yards, and help BART deliver on its goal of being the first subway system in the country to power itself with 100 percent renewable energy. With fewer drivers on the road, Measure RR will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Realizing these positive policy efforts hinges on the passage of Measure RR.

After years of expansions, a new generation of BART leadership has committed to reinvesting in the core system.

Reinvestment efforts began years ago when BART secured funding to replace its aging fleet of rail cars, and new trains will start to arrive early next year. Measure RR expands upon these efforts by focusing on the core system through a “fix-it-first” approach. By law, all funding must go to capital improvements–not a penny can go toward operating costs. An independent oversight committee, made up of engineers, accountants, and the public, will be created to ensure transparency and that the money is spent responsibly and wisely.

BART and the Bay Area are at a critical moment. Our growing region is putting pressure on our roads and our ability to keep the Bay Area running. Our main public transportation system needs fundamental repairs to keep it safe and reliable. It’s time to rebuild BART. We cannot spend another decade relying on current aging and inefficient systems. Without meaningful investment, declining reliability and capacity constraints will undermine our sustainability goals, increase roadway congestion, and disrupt access to jobs and services across the income spectrum.

It’s time to bring BART to a standard that is commensurate with its essential role in our region.

Bay Area voters will be faced with a bevy of measures, candidates and propositions this election cycle. But there’s nothing on the ballot that is clearer. BART’s just too important to our region.

Streetsblog urges a YES vote on Measure RR on November 8.

From a blog item at:

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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Two Accidents, Two Service Outages,
And Two Restorations Last Monday
In The New York Area

By David Peter Alan

The New York area saw train service come back to two places last Monday, October 10th.  As we reported last week, Hoboken Terminal (almost half of it, to be more precise) came back into service for trains on New Jersey Transit (NJT).  The same day, service which had been interrupted on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) was restored for Monday’s peak-commuting hour.  Both services, on opposite sides of New York City, had been disrupted by accidents that occurred within nine days of each other.

Riders and their advocates were pleasantly surprised on Friday, October 7th.  That afternoon, NJT announced that “partial” service would again operate from Hoboken Terminal, effective Monday morning.  All train service had been suspended after a train that was speeding through the terminal interlocking tracks crashed into a bumper block at the historic stub-end terminal.  The accident occurred at about 8:45 on Thursday morning, September 29th, and service was suspended shortly thereafter.  The accident killed one person and injured 108.  The speeding train somehow caused part of the roof over the train shed to collapse, but the parts of the roof toward the higher-numbered tracks (the ill-fated train arrived on Track 5) and towards the outbound end of the platforms remained intact.  So did the terminal building.

Other transportation services returned later that day or on Friday.  They included NJT light rail to Jersey City and other places in Hudson County, ferries to downtown Manhattan, local buses and PATH (Port-Authority Trans-Hudson) trains to New York City.  The rail terminal was closed off, however.

On re-opening day, part of the pedestrian concourse which normally leads to the PATH trains and buses was walled off, but riders could get to them through the terminal building.  The ticket office in the building had not reopened yet, but the customer service office and several businesses near the high-numbered tracks had.  Only Tracks 10 through 17 returned to service, and it was not known at that time when repairs to the roof, concourse and track area would be completed, so Tracks 1 through 9 could be used again.

Even at reduced capacity, NJT was able to run most of the afternoon peak-commuting schedule that normally operates from Hoboken Terminal.  Some trains were canceled, while others were combined, so some express trains were combined with a local train with a short turn, and operated as all-stops locals.  Most of the former mid-day and some of the evening schedules ran, although one late-evening train was conspicuously absent.  Train #684, which previously left Dover at 11:30 pm for Hoboken, had not been restored, despite ample capacity at Hoboken during the late evening.  The same was true of some other “last runs” of the evening.  The Lackawanna Coalition had advocated vigorously for the return of Train #684, the last inbound train of the evening on the Morris & Essex Line, which was eliminated without notice to the public last year.

A number of senior managers were on hand to greet the returning customers.  The riders appeared happy to have their Hoboken trains back, and peak-hour ridership appeared healthy, especially since the first day of service was Columbus Day, which is a holiday for some workers. Train #467, the 6:07 train to Murray Hill (short turn), had 201 riders on board at Hoboken, including this writer.

On the other side of New York City, another accident crippled service on part of the Long Island Rail Road over the week-end.  About 9:15 on Saturday evening, a 12-car train with about 600 passenger on board sideswiped a piece of construction equipment on the tracks.  The accident occurred east of New Hyde Park, on the LIRR Main Line to Ronkonkoma.  Service to Ronkonkoma, as well as to Port Jefferson and Oyster Bay, was suspended.  Those lines branch off from the Main Line east of the accident site.

Thirty-three people were injured; four seriously.  New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed his relief that there were no fatalities.  The first three cars of the train were damaged.  Service was restored on a limited basis for last Monday’s morning commute, and full service was restored by the afternoon.

These accidents continue to raise questions about safety on the passenger-rail system in the region.  An accident on Metro-North’s Hudson Line in December, 2013 killed four people.  Eight more were killed when Amtrak Train #188 was wrecked as it sped north of Philadelphia in May, 2015.  Some safety advocates have blamed the NJT accident on the fact that Positive Train Control (PTC) was not installed on the Hoboken Terminal tracks.  Other advocates question whether or not PTC, a system that uses global positioning and determination of train speed to stop a train automatically, would have prevented the Hoboken wreck.  NJT took its own steps to prevent such an accident from occurring again.  The railroad implemented a new rule requiring the conductor to join the engineer in the cab of a cab-forward push-pull train when it travels to or from Hoboken Terminal or the Atlantic City Station, on terminal tracks.  Both Hoboken and Atlantic City are stub-end terminals with passenger concourses behind the bumper blocks at the end of the tracks.

While safety is always important, some advocates have stressed that rail travel is the safest transportation mode available, along with commercial air travel.  They point to the fact that there are so few accidents involving passenger trains that people remember them, while thousands of people are killed on American roads and highways every year, and their deaths go unnoticed.  

So while the debate over how to prevent future accidents continues, riders on the LIRR and Hoboken riders on NJT are pleased to have their trains back.  They gave NJT managers some well-deserved praise.  Their advocates join them in praising managers and other NJT employees for bring trains back to Hoboken so quickly, and they continued to push for the full schedule that ran last month to be restored soon.

They got some good news later in the week.  At a meeting of the NJ Transit Board of Directors last Thursday, the first such meeting in more than four months, an informed source told this writer that full service to Hoboken would resume “soon.”  The next day, a notice appeared on the NJT web site,, which said that the ticket office would open last Saturday, and full train service would resume on Monday (today’s press day).  The announcement also said that Tracks 1-4 and 7-8 would again be in service.  Track 9 had been reopened by Friday.  The train that was wrecked on September 29th came into the terminal on Track 5, so Tracks 5 and 6 will remain closed.  Since NJT was able to operate most of the regular weekday schedule with eight tracks in service, it should not be difficult to operate all of it with fifteen operating tracks.

There was a further addition to the waiting room.  It was a banner that read: “NJ Transit thanks all of its customers, first responders, neighbors, local restaurants and employees who came together to help one another on that tragic day here in Hoboken Terminal.”  It went on to say: “We also want to thank customers for their patience while we focus on restoring service and repairing the terminal as quickly and safely as possible.”  

Both on Long Island and in New Jersey, railroad managers and other employees succeeded in re-establishing service quickly, following accidents.  In both cases, the situations could have been worse.

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MTA Finally Starts Testing Trains On
The Second Avenue Subway

By Danielle Furfaro
New York Post

The MTA has started testing trains on the almost-ready Second Avenue subway stations.

A new video posted by rail fan DJ Hammers, who has uploaded dozens of transit-related videos to YouTube, shows the test cars rolling through on the Q line to the Lexington Ave.-63rd St. stop.

The aficionado sneaked a peek from between two levels of the station, and scored the video.


Image:  Screenshot - YouTube - DJ Hammer

“It was possible to a glimpse of these test trains at the Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station on the F line, soon to be a transfer point to the Q line when the Second Avenue Subway opens,” wrote Hammers. “One would see the trains passing from the staircase between the upper and lower levels.”

Of course, there are still many more steps the MTA needs to take before the three stations are ready to be open, and many agency board members have expressed concerns that the new line won’t be ready to roll by the December deadline.

The video can be seen at:

From an article at:

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Transdev Boosts Cincinnati Streetcar Service
To Meet Demand

From Progressive Railroading

Transdev, operator of the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar, has boosted weekend service to meet ridership demand.

Weekend ridership has been 300 percent to 500 percent higher than what the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) projected before service began, a Transdev spokeswoman told the Cincinnati Enquirer.


Image Via Progressive Railroading

The Streetcar on its opening day is crowded by well-wishers and future patrons

As of Oct. 6, the Cincinnati Bell Connector has logged more than 150,000 total rides, which has far exceeded projections, according to a SORTA press release.

At the start of the Oct. 7 weekend, Transdev operated more streetcars to accommodate more riders and reduce wait times.

If the company didn’t comply with the city’s request for more service, city officials threatened to take Transdev to court for failing to meet contractual obligations, the Enquirer reported. The contract stipulates that passengers shouldn’t wait more than 15 minutes for a streetcar to arrive at a stop.

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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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

FTA Announces $14.7 Million In Grants
For TOD Projects

From Progressive Railroading

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced it will award $14.7 million in grants to support projects that improve access to public transit.

The grants will be distributed to 16 U.S. metropolitan areas through the FTA’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Pilot Program for communities that are developing new or expanded mass transit systems, according to an FTA press release.

The grant recipients are integrating land-use and transportation planning efforts as they improve their transit systems, FTA officials said.

“These grants will help nation’s growing metropolitan areas plan for development alongside new transit lines that will open doors for residents to access jobs, education, medical care and other vital services,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers, who announced the grants in San Francisco at the 2016 Rail~Volution Conference.

The projects and associated grant awards include the city of Phoenix and Valley Metro for additional development in the South Central Light Rail Extension corridor, $2 million; the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for economic development in the proposed West Santa Ana Branch light-rail corridor, $2 million; the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II corridor, $1.52 million; and the city of Milwaukee for TOD planning along streetcar extensions, $750,000.

Found at:

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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Progress Made In Positive Train Control;
Actions Needed To Ensure Timely Completion

From An Amtrak Report
Amtrak Inspector General

The Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015 requires Amtrak (the company) to implement an approved Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system by December 31, 2018. PTC systems can help prevent some types of train accidents resulting from excessive speeds, including the tragic Train 188 accident that occurred in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015.

The 30-Page Adobe PDF report outlines the current state of implementation, and where the project has to go to complete its task.

For the full report (Adobe PDF) see:

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New Seahawks-Themed Amtrak Cascades Train
Debuts In Seattle

Kody Johnson
North Central Washington Life Channel

The Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT) has announced a new member of the Seattle Seahawks is now making regular runs up and down the west coast — stopping at 18 train stations along the way.

WDOT and the Seattle Seahawks unveiled a new team-themed train today at Seattle’s King Street Station. The train is part of a larger partnership between WSDOT and the Seahawks to promote train safety education. The campaign also highlights WSDOT’s Amtrak Cascades service — as well as giving 12s another way to cheer on their team.


Image via

The Seahawks Cab Control Car #90250

“Teaming up with the Seahawks makes for a winning partnership,” said Ron Pate, director of WSDOT’s Rail, Freight, and Ports Division. “This joint campaign helps us share the importance of safety around railroad tracks, as well as promoting a smart way to travel along the I-5 corridor.”

The locomotive (**) features Seahawks logos, team colors and a green “We Are 12” banner on top. The train wrap also includes important safety reminders as part of WSDOT’s new Stay Back From the Tracks campaign and Operation Lifesaver. The Seahawks train will be in service for several months, stopping at all of the 18 stations from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We are excited to partner with WSDOT on this Seahawks-themed train,” said Amy Sprangers, Seahawks vice president of corporate partnerships and suites. “This partnership is also a great way to educate our community about the importance of train safety.”

Kicking Off A New Safety Campaign

Next year, the Amtrak Cascades/Seahawks partnership will launch the Stay Back from the Tracks safety campaign. Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin will serve as the campaign spokesman. He, and the rest of the Seahawks organization, will work with WSDOT and Amtrak Cascades to drive down the number of train-related fatalities and injuries by creating better awareness of rail safety for people to be more cautious and alert when around trains, tracks and crossings.

The safety campaign includes opportunities to win train tickets and autographed footballs. Passengers who book Amtrak Cascades trips during October using the Seahawks special also will receive 25 percent off tickets for travel through April 2017.

Found at:

** [ Editor’s Note: The unit with the new livery is not a locomotive as reported above but rather a cab control car unit. It is a rebuilt F40 locomotive body that has been modified into a cab-baggage unit, serving as a way to drive the train and provide baggage space. It is also known in the industry as a “cabbage,” which is an amalgamation of its description. We won’t fault the journalist for not knowing the difference. After all, to the untrained eye this indeed looks like a locomotive, but the interior and purpose are quite different. ]

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TECHNOLOGY LINES... Technology Lines...  

Amtrak Launches PIDS At NY Penn

From Railway Age

Amtrak announced Oct. 11 the launch of a new, state-of-the-art Passenger Information Display System (PIDS) at Penn Station New York. The new PIDS communicates train status, origin and destination stations, boarding gate and other information and features bright, new LCD displays that are easier to read and synchronize audio and visual messaging in the station.

Strategic placement of the new displays, along with modification and eventual removal of some existing monitors – including the large train status board in the center of the concourse – provides customers access to the same information in various locations, allowing more efficient use of space in the main hall.


Image Via Railway Age

A new Amtrak Information Display

At either end of the main train hall, large video walls featuring departure information, visual messaging and synchronized station announcements are intended to draw waiting customers away from the center of the room, easing congestion and improving pedestrian circulation. The displays are also capable of broadcasting emergency communications and other customized messages. An additional 38 monitor sets displaying boarding information and station announcements have been or will be installed above the boarding gates on the main concourse, in the Acela Lounge, Rotunda and Amtrak waiting areas.

“The vast majority of our customers get train status information from the display boards and in-station monitors,” said Mike DeCataldo, Amtrak Senior Vice President and General Manager of Northeast Corridor Operations. “The new PIDS, along with the concourse improvements under way as part of the Moynihan Station project will be a welcome upgrade to the customer experience at Penn Station. The terminal complex presents a unique set of logistical and physical challenges – some of which we believe this new system will help to address.”

Funding was made possible through Amtrak’s ADA stations initiative.

“Amtrak is committed to providing timely and accurate customer communications across all channels – in stations, on board trains, via our mobile apps and our various web-based platforms,” said Lenetta McCampbell, Amtrak Senior Director, Passenger Experience. “Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated, multi-departmental team this modern system will help drive improved customer satisfaction at our most important station.”

The nation’s busiest transit hub, Penn Station is tremendously important to Amtrak and is the latest major Northeast Corridor station into which Amtrak is investing funds to improve the customer experience. Some 650,000 commuter and intercity passengers pass through the station each day – twice as many people as all three New York metro area airports combined.

From an item at:

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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Austria’s ÖBB Rail Company Plans Significant Expansion
Of Overnight Sleeper Trains

ÖBB To Acquire Deutsche Bahn’s Sleeper Train Fleet And Take Over Sleeper
Train Operations In Germany With The New Brand Name “Nightjet”

Via AFP, Lok Report And Railway Gazette

Germany’s Deutsche Bahn AG (DB) – German Railways – is ending its sleeper train operations, but it’s not quite the end of the line for fans of night-time journeys in central Europe, thanks to a deal signed with Austrian State Railways on the 7th of October.  Negotiations between the two principal railway firms in Germany and Austria have been going on for a number of months after Deutsche Bahn publically announced early in 2016 its intentions to get completely out of the passenger sleeper train business at the very latest by December 2017.  With the new brand name “Nightjet” Austrian State Railways – ÖBB – will integrate the newly acquired German night train operations into its expanding overnight sleeper train network, now already active in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Hungary.  


Photo: Austrian State Railways

A newly refurbished and repainted sleeper wagon of Austria State Railways (ÖBB) displayed in the new “railjet” color scheme at a press event in Vienna, Austria.  As ex-DB sleeper wagons are inducted into the ÖBB fleet, they will be repainted in the new “nightjet” livery.

DB has long sought to rid itself of its loss-making City Night Line, EuroNight and related Autozug (auto train) services as travelers increasingly opt for intra-European flights on low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Wizz Air, Eurowings and Easy-jet to cover distances that would take many hours by train.  With the romantic idea of going to sleep in one country and waking up in another losing its appeal, rail companies across Europe have been scaling back or phasing out their overnight services in recent years.  But Austrian State Railways (ÖBB), which believes there’s still money to be made with sleeper berths, is bucking the trend.

ÖBB announced that it would spend 40 million euros ($45 million) on buying and renovating 42 sets of sleeper trains, which have beds, and 15 couchette trains, where seats can be converted into bunks, from Deutsche Bahn.  ÖBB said the deal would allow it to expand its newly re-branded Nightjet network in Germany and offer six new routes from December this year, including Hamburg to Zurich and Munich to Rome via Salzburg.  The brand name “Nightjet” is derived from ÖBB’s brand name for its high speed passenger train product called “Railjet”. The “Railjet” brand name has been franchised in the meantime to the main train operator in the Czech Republic, also using Siemens designed and produced “Railjet” high speed train sets nearly identical to the ÖBB “Railjet” rolling stock.  

The number of sleeper trains to remain in operation in Germany however will still only be about half of what Deutsche Bahn has recently operated prior to DB’s recent announcement of plans step out of sleeper train operations. “It’s clear that night trains are a niche sector but this is a strong offer for certain target groups”, ÖBB chief Andreas Matthae said at a press conference in a nod to environmentally conscious travelers and families.

The Austrian rail operator said its overnight services account for some 17 percent of long-distance revenues.  With its network expansion, it hopes to attract an extra 1.8 million Nightjet travelers over the next three years, on top of the one million annual passengers it already has.

Deutsche Bahn for its part said it would focus on introducing more long distance late-night and overnight services number of intercity routes using its existing standard ICE and IC passenger train stock, which are not equipped with any sleeping births or beds, as replacement for the removal of DB’s City Night Line and EuroNight sleeper trains.  To make the journey more comfortable, the operator said lights would be dimmed and announcements kept to a minimum.  The cheaper, no-frills service is aimed at luring passengers away from long-distance bus routes.  “There will continue to be an attractive range of night-time travel options in Germany,” Deutsche Bahn’s Berthold Huber said in a statement, adding that the two companies were responding to “different travel needs”.  Despite booking its first loss in 12 years in 2015, Deutsche Bahn is planning massive investments to improve the quality of its service and modernize its ageing infrastructure.

Environmental campaigners and rail passenger groups have watched in dismay as European operators have one by one reduced their overnight offerings in the face of fierce competition from airlines and bus companies.  In France, the state-owned SNCF cut four night routes this month alone while two others -- the Paris-Nice line and Paris to Irun in Spain -- are to be scrapped next year.  A lack of profitability and passenger demand are the reasons Spain has cut nearly all its night train services, including the Paris-Madrid route.  In Britain, the only moonlight rail journeys left are London to Scotland and London to Cornwall in the southwest corner of the country.

The German rail passenger association ProBahn on Friday said it welcomed ÖBB’s partial rescue of Germany’s sleeper trains, and stressed the benefits of night-time train travel.  “To board in the evening and wake up at your destination in the morning fully rested is something you can only get on classic night trains, where travelers can actually lie down,” it said in a statement.  Ticket sales and reservations for “Nightjet” sleeper train services across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary and Slovenia are now being rolled out on the public websites of Deutsche Bahn (, ÖBB, SBB (Switzerland) and a few other travel booking / reservation websites as well as on the ticket / reservations systems of DB, ÖBB and SBB in their respective ticket sales offices in larger train stations.

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Ethiopia - Djibouti Railway Inaugurated

Mostly Chinese Designed And Built Rail Line In East Africa Starts
Ramp-Up In Freight And Passenger Operations

Via BBC, France 24 and International Railway Journal

The new Ethiopia - Djibouti standard-gauge (1435 mm) railway was inaugurated on the 3rd of October, creating a new transport corridor between landlocked Ethiopia and the Red Sea.
The 752 km (467 mile) line is electrified throughout at 25kV ac and double track for the first 115 km between Addis Ababa and Adama with single track on the remainder of the route.  Destination: Freedom readers can read a comprehensive article about the project with interesting photos of the new rail line on the BBC website:


Photo: France24 News

Chinese trains in East Africa on the new Ethiopia – Djibouti railway.

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