William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

With Railway Age since 1992, Bill Vantuono has broadened and deepened the magazine's coverage of the technological revolution that is so swiftly changing the industry. He has also strengthened Railway Age's leadership position in industry affairs with the conferences he conducts on operating passenger trains on freight railroads and communications-based train control.

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The Association of American Railroads Tuesday noted freight railroads have had more than a century-long commitment to the nation’s servicemen and women, and in 2011 they continue to hire veterans “at a robust pace.”

AAR said one in five of the more than 15,000 new employees freight railroads expect to hire this year have served in our nation’s military.

hamberger_aar.jpg“Freight rail continues to be a steady driver of our nation’s economy, and as demand increases we need even more employees to help keep our wheels turning,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger (pictured at left). “For this reason, our industry is on pace to hire approximately 15,000 new employees in 2011, and thousands of these jobs will go to members of the military, who are uniquely qualified to work in freight rail.”

AAR has developed a special online tribute to freight rail employees with service in the military. This section profiles individual former-military employees from all walks of life and in a variety of rail jobs.

As well, AAR has launched a slideshow with a historic look at how railroads have helped our military efforts, titled “Victory by Rail : America’s Railroads During Wartime.”

Hamberger pointed to an “overlap” in personal traits and skill sets of railroad employees with military service men and women. “Our vets have a disciplined background, with special capabilities and qualities that are uniquely suited to help keep freight railroads efficient and safe,” he said.
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 07:52

CN recognized for climate change disclosure

Canadian National has been commended by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which represents 551 institutional investors with US$71 trillion in assets under management, for its approach to the disclosure of climate change information. And, for the third consecutive year, CN is featured in CDP’s “Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index.”

cn_logo.jpgThe index, a key component of CDP's annual Canada 200 report, highlights the constituent companies within the Canada 200 Index which have displayed the most professional approach to corporate governance regarding climate change information disclosure practices. Companies are scored on their climate change disclosure and high scores indicate good internal data management and understanding of climate change related issues affecting the company.

The index, compiled by Accenture on behalf of CDP, provides an evaluation tool for institutional investors and other stakeholders. In 2011 it comprises the leading 10% of companies (20) from the Canada 200 Index based on analysis of the responses to CDP's questionnaire which focused on greenhouse gas emissions, emissions reduction targets, and risks and opportunities associated with climate change.claude-mongeau-cn.jpg 

“We are proud of our achievements over the past year and are pleased with the Carbon Disclosure Project's recognition of CN's leadership on disclosure. Environmental sustainability is a strategic priority for CN, which is focused on lowering emissions, increasing energy efficiency, reducing waste, and encouraging environmental stewardship among our employees,” said CN President and CEO Claude Mongeau (pictured at right). “CN leads the North American rail industry in fuel efficiency, consuming, overall, approximately 10 per cent less fuel per gross-ton-mile than the rail industry average.”

Paul Simpson, chief executive officer of the Carbon Disclosure Project, said, “Companies that make the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index have demonstrated good internal data management practices for understanding greenhouse gas emissions. They have shown a strong awareness of the business issues related to climate change including climate-related risks and opportunities. Those organizations that give clear consideration to measuring and reporting on climate change issues will be best placed to capitalize on the opportunities from managing them.”

Tuesday, 08 November 2011 10:14

BNSF challenges report on rail security

BNSF said Tuesday it was “extremely disappointed” by a news media investigative report questioning freight train security measures, as well as operations, in Washington state.

The report, issued Monday by Seattle’s KOMO News 4 TV and KOMO Newsradio, said its “Problem Solvers” team in essence found “so many Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway trains for the taking,” some idling for hours without any security presence nearby. KOMO also relied on two BNSF anonymous engineers who expressed concern over current operations and supposed lax safety measures.

KOMO also reported the “Federal Railroad Administration … has now opened a formal investigation into what the Problem Solvers found.”

bnsf_logo.jpgIn response, BNSF on Tuesday chastised KOMO for its “sensationalized accusations and exaggerated hypotheticals to attack rail safety and security. BNSF takes safety and security very seriously.

“The report failed to recognize that there are numerous ways to immobilize aparked train such as removing essential equipment, tying down handbrakes orisolating electrical fields on the locomotive.,” BNSF said in a statement.

BNSF said a voluntary audit for last Friday “found that every lead locomotive in the area was properly secured.” In addition it said, “Most of BNSF’s high volume main line track is controlled by what is called Centralized Traffic Control (CTC). On CTC track, a train cannot move on the track, nor can a switch from a siding be thrown to allow a train to move onto the main line without the dispatcher seeing it on their computer screen.
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 05:55

Mica adjusts stance on Amtrak, NEC, HSR

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) on Tuesday said he no longer seeks privatization of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, and will support efforts to bring the NEC up to true high speed rail standards.

The chairman of the House Transportation Committee, addressing the U.S. High Speed Rail Association in New York, acknowledged Congress was reluctant to privatize the NEC, in effect thwarting any HSR progress between Boston and Washington, which Mica believes is the top U.S. HSR opportunity.



“I'm willing to compromise,” said Mica (pictured at left). “I could probably pass just about anything in committee, but I want to make something happen." Mica said he would try to funnel money from any other failed rail projects into the NEC, an oblique reference to his skepticism of California’s proposed 700-mile statewide HSR system.

More directly, Mica plans hold a hearing next month to determine whether the California plan or other U.S. HSR proposals are worthwhile.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), an ardent supporter of Amtrak, said he was pleased by Mica’s shift, given the latter’s reputation as a harsh Amtrak critic. “I think, I hope, we have agreement that Amtrak has to be the main vehicle” for HSR in the Northeast, Nadler said.

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 05:57

Cincinnati streetcar survives anti-rail effort

A majority of Cincinnati voters Tuesday stood by current plans to reintroduce streetcars to the city, rejecting Issue 48, a ballot measure that would have banned any city funds to be spent on passenger rail implementation.

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 06:00

Transit sales tax OK

Voters in Durham County, N.C., Tuesday approved a sales tax for transit, a precursor to better bus service and a staging mechanism for light rail transit and regional (“commuter”) rail passenger service in the Triangle metropolitan area.

The one-half cent transit levy received 60.1% voter approval.

Durham city and Durham County officials were pleased by the result. Officials expect the levy to generate about $18 million to $19 million in new revenue. Money from it would pay first for added bus service in Durham, and later would finance work on two rail systems. Regional rail service would link Durham, Raleigh, the state capital, and eastern Wake County, using existing rights-of-way. LRT plans envision creation of a new route, not yet determined.

The county says it will wait for neighboring Wake or Orange counties to enact a similar tax before they implement the approved sales tax to generate capital.

Thursday, 10 November 2011 03:50

Germany/Poland metro duo eye streetcar

PTV AG, a German-based logistics company, says Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, and neighboring Slubice, Poland, are planning to offer a cross-border tram route which would connect the two cities by 2015.

A study entitled “VIATRAM Frankfurt (Oder)-Slubice” has endorsed the idea, which is expected to generate 3,200 rider trips per day. Both cities and countries would seek European Union funding to support the project. The project would utilize an existing bridge over the River Oder.

Slubice was part of Frankfurt (Oder) until 1945, when international boundaries were redrawn."The tram line can achieve positive economic results if the construction of the link is supported financially," says Gerald Schröter, a PTV representative and head of a working group analyzing the prospect.

PTV AG is based in Karlsruhe, Germany, a city known for its dual-system Stadtbahn “tram trains” that run both as streetcars and on railroad rights-of-way.

Germany and France already employ a cross-border rail service, the Saarbahn, connecting Saarbruecken, Germany, with Sarreguemines, France, also with tram-trains.

Thursday, 10 November 2011 06:53

Comptroller faults Metro-North overtime

In a 28-page report dated Nov. 9, addressed to now-departed Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reports an audit “found that Hudson and Harlem Line Signal Construction Unit employees received costly and, in certain instances, potentially fraudulent payments due to long-term practices that may have been avoidable.

“In fact, for calendar year 2010, we determined that these practices cost Metro-North $991,208 in overtime and $216,128 in regular pay, and enriched certain staff and supervisors,” DiNapoli said.

metronorth_logo.jpgThe report follows recent media coverage last month of disability payment fraud at the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North's sister agency. Said DiNapoli, “These payments occurred because of a pervasive culture of management acceptance of long-term practices, employee feelings of entitlement to additional compensation, and ineffective internal controls in Metro-North’s payroll office.”

“Most of the Signal Construction Unit workers are covered under a federal statute governing “Hours of Service,” which generally provides that employees can work up to 12 hours within a 24-hour period, and then they must be provided with at least 10 hours of rest time,” the report’s Executive Summary says, adding, “We determined that supervisors set work schedules so their employees worked 12-hour shifts overnight (collecting overtime pay for this time), which then forced the employees to go into the Hours of Service rest interval during their normally-scheduled work hours. Further, we found that supervisors included themselves in this scheduling arrangement, even though they do not appear to be covered by the statute.”

DiNapoli notes “Metro-North officials agree with most of our report conclusions and recommendations. However, they do not agree that any frauds have been perpetrated by their staff.”

The comptroller’s office offered six recommendations to resolve the problem:

1. Study the cost benefit and feasibility of rearranging signal workers’ schedules (e.g., a night shift) so that unnecessary overtime pay is stopped;

2. Discontinue Hours of Service payments and related premium pay for employees who are not entitled to it;

3. Investigate the inappropriate payments noted in our report and take appropriate corrective action, including disciplinary action, recovery of payments, and adjusting pension benefits;

4. Clarify and communicate, as appropriate, which employees are entitled to compensation for Hours of Service and which are not;

5. Adhere to payroll controls that are designed to provide checks and balances such as reconciling all exceptions between KRONOS and manual attendance records; and

6. Immediately discontinue the practice of supervisors signing attendance records for themselves and determine whether other corrective action or disciplinary action is warranted.

Thursday, 10 November 2011 07:05

U.S. freight carload, intermodal gain

U.S. freight carload traffic for the week ending Nov. 5, 2011, rose a healthy 3.4% over the comparable week of one year ago, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. U.S. intermodal volume showed similar strength, up 3.5% for the week compared with one year ago.

aar_logo.jpgAAR said 15 of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2010, including: metallic ores, up 23.2%; nonmetallic minerals, up 23%; and metals and products, up 19.9%. Among declining commodities, farm products excluding grain fell 17.8%, grain declined 11.4%, and primary forest products retreated 10.5%.

Canadian freight carload traffic also rose, up 2% compared with the same week last year, while intermodal advanced a robust 7.2% compared with a year ago. Mexican freight carload volume increased 3.8% for the week compared with last year, while intermodal’s rise of 25.2% completed an across-the-board sweep of increases.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 44 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 2.1% compared with the same point in 2010, while intermodal was up 5% for the period compared with one year ago.
Thursday, 10 November 2011 08:48

CN and Coalspur eye export-coal agreement

Canadian National and Coalspur Mines Limited have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a logistics supply chain to move export thermal coal from Coalspur’s Vista Coal Project near Hinton, Alberta, to western ports starting in 2015.


At that time, Coalspur plans to start coal production at a rate of approximately 2.5 million metric tons a year, rising toabout 11.2 million metric tons by 2019. CN will transport coal to ports ports including Ridley Terminals Inc. (RTI) at the Port of Prince Rupert, B.C. Coalspur has signed a throughput agreement with RTI to handle up to 8.5 million metric tons of coal.

CN and Coalspur said in an announcement Thursday that they will jointly design and build a rail siding at the Vista site capable of handling the loading of 175-car unit trains. The two parties expect to negotiate a definitive agreement in 2012.

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