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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Monday, 13 June 2011 10:28

Bombardier broadens research program

Bombardier Transportation announced today that it is investing $17 million over the next 18 months in creating a Product Design and Development Center for North America in Saint-Bruno, Quebec, and building a new test track at its manufacturing plant in La Pocatiere, Quebec.

“Facing the challenge of an increasingly competitive market, we are proud to reinforce our presence in Quebec by making major investments to enhance our competitive edge and maintain our leadership,” said Raymond Bachant, President, Bombardier Transportation North America. “The Design Center is a unifying project that will encourage greater involvement by our customers, suppliers, and partners in the research and development of pioneering technologies that could be included in our manufacturing processes.”

Quebec Minister of Transport Sam Hamad, who was present for the announcement, commented: “Already one of our economy’s foremost manufacturers and a leader in the rail industry, Bombardier Transportation adds another string to its bow with this investment. I’m pleased to see Bombardier Transportation position itself at the forefront of the industry’s best worldwide practices and take action to reinforce its competitiveness.”

The new center will consolidate product development for future projects carried out across North America. The new test track will allow engineers to perform qualification tests on the metro cars Bombardier is building for Societe de transport de Montréal. Bombardier said the track will be multifunctional, so that tests can be carried out on all electric multiple-units powered by a third rail, including rolling stock on rubber tires.

RMI, a provider of transportation management software, has announced the release of ExpressYard Barcode Repair Billing, designed to help railcar repair shops simplify data capture, eliminate billing errors, and automate inventory control.

RMI said the ExpressYard Barcode Repair Billing module “dramatically improves the AAR railcar repair billing process by associating bar codes with the correct repair data to provide a failsafe means to simultaneously enter billing repair card line item information and capture inventory part allocation all with one scan.” It works with both custom and standard manufacturer barcodes.

RMI is a portfolio company of The Carlyle Group.

Bombardier Transportation announced Tuesday that it has won a major contract, worth $577 million, for an automatic train control signaling upgrade for London Underground. Bombardier will provide its CITYFLO 650 ATC system, a communication-based train control (CBTC) technology similar to that running successfully on the Madrid Metro.

Bombardier said the full scope of the contract is for the signaling renewal and provision of an ATC system for four sub-surface lines (Metropolitan District, Circle, Hammersmith, and City).

Bombardier will equip the 68 miles of track (28 miles in tunnels), 113 stations, 191 trainsets, 49 maintenance-of-way trains, and six heritage trains by 2018, followed by a two-year warranty period. The main project office will be in London, with Bombardier sites in Bangkok, Helsinki, Madrid, Pittsburgh, and the British cities of Plymouth, Derby, and Reading providing much of the product supply and associated engineering works.

Andre Navarri, President and Chief Operating Officer, Bombardier Transportation, commented: “Bombardier's groundbreaking CBTC technology is installed globally on 13 systems and is proven to significantly increase capacity and quality of service for our customers. We are very pleased to be awarded this new contract by London Underground and look forward to working together on this exciting project to improve the transport network for hundreds of thousands of passengers.”

Wednesday, 08 June 2011 10:38

Team chosen for LA Regional Connector

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) has selected a joint venture of AECOM and Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) to provide conceptual planning and preliminary design for the $1.4 billion Metro Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project, also known as the Downtown Connector or Downtown Light-Rail Connector.

Construction on the connector could begin in 2013 and be completed by 2019, depending on the availability of federal funding.

The project envisions uniting disparate segments of Los Angeles’ rapidly growing light rail transit (LRT) network, as well as tying LRT in more completely with Union Station, served by Amtrak and Metrolink trains. (See map below.) The 1.9-mile-long underground rail connection will link the Metro Gold and Blue lines with the new Expo light rail through downtown Los Angeles, enabling passengers to travel from Azusa to Long Beach and from the Eastside to Culver City.

The Connector will provide major regional north/south and east/west rail line linkages that will give more transit riders a one-seat, one-ticket ride and offer significant travel time savings. The connection itself will save approximately 20 minutes of time by eliminating line transfers through downtown. The project is estimated to provide access to 90,000 passengers daily, and encourage 17,000 new transit riders by 2035.

The Regional Connector will receive partial funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by the voters of Los Angeles County in November 2008 as part of the Measure R program, funding transportation improvements totaling $40 billion over a 30-year period.

The AECOM/PB joint venture, known as the Connector Partnership, will be responsible for creating an advanced conceptual plan for the project as well as preliminary engineering, with options for design support during construction and system activation. The joint venture will also assist LACMTA with project controls and risk assessment.

la_regconnex_map.jpg

Thursday, 09 June 2011 05:55

Ridership up on Amtrak California trains

Caltrans late Wednesday said ridership on Amtrak’s San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner routes were up significantly in the past 12 months, citing “record numbers.”

amtrakcalifornia_logo.jpgLed by the San Joaquin corridor, which serves California’s Central Valley and linking Los Angeles and Bakersfield with Sacramento and the Bay Area, California’s state supported intercity passenger rail corridors had banner years. Compared to May 2010, ridership on the San Joaquin, the nation’s fifth-busiest rail corridor, shot up more than 12%, with a 19% increase in revenue, Caltrans said.

The Pacific Surfliner, the second busiest intercity passenger rail route in the nation, links San Luis Obispo with San Diego via Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. It experienced a 4% climb in ridership and a 9% increase in revenue, Caltrans said.

“These incredible ridership and revenue numbers show that by providing reliable, high quality service, Californians will leave their cars to ride trains,” said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

With five million annual passengers, California has more than 20% of all Amtrak riders. Since 1990, Caltrans has invested more than $1.3 billion in infrastructure and equipment for intercity passenger rail and about $1 billion in operating support.

Thursday, 09 June 2011 06:30

PATCO to expand fare media options

PATCO passengers next week will be able to manage their electronic fare cards on the Internet, and by September will be able to use a credit card, instead of the PATCO-only card, to pay fares on the bistate line, linking New Jersey’s Camden County with Philadelphia. 

The agency also plans to launch a one-year pilot program for credit-card fare payment. San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. is upgrading PATCO's fare gates to read bank cards that have an embedded electronic chip. Cubic will pay the cost of upgrading PATCO's gates and computer operating system, as well as the transaction fees charged by cardholders' banks. The upgrades are worth an estimated $680,000.

PATCO customers currently can use a smart card, but on June 13 can tap use of an online system permitting customers to add value to the cards and view their transaction histories. The system will be available at www.patcofreedomcard.org.

“A lot of eyes will be on our operation,” Cheryl Spicer, assistant general manager of PATCO, said at a meeting Wednesday of the Delaware River Port Authority, PATCO’s parent organization.
Thursday, 09 June 2011 07:03

U.S. railroads join global safety effort

The Association of American Railroads announced Thursday its freight railroad members are joining with the international community to raise awareness among motorists and pedestrians about the dangers of railroad grade crossings.

hamberger_aar.jpg“U.S. railroads operate the safest freight rail transportation system in the world and are honored to share their learning and experiences with the international community as we look to eliminate grade crossing accidents,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger (pictured at left). “For railroads, nothing is more important than the safety of our employees and the communities through which we operate.”

The third annual International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) features grade crossing safety events in 40 countries around the world, with a focus on the common message: “Act safely at level crossings!” Planned activities include the distribution of flyers at grade crossings, in schools, driving schools, and to scouts; the display of posters and the “Just in Time” video in railway stations and the internet; broadcast ads on radio and television, and a press conference organized with national and local press.

The ILCAD Campaign was established in 2009 by the international railroad community in conjunction with various highway organizations, the European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), to raise awareness among road users and pedestrians of the risks at grade crossings. To date, more than 40 countries around the world have participated in ILCAD.

ILCAD is jointly sponsored by the International Union of Railways (UIC), the European Level Crossing Forum (ELCF), the Community of European Railway Companies (CER), the European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM), the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) and Operation Lifesaver (OL).

“Saving lives knows no borders,” said Helen Sramek, president of Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing collisions. “We are thrilled to join with our colleagues in the international rail safety community in supporting such an important event.”

Major U.S. freight railroads will host ILCAD events across the U.S. ranging from Officer on a Train to public and private crossing sign inspection trips and grade crossing closure meetings. U.S. railroads have led the international community in promoting grade crossing safety and spend several hundred million dollars each year on grade crossing safety.

More information on International Level Crossing Awareness Day is available at www.ilcad.org.
Oxbow Carbon & Minerals and Oxbow Mining, which ship coal and petroleum coke, have announced that they have filed a suit in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia accusing Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe of “monopolizing and price-fixing illegally to gouge customers with high rates.” Both railroads strongly denied he charges.

“This lawsuit will finally force Union Pacific and BNSF to account, in federal court, for their long history of breaking American antitrust laws,” said Barry Brett of Troutman Sanders LLP, co-counsel for the Oxbow companies in the lawsuit. “The complaint filed describes how the railroads have used monopolization and price-fixing illegally to drive up the price of shipping coal and many other products, and those higher prices affect every business and consumer in the country. Only the power of the federal court can compel the freight railroad industry to fundamentally reform its business practices and stop abusing customers, consumers, and the national economy.”

“Union Pacific and BNSF have systematically gouged their customers, and the result is higher prices for everybody — from companies that rely on them to ship their goods to the consumers who buy products shipped on those lines,” said Bill Koch, chairman of the board and CEO of Oxbow.

The suit also says UP and BNSF have conspired with CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern since 2003 to use “deceptive” fuel surcharges to raise prices.

“These companies have a long history of using aggressive tactics to prevent competition and intimidate customers. We stand with our fellow Americanfarmers, miners, and shippers in fighting the railroads’ efforts to deny us competitive prices and services,” said Koch.

In a statement, UP called the complaint a “grab bag of accusations,” and said Oxbow had long warned of litigation unless the railroad came through with “exceptional commercial concessions.”

“Union Pacific values its business relationship with Oxbow and all customers,” the statement said. “However, Oxbow’s complaint contains egregious misstatements of facts, erroneous accusations, and obvious misunderstandings of federal regulation, rail networks, and markets.”

BNSF issued a statement saying it “has not colluded or conspired in violation of any law” and would address the issue further in court.
Thursday, 09 June 2011 07:33

AAR: U.S. freight traffic gains ground

U.S. freight carload traffic advanced 1.1% for the week ending June 4, compared with the same week a year ago, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. AAR noted U.S. intermodal traffic fared even better, up 7.2% compared with the same week in 2010.

aar_logo.jpgAAR said 15 of the 20 carload commodity groups it follows posted increases from the comparable week in 2010. Gainers were led by iron and steel scrap, up 18.7%, coke, up 18.1%, and grain, up 17.4%. Declines were seen in primary forest products, down 15.2% and nonmetallic minerals, down 10.5%.

Canadian freight carload traffic rose a robust 5.2% for the week compared with last year, but intermodal declined 2.8%. Mexican freight carload traffic fell 8.4% compared with the same week last year, but intermodal rose 20.8%.

Combined North American freight carload traffic for the first 22 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 2.9% compared with the same point last year, while intermodal was up 7.6% compared with last year.
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 07:27

LaHood praises streetcars at groundbreaking

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday joined New Orleans officials at a groundbreaking ceremony marking the extension of streetcar service 1.5 miles along Loyola Avenue. The estimated $45 million extension will link Canal Street with Union Passenger Terminal, served by Amtrak.

Full-scale construction is scheduled to commence next month. Regional Transportation Authority staff has recommended Archer Western Contractors of Arlington, Tex., for the job, and RTA’s Board of Directors is expected to approve the deal shortly. Service could begin sometime in 2012.

ray_lahood.jpg“There’s not a lot of money in Washington,” LaHood (pictured at left) said at the ceremony, addressing those in attendance. “So when we give money, we give it to those organizations that have great leadership,” he said, praising RTA for its pursuit of rail transit options. “Streetcars are coming back to America,” LaHood added.

LaHood also announced that the administration has awarded the RTA a $400,000 grant to establish a streetcar maintenance training program designed to create new jobs for skilled workers. Funding comes from the federal stimulus package.
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