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.
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.
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. Service 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.
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.”
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. After 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.