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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Thursday, 27 October 2011 07:56

Bombardier wins Switzerland's Tell Award

Bombardier announced Thursday that it has received the Tell Award for the most significant technology project in Switzerland in recognition of its development for the company’s TWINDEXX Swiss Express intercity trains and its MITRAC propulsion and control system. The award is named for the folk hero William Tell.

Switzerland’s Ambassador to the United States, Manuel Sager, presented the award to Alfred Ruckstuhl, president, Board of Directors, Bombardier Transportation (Switzerland) Ltd., in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

bombardier_logo.jpgBombardier is the largest Canadian investor in Switzerland and is among its top 20 technology companies, employing 900 people in Zurich, Villeneuve, and Winterthur. In June 2010, SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) placed the largest vehicle order in its history with Bombardier for 59 TWINDEXX double-deck intercity trains, including options for more than 100 additional TWINDEXX trains.

“This coveted Tell Award for innovation recognizes Bombardier’s investment in rail technologies of the future,” said Stephane Wettstein, chief dountry representative in Switzerland for Bombardier Transportation. “Our TWINDEXX double-deck trains and MITRAC propulsion and control system form the backbone of future intercity travel on the Swiss Railways. At a time when economically sustainable and environmentally responsible transport solutions are at the fore of global investment thinking, Bombardier Transportation is leading the way as a rail technology innovator.”
Thursday, 27 October 2011 10:32

11 charged in LIRR disability fraud case

U.S. prosecutors Thursday charged 11 people, including former Long Island Rail Road employees, with an alleged $1 billion fraud involving hundreds of railroad workers filing false disability claims.

The fraud reportedly also involved doctors, who assisted LIRR employees filing disability claims shortly before they retired. The move allowed those filing to claim disability pay on top of their retirement pension, prosecutors said. In filing the claims, the railway workers allegedly paid up to $1,200 to hire one of several disability doctors.

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan said the scheme cost the RailroadRetirement Board more than $1 billion. The investigation developed after aseries of reports by The New York Times starting in 2008. The Times said that almost every longtime LIRR employee was receiving disability payments, resulting in a disability rate sharply higher than other regional passenger railroads, including sister railroad Metro-North.

Between 2004 and 2008, 61% of the 1,423 LIRR workers who retired and began receiving some form of Railroad Retirement Board benefits were between 50 and 55 years old, prosecutors said. By comparison, only 7% of 61 people who retired from the MTA-controlled Metro-North commuter railroad and started receiving benefits were between 50 and 55 years old during that period, prosecutors said.

Friday, 28 October 2011 06:55

Bidding begins for Tucson streetcar project

Tucson, Ariz., officials on Friday said contractors can start bidding today on the city streetcar construction project. Bids are due by the end of the month, and the city may select a contractor as early as next month.

The design phase of the $197 million project has been completed, with some construction work along the rail line already under way.

Tucson is targeting revenue operation to begin in 2013, with United Streetcar LLC providing seven cars for the 3.9-mile line.
Progress Rail Services Corp., a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., announced that less than 10 months after construction began, its new locomotive assembly facility at Muncie, Ind., has already completed its first diesel-electric units. The company announced the “grand opening” of the Muncie shop on Friday.

progress_rail_services_cat_logo.jpgFrom the outset, the project has been on a fast track. Progress Rail announced the site selection in October of 2010 and began construction in January of this year.

“The Muncie facility is the first locomotive assembly plant to open in the United States in many years, and is the latest milestone to mark Progress Rail’s strategic approach to compete and win in the global railway industry,” said the company.

“This is the type of responsiveness our customers have come to expect from Progress Rail,” said Billy Ainsworth, president and CEO of Progress Rail. “Through its Progress Rail subsidiary, Caterpillar has proven its commitment to the rail and transit industries and since 2006 has invested more than $2 billion to meet our customers’ growing needs.”
U.S. freight carload traffic fell 0.5% during the week ending Oct. 22, 2011, measured against the comparable week of 2010, the Association of American Railroads said. But U.S. intermodal volume rose 4.2% for the week compared with a year ago.

aar_logo.jpgAAR said 10 of its 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2010, including: nonmetallic minerals, up 22.4%; iron and steel scrap, up 20.9%, and metals and products, up 19.2%. Groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included: grain, down 25.6%, and coke, down 11.5%.

Canadian freight carload volume, by contrast, rose 7.0% for the week compared with the same week last year, and with Canadian intermodal also up, advancing 1.6%. Mexican freight carload volume rose 4.1% compared with the same week last year, but intermodal fell 1.1%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 42 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 2.0% compared with the same period in 2010, while combined intermodal outpaced the 2010 level by 5.1%.

A Halloween feel was in place early Monday morning at New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal, with the venerable terminal’s concourse eerily deserted on a weekday due to service disruptions on much of NJT’s Hoboken Division following the weekend snowstorm.

njt_logo.jpgService on NJT’s Morris/Essex Line, Gladstone Branch, and Montclair/Boonton Line was expected to resume Tuesday, as NJ Transit crews continued work to remove downed trees obstructing right-of-way, and also to restring overhead wire on NJT’s electrified territory.

Heavy, wet snow, alternating with rain, affected New York City suburbs most heavily due in large measure to accumulation on trees that had not yet shed their leaves this autumn. Both official and anecdotal reports cited the resultant damage as more severe, at times, than similar damage caused by Hurricane Irene late last August.

Though also heavily impacted by snow during the weekend, Metro-North Railroad Monday morning said it had resumed regular service on Upper Harlem Line between Southeast and North White Plains to Grand Central, though bus service was still in place for “Wassaic Branch” of the Upper Harlem Line.

Metro-North’s Danbury Branch also was in service Monday morning, but buses were being used on the railroad’s Danbury and Waterbury Branch services.Some service on the Port Jervis Line, still being repaired from flood damage caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, also was back in operation Monday, though the bus shuttle linking the severed rail service portions were suspended “due to hazardous road conditions.”

All Long Island Rail Road lines were offering normal service Monday morning.
Monday, 31 October 2011 04:30

Activist hedge fund invests in CP

Pershing Square Capital Management, an activist hedge fund, reportedly has compiled a stake in Canadian Pacific Railway exceeding 12%.

In a regulatory filing, New York-based Pershing Square said CP Rail shares are undervalued and an attractive investment, and that it expected “to engage in discussions” with the company about a wide swath of its business.

Shares of CP rose 6.8% Friday after the filing was disclosed, and were up an additional 2.3% early Monday morning in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The move appears superficially similar to an effort during 2007 and 2008 by London-based The Children’s Investment Fund to acquire a significant portion of stock in CSX Corp., resulting in the placement of Fund representatives on the CSX Board of Directors. 

CP had no official comment, though it did issue this response to questions from its employees: “While we have an active dialogue with many of our investors, our practice is not to comment on those discussions.  As you may be aware, in a regulatory filing Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Pershing Square Capital Management advised it had acquired 20.6 million shares of Canadian Pacific. As with others, CP is open to the views of its shareholders. We will speak with Pershing Square to hear their input into our plan, already targeted at realizing greater efficiency and improved service reliability. As we've been discussing for the past few quarters, especially heading into winter, it is important that each of you to continue focusing on strong performance on the Integrated Operating Plan, meeting our customer needs, and ensuring the safe operation of the railway.” 


One rail industry observer offered this observation: “I saw the new movie ‘Margin Call’ over the weekend -- it's a superb film and I recommend it highly. One of the points made by Jeremy Irons, who plays the head of the failing firm, is that they just buy and sell numbers on Wall Street and there is no emotion in it. Following yesterday morning's collapse of (former U.S. Senator, New Jersey Goverrnor, and Goldman Sachs executive) John Corzine's MF Global, I am reminded that these guys frequently don't even know nor care what business the companies they buy are in.  Pershing Square head William Ackman (pictured) has been known to start these things and then bail as soon as the stock price gives him close to the profit he sought. He'll never be caught trying to run CP; to him it's just paper and a line on a map.”



Monday, 31 October 2011 07:31

PATH marks completion of 340-car order

PATH officials Monday hosted a ceremonial ride employing the final seven PA-5 rapid transit cars of a 340-car delivered by Kawasaki Rail Car Corp. to the bistate agency. The cars replace earlier equipment in service since the 1980s, with some gear dating back to the 1960s, officials said.

panynj-new.jpgAfter traveling from Journal Square Station in Jersey City to Hoboken, N.J., a brief press conference took place. Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of PATH’s parent, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, reaffirmed PATH as “a vital and critical link for transportation and economic development in New York and New Jersey,” which now carries 267,000 riders per weekday, or about 74 million riders per year.

Baroni praised PATH General Manager Mike DePallo for overseeing the $499 million car order and the overall modernization of PATH infrastructure, which includes $400 million in signaling upgrades. DePallo told Railway Age implementation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) indeed was next on PATH’s priority list.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer called PATH “a lifeline to our community,” noting that 56% of city residents used public transit, with most of those including PATH as part of their travel.

PATH still awaits fulfillment of an add-on order of 10 PA-5 cars from Kawasaki, made by the PA in late 2010.

Monday, 31 October 2011 07:38

CSX offers iPhone app to customers

CSX on Monday announced the release of a new iPhone application, ShipCSX, that allows customers to track freight shipments and trains across the CSX network. It also provides specifications of rail cars such as equipment dimensions and weights.

csx_logo.jpg.jpg“The ShipCSX application makes planning and tracing shipments easier than ever, enabling customers to better plan for the arrival of scheduled shipments,” said Eddie Chesser, director e-business CSX. “Designed with our supply chain and logistics-conscious consumers in mind, this application continues our commitment to make rail the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to move freight.”

Customers can retrieve up-to-date information about their shipments, including estimated times of arrivals and movement history.

CSX said application is available for free through the iTunes store, and currently works on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices, with more options soon. “CSX is working to add more functionality to the app, as well as an Android-compatible version,” said Steve Watkins, director of technology applications, CSX.
Tuesday, 01 November 2011 03:10

GWI 3Q earnings rise

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. on Tuesday reported third-quarter net income of $32.9 million, compared with net income of $24.8 million in the third quarter of 2010. GWI recorded diluted earnings per share of 77 cents in the quarter, compared with 59 cents diluted earnings per share in the comparable 2010 quarter.

gwi_logo.jpgGWI President and CEO Jack Hellman said, “Our business continues to perform well, as third-quarter operating revenues increased 39% to $217 million and third-quarter operating income increased 46% to $56 million, both company records. Our operating ratio was 74.0% in North America and Europe, another company record, and our operating ratio in Australia was 74.7%.”

“We remain pleased with the performance of our recent acquisitions and investments,” Hellman said. “In the United States, the first month of operations of the Arizona Eastern Railway was in-line with our acquisition plan. In Canada, we are experiencing additional growth in iron ore shipments under our new contracts in the Labrador Trough. In Australia, shipments on the Alice Springs to Darwin rail line are strong and we expect that the recently completed acquisition of iron ore assets of WPG Resources by OneSteel will drive a significant increase in our iron ore traffic in South Australia starting in 2012. “
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