William Vantuono

William Vantuono

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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Wednesday, 18 May 2011 04:39

Amtrak Adirondack may get Customs revamp

The commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday outlined planned improvements to joint U.S.-Canada operations, including streamlined radar operations to detect low-flying aircraft and establishing customs clearance for Amtrak’s Adirondack in Montreal’s Central Station.

Commissioner Alan Bersin referred to the potential changes at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Schumer has voiced frustration with current customs procedures for the Adirondack, which has the train stop at the U.S.-Canada border for up to two hours. (On a trip last October, Railway Age Managing Editor Douglas John Bowen recorded waiting times of 49 minutes northbound, clearing Canadian customs, and 1 hour 45 minutes southbound, clearing U.S. customs, on a New York-to-Montreal round trip.)

Bersin said his agency is exploring the possibility of opening an inspection facility in Montreal that would serve Amtrak passengers traveling to New York State locations, including New York City. Customs and Border Protection operates in such a matter in Vancouver, British Columbia, served by Amtrak’s Cascades trains.

During the hearing, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) urged Customs and Border Protection officials to work with Vermont state officials to help restore New York-Montreal Amtrak service routed through Vermont, which could offer potential economies of scale to any new Customs inspection plan for Amtrak Montreal service. Amtrak’s Montrealer was discontinued in 1995.

Bersin replied, “The difficulty in the Montreal-Vermont-New York corridor is that, unlike Vancouver-Seattle, there are many stops along the way, which complicates the notion of pre-clearance because you can't then segment the traffic when it arrives in New York.” But the commissioner added, “We are certainly willing to explore the options.”

Wednesday, 18 May 2011 07:03

CSX updates financial guidance

CSX Corp. told its annual Investor and Financial Analyst Conference in Detroit Wednesday that it’s “targeting a compound annual growth rate in earnings per share of 18% to 20% through 2015, supported by a compound annual growth rate for operating income of 12% to 14% over the same time period.” The company reaffirmed its goal of achieving a 65% operating ratio no later than 2015.

csx_logo.jpg.jpg“CSX is ideally positioned to meet the growing transportation demand in this country,” said Michael J. Ward, chairman, president, and CEO. “Expansion in the U.S. economy, global trade, and CSX’s substantial investments in its infrastructure mean more things will move on our highly efficient freight rail network.”

Noting that it invested $8.3 billion in improvements in the five years between 2006 and 2010, CSX said it expects to reinvest an average of 18% of its revenue back into its business through 2015.

The company intends to base future dividends on a payout ratio of 30% to 35% of earnings per share as measured on a trailing 12-month basis. It’s also targeting share repurchases of about $1 billion annually after its current $2 billion program is completed in 2012.

“Our high expectations for CSX are grounded in what we clearly see happening in the marketplace and what we know about the capability of our people, our infrastructure, and our ability to bring value to customers,” said Oscar Munoz, executive vice president and chief financial officer. “We see significant opportunity to create value and are working to build on that opportunity through the balanced deployment of capital and a focus on strengthening our credit profile.”
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 07:11

Wabtec to supply brakes for NJT cars

Wabtec Corp. announced that it has signed a contract valued at about $12 million to provide braking equipment to Bombardier Transportation Canada, Inc., for 100 new passenger rail cars on order from New Jersey Transit.

wabtec_logo.jpg

The contract, which also includes draft gears and bench test equipment, includes an option to supply Bombardier for up to 79 additional cars.

New Jersey Transit awarded the car order to Bombardier in 2010.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011 07:42

Victoria moves closer to LRT commitment

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission in British Columbia on Tuesday endorsed a C$950 million light rail transit line to link Victoria and nearby Langford, B.C. But the commission cautiously noted it still needs a commitment of provincial and federal funding before any LRT project proceeds.

LRT was chosen over public transit options, including Bus Rapid Transit, despite LRT’s higher initial capital costs.

"We must have the province and the feds in," Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said at the transit commission meeting. "They have to be in to make this project a reality. If they are in, we will make this project a reality."

Officials in Victoria, as well as throughout Vancouver Island, recently have struggled to secure C$15 million in provincial and federal financial assistance to rescue a dilapidated freight rail right-of-way.

The unresolved issue has cast doubt on the likelihood of any provincial or federal support for any rail passenger project. Despite that, the British Columbia Transit Board is scheduled to cast its vote on the LRT project on May 26. British Columbia Transit staff reportedly already have been directed to prepare a plan for interim improvements to transit services and infrastructure that would support or benefit the establishment for light rail.
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 08:26

Class I rails add 5,689 jobs in 12 months

In mid-April, U.S. Class I railroads employed 5,689 more people than they did in April 2010, and 935 more than in March 2011. The 3.77% improvement in employment compared with a year ago and the 0.60% gain since March were in line with the gradual growth in railroad jobs that has been taking place in recent months.

Total employment in April was 156,777 vs. 151,088 in April 2010, according to the Surface Transportation Board.

The largest employment group, transportation (train and engine), had 62,872 workers in April, up 6.04% from April 2010.

In other categories, maintenance of way and structures employment reached 35,573, up 2.54%; maintenance of equipment and stores, 28,852, up 1.95%; executives, officials, and staff assistants, 9,238, up 2.39%; and transportation (other than train and engine), 6,665, up 2.57%.

Passenger flows were nearly normal Monday morning at PATH’s Hoboken Station following an accident Sunday, when a train ran through its bumper block and into the station platform, injuring about 35 people, some of whom were treated in nearby hospitals.

Long Island Rail Road trains still had limited access to New York’s Penn Station Monday following an Amtrak derailment in one of the four East River tunnels Sunday. Amtrak and LIRR work crews, augmented by crews from LIRR’s sister railroad Metro-North, were at work Monday removing passenger cars and assessing infrastructure damage.

LIRR on Monday said it anticipated significant adjustments to existing schedules, including train cancelations, to occur through Wednesday. On Tuesday, LIRR, re-evaluating the problem, said service disruptions could last through the week. About 20 eastbound morning trains were canceled Monday morning, with passengers urged to consider New York City Transit E and 7 subway service as an option.

Amtrak train 254, completing its scheduled run Sunday from Albany, N.Y., to New York’s Penn Station, derailed as it headed under the East River to Sunnyside Yard in Queens, damaging both catenary and the third rail. The derailment also was expected to affect Amtrak service between New York and Boston, as well as New Jersey Transit, which also services trains in Sunnyside Yard.

Wabtec Corp. said Monday it has signed a US$21 million contract with mining company Rio Tinto to provide electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking equipment for a portion of the company’s freight cars and locomotives in Australia. The equipment will be delivered in 2011-12.

wabtec_logo.jpgUnder the contract, Wabtec will provide about 3,600 carsets of ECP equipment so that Rio Tinto can retrofit its fleet of iron ore cars, most of which currently use Wabtec’s standard pneumatic brakes. In addition, Rio Tinto will install ECP brakes on six locomotives initially, with potential for more in the future.

“The advantages of electronic braking – including significantly shorter stopping distances – have been proven in commercial use by railroads around the world,” said Albert J. Neupaver, Wabtec’s president and chief executive officer. “Rio Tinto’s investment in this technology is a further demonstration that heavy-haul railroads can deploy ECP to reduce cycle times and improve train handling, and we are pleased to be part of the project.”

Wabtec said that with standard pneumatic brake equipment, the brakes are applied and released throughout the train sequentially, one car after another. ECP equipment uses an electronic signal to apply and release the brakes simultaneously in every car.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011 04:16

Bombardier shows "Last Mile

Bombardier Transportation Tuesday said it was premiering a TRAXX AC locomotive with a supplementary diesel motor at the Transport Logistic trade fair, which begins today in Munich, Germany, and runs through Friday.

bombardier_logo.jpgDescribed as a “Last Mile Diesel,” the design removes the need to change locomotives in shunting areas of a rail network. The technology offers increased flexibility, for example at stations where a system change takes place, at terminals, at ports, or on construction sites. In general, the so-called last mile in those areas generally are not electrified, and until now shunting locomotives have had to replace electric locomotives in these areas to close the gap, Bombardier said.

Åke Wennberg, president of Locomotives and Equipment division, Bombardier Transportation, said: “Our Last Mile locomotive offers real innovation, giving rise to whole new possibilities in rail freight transportation. I am certain that this new product will impress our customers.”

The first five locomotives of this type were already ordered by the leasing firm Railpool at the end of last year. “This fulfills a long-held wish for us, the market has been waiting for this opportunity. We are convinced by this solution,” said Dr. Walter Breinl, managing director of Railpool GmbH.

Three of these five locomotives will be leased by the Swiss private rail firm BLS Cargo. “The Last Mile Locomotive enables us to develop new markets for BLS Cargo,” said Dr. Dirk Stahl, CEO of BLS Cargo. “We can offer customers in Switzerland, Germany and Austria innovative and above all efficient rail logistics solutions.”
Harrisburg, Pa.-based TransCore said Tuesday it has readied “a next generation multiprotocol radio frequency identification (RFID) rail reader, and a field processor unit, the Train Recording Unit (TRU™).”  Both are designed to support the rail market’s transition to updated automatic equipment identification (AEI) technology, used throughout the industry to monitor rail car assets.

TransCore says railroads have been instrumental in driving all aspects of AEI product development since the original design in the early ’90s, including TransCore’s new products announced Tuesday. TransCore says it has a long-standing relationship with railroads around the world, with systems in place in 25 countries.

Says company Executive Vice President Operations George McGraw, “Railroads across North America move more than approximately 1.7 billion tons of freight a year and need the latest technology to enhance visibility and security for shipment tracking and providing chain of custody of shipments. More crucial is that this technology is interoperable with their current investment in AEI technology and can transition to newer technology without rendering the current systems obsolete.”

Transcore says the TRU captures AEI tag data and other data “to report an accurate standing order train consist to railroad management systems. It is the key component used to implement AEI reader systems at main line rail locations in North America. The TRU records detailed information about trains, uses the information to create ‘clean consists,’ and then transmits consist reports to one or more host computer systems. A train clean consist report is a train listing in standing order, where orientation of tagged equipment is provided, location of untagged equipment is provided, and car count is accurate. The TRU accommodates and accurately filters data from normal operating procedures such as changes in speed and direction. It also incorporates intelligence to handle both single and multi-track locations.”

TransCore's Multiprotocol Rail Reader (MPRR) interfaces directly to the TRU wayside AEI controller “to provide a complete railroad AEI reader system to the North American railroads,” Transcore says. ”MPRRsd are quickly and easily installed, tested, and maintained by TransCore personnel. The MPRR is a fully integrated, self-contained 902 to 928 MHz wireless RFID reader that is specifically designed for rail applications. It is a replacement for TransCore’s AI1200 Reader/AR2200 RF module systems, and can read current AAR format and the new SeGo protocol tags. The MPRR provides flexibility by offering a real-time clock; expanded tag read buffering; programmable RF output power; programmable frequency range from 860.00 to 930.00 MHz in 250-kHz programmable frequency steps; and system integrity checking. It employs advanced multiplexing techniques that improve reader performance at higher train speeds when compared to legacy products. In addition, this unique multiplexing mode provides the capability for one reader to manage up to four antennas.”

New features of the Train Recording Unit include the ability to update tags remotely without taking railcars out of service and to replace obsolete and unreliable systems that are no longer manufactured or supported. The technology is said to be more cost-effective, as a single TRU controller can handle train processing on two tracks vs. just one. The TRU is the first to comply with AAR Recommended Practice RP-9203, for improved train reporting accuracy in both single and multi-track environments. It offers accurate handling of high value, specialty cars, is easily updated with new car profiles for accurate standing order train consists, and provides S918A train and maintenance reporting. It offers reduced maintenance costs through automated integrated self diagnostics, automated maintenance reporting, and extensive remote access and support features. The TRU is a networkable device that allows existing sites to be easily upgraded to use today’s network IP communications strategies. Built rugged for high reliability in the rail environment, it complies with AREMA 11.5.1 Class C environmental specifications.
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