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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GE Transportation announced Tuesday investments totaling $231 million in manufacturing improvements and site upgrades to its Erie, Pa., site and a new manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, Tex., “to meet accelerating domestic and global demand.”

“The expansions reflect GE Transportation’s growing global presence and rising demand for products and exports, particularly in the growing global mining industry,” said GE Transportation President and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli. “These latest investments in our U.S. facilities put GE Transportation in a position to shape the future of the transportation industry worldwide. We’re making significant investments in GE’s technology leadership, product innovation, and state-of-the art manufacturing operations to serve our customers worldwide.”

GE Transportation said a return to double-digit growth in 2011 has resulted in job growth in its U.S. facilities. The company has filled more than 2,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2011, including more than 1,100 jobs filled at GE Transportation’s key manufacturing location in Erie. GE Transportation will additionally hire about 360 new employees in Erie by the end of 2011, including 160 production workers to meet increasing demand for mining equipment. GE will also hire about 200 employees to backfill positions following the upcoming early retirement of production workers in Erie. The company is offering a Special Early Retirement Option and a Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program to eligible employees as part of the union contract ratified in June 2011.

In Erie, GE will invest $58 million in research and testing technology, facilities, and equipment to reduce engine emissions and improve fuel efficiency of GE locomotives and as well as engines used in the marine and stationary power industries. This includes investments in test laboratories, called test cells, for large-scale diesel engines at the Erie plant. The enhanced test cells will enable GE engineers to refine “an industry-leading locomotive that is fuel-efficient, reliable, durable, affordable, and that meets stringent EPA Tier 4 emissions standards scheduled to take effect in 2015,” the company said. “The success of this program will be a keystone to GE Transportation’s continued growth.”

GE will invest an additional $38 million in the Erie plant this year to increase capacity and modernize machining, equipment, and tooling used for producing locomotives, drive systems for mining trucks, and other transportation products. Production at the Erie plant is currently at levels equivalent to the facility’s peak production levels achieved most recently in 2008. The company will also spend $40 million on facility upgrades and site beautification at its more than 100-year-old Erie plant, including new offices for hundreds of employees and a Customer Showcase Center.

GE also intends to build a 236,000 square-foot facility adjacent to its new manufacturing plant in Fort Worth to complement its manufacturing operations in Erie. Pending necessary public approvals, the company plans to invest approximately $95 million in the new facility to manufacture and assemble AC motorized wheels for off-highway vehicles. It plans to launch production at the new facility in mid-2012 and anticipates hiring approximately 130 employees there.

GE Transportation reported $2.1 billion in revenues for the first half of this year, up 45% compared to the same period last year. Segment profits for the same period were $335 million, up 135%. GE Transportation received $2.3 billion in orders in the first half of 2011.

“According to an economic impact study conducted by independent research firm Tripp Umbach in 2010, GE Transportation is a significant contributor to the economic health and quality of life in communities across Erie County, Northwestern Pennsylvania, and the state,” the company said. “GE’s transportation business supports one in 11 jobs in Erie County and approximately one in 350 jobs in Pennsylvania. Every GE job supports close to three additional jobs across the state. GE Transportation’s operations have an annual total economic impact of $2.7 billion on Erie County and $4.6 billion on the state.”

Wednesday, 19 October 2011 11:15

CSX again tops Newsweek

CSX Corp. ranked first among Class I railroads in the Newsweek Green Rankings, released Wednesday—an honor the company has consistently taken since the awards were launched in 2009.

“Environmental sustainability has been and will continue to be one of CSX’s top priorities,” said Michael J. Ward, CSX chairman, president, and CEO. “We provide efficient and sustainable transportation that delivers benefits for our customers and neighboring communities while preserving the environment.”

CSX said it ranks 263rd among the top 500 publicly traded companies in the United States, and ninth in the transportation and logistics category.

Newsweek's Green Rankings are based on four criteria: green score, environmental impact, environmental management, and disclosure.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011 11:29

Wabtec wins Denver PTC contract

Wabtec Corp. announced Wednesday that it had signed a $63 million contract with Denver Transit Partners to provide Positive Train Control equipment and services for three new commuter rail lines planned for Denver.

The contract calls for Wabtec to provide a dispatch office, wayside signaling and communications systems, and related integration and project management services. Two Wabtec divisions, Wabtec Railway Electronics and Xorail, will perform the work.

“We’re pleased to be working with Denver Transit Partners and other industry suppliers on this important project,” said Albert J. Neupaver, Wabtec’s president and chief executive officer. “This demonstrates the role we can play, as transit agencies around the U.S. begin to deploy PTC.”

The Denver train control system will meet the requirements of the U.S. Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and uses PTC products that Wabtec is providing to Class I railroads and other transit systems. As such, the Denver system will be fully compatible with other PTC installations in the U.S.

Known as Eagle P3, Denver's commuter rail project includes three new lines with more than 36 miles of track and is expected to be completed in 2016. The program is part of a 12-year, multi-billion-dollar public transportation expansion plan in the region. In 2010, Denver Transit Partners, led by Fluor Enterprises Inc., was awarded a contract to build, operate andmaintain the project.

Thursday, 20 October 2011 04:48

Port Jervis Line repair ahead of schedule

MTA Metro-North Railroad says its efforts to repair its Port Jervis Line, providing West-of-Hudson service to New York’s Rockland and Orange counties, is ahead of schedule and, so far, under budget expectations.

metronorth_logo.jpgMetro-North now hopes to restore limited service on the portion of the line between Harriman and Suffern, N.Y., severed due to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene in late August, before the end of the year. Additional work, including restored double-tracking of the segment, would continue into 2012. Projected cost of the repair now is at $37 million, less than the initial estimate of $50 million.

Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said costs were “way down” because Metro-North personnel from its Tracks and Structures department have made “significant” progress, by working 12-hour days and on weekends. Ballast and other materials also have been salvaged to greater degree than first anticipated; Metro-North now expects about 80,000 tons of new ballast will be required, just more than half of the 150,000 tons initially believed necessary.

“We're able to salvage a tremendous amount it,” Anders said. “We're able to scoop it up and put it back in where was supposed to be.”

Limited rail shuttle service now links rail riders between Port Jervis and Harriman, N.Y., where customers can board shuttle buses to bridge the rail service gap between Harriman and Suffern. Port Jervis Line service in New Jersey, part of NJ Transit’s Bergen/Main Line service, is accessable in Ramsey, N.J., for continued trips to and from Hoboken, N.J., the Port Jervis Line’s other terminus.
Thursday, 20 October 2011 04:58

New Jersey rail service proposal revived

An oft-proposed $1.5 billion, 18-mile diesel light rail transit (DLRT) line serving New Jersey’s Philadelphia suburbs has been reactivated, though the Delaware River Port Authority, which has been the lead agent for the line, acknowledges it doesn’t know how to advance the project.

drpa_logo.jpgA contract for a $9 million environmental impact study will be brought to the DRPA board, a bistate agency serving New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in the next month or two, DRPA CEO John Matheussen says. The study is expected to take two years, and will evaluate passenger rail needs relative to ongoing and future freight rail activity expected for the line.

The contract was held up last year by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who objected to an earlier no-bid provision. DRPA has agreed to pay for the study, after being given assurances that it would be reimbursed by NJ Transit. NJ Transit in 2011 said it could not finance the project, bu that apparently has changed.

The proposed line would run 18 through Gloucester and Camden counties in New Jersey, connecting with existing PATCO and NJ Transit RiverLINE trains in Camden. A transfer to Philadelphia would be required in Camden via the other two lines, though some plans call for an overlapping service field with RiverLINE trains.

Bob Booth, chairman of the Gloucester City Business Association (in Camden County), said the rail line "will significantly increase economic development in towns along the line; it's a no-brainer." But numerous officials of both Camden and Gloucester counties objected strenuously to a similar proposal during the 1990s, leading NJ Transit’s Office of New Rail Construction to implement RiverLINE service to nearby Burlington County municipalities instead.
GATX Corp. has reported Rail segment profit of $63.0 million for the third quarter of 2011, compared with third-quarter 2010 Rail profit of $32.7 million. “The improvement in Rail segment profit is primarily driven by higher lease income due to more cars on lease, stronger asset remarketing activity, and lower switching and storage costs as a result of higher fleet utilization,” said the company in an earnings statement released Thursday.

gatx_logo.jpgOn Sept. 30, 2011, GATX Rail’s North American fleet totaled approximately 109,000 cars. Fleet utilization was 98.2%, consistent with the second quarter and up compared with 96.8% at the end of third quarter 2010. Renewal lease rates increased 9.6% over the expiring rates, compared with a 4.4% increase in the second quarter of 2011 and a decline of 15.7% in the third quarter of 2010. The average lease renewal term for cars in the third quarter was 49 months, up from 41 months in the second quarter and 36 months in the third quarter of 2010.

Rail segment profit was $171.3 million year-to-date, compared with $111.4million in the same period of 2010. The 2011 and 2010 year-to-date results include positive pre-tax adjustments of $11.0 million and negative pre-tax adjustments of $8.9 million, respectively, related to interest rate swaps.

GATX Rail’s European wholly owned tank car fleet totaled approximately 21,000 cars and utilization was 96.0% at the end of the third quarter, compared to 95.7% at the end of the second quarter and 95.3% at the end of third-quarter 2010.
Thursday, 20 October 2011 07:24

UP 3Q earnings up 16%

Union Pacific Corp. Thursday reported third-quarter earnings of $904 million, or $1.85 per share, up 16% from the $778 million, or $1.56 per share, it notched in the third quarter of 2010. UP revenue for the quarter also was up 16%, at $5.1 billion.

Results beat Wall Street analyst consensus estimates of $1.81 per share, on revenue of $5.03 billion.


UP said higher pricing that offset slower growth and higher fuel costs, which it said rose 42% during the quarter. It also said it expects its business to continue growing despite doubts expressed by some over the U.S. economy. 

The railroad noted extreme summer weather, notably in Texas, caused damage to large portions of rights-of-way, driving up maintenance costs.

UP Executive Vice President Jack Koraleski allowed that the railroad was concerned over the slump in international intermodal volume, which declined during the quarter compared with a year ago, though intermodal revenue rose. “I have to admit that I've been disappointed" with traffic during the peak intermodal shipping season, Koraleski said.

Thursday, 20 October 2011 07:53

AAR: U.S. freight traffic offers

U.S. freight carload traffic was flat for the week ending Oct. 15, 2011, measured against the comparable week of one year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported Thursday. U.S. intermodal volume for the week, however, rose 3% compared with one year ago.

aar_logo.jpgAAR said 11 of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases from the comparable week in 2010, including: metallic ores, up 28.1%; metals and products, up 18%; and petroleum products, up 17.2%. Declines were measured in grain, down 14.8%, and waste and nonferrous scrap, down 9.5%.

Canadian freight carload volume for the week fared better, up 2.9% from the comparable period last year, but Canadian intermodal fell 1.4%. Mexican freight carload traffic was down 2.4% for the week, and Mexican intermodal also declined, down 3.1%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 41 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 2.1% compared with the same point last year, with intermodal up 5.1%.
Thursday, 20 October 2011 11:11

Cuomo picks Lhota to head New York MTA

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo late Thursday nominated Joseph Lhota, now executive vice president of administration for Madison Square Garden Co., to succeed Jay Walder as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency. Walder is leaving MTA to head the Hong Kong mass transit system, reportedly at a considerable increase in pay.


Lhota was budget chief for former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. If confirmed by the state legislature, he would move to MTA in about a month as an interim chief executive officer. Cuomo said Lhota will be asked to take a 5% pay cut from the amount paid the current chairman.

Friday, 21 October 2011 03:27

KCS 3Q earnings and revenue rise

Kansas City Southern Friday morning reported third-quarter 2011 diluted earnings of $100 million, or 91 cents per share, up from $50 million or 48 cents per share in the third quarter of 2010. Adjusted for impacts related to Hurricane Alex in 2010, a 2010 post-employment expense benefit, and debt retirement costs, diluted earnings per share were $0.78 and $0.59, respectively.

kcs__logo.jpgKCS’ operating income increased 57%, and revenue of $545 million up 24%, compared with the third quarter of 2010. Adjusted for last year’s estimated revenue loss due to Hurricane Alex, revenue increased 16%. Overall, KCS said, carload volumes were 13% higher than last year or 7% higher adjusted for the hurricane.

The Class I railroad’s operating ratio for the quarter, adjusted for the hurricane-related impact, was 71.3%, or 66.6% on a reported basis.

Much like other Class I railroads reporting in the third quarter, KCS said operating expenses of $363 million were 13% higher than the corresponding 2010 period, primarily due to higher volumes and fuel expense, with compensation and benefits expense additional factors. The increase in fuel expense was primarily the result of higher average fuel prices in the third quarter of 2011 and reduced fuel consumption in the third quarter of 2010 resulting from the extended closure of the main KCSM rail corridor due to Hurricane Alex, KCS said.

“Kansas City Southern reported solid third quarter 2011 results,” stated President and CEO David L. Starling. “The company posted record carloadings and revenues and experienced strong year-over-year and sequential growth.

“While there persists an understandable level of anxiety in the financial markets over the state of the economy, KCS has experienced consistent growth,” Starling said. “With the weather challenges behind us, we remain confident that our mid-single digit volume and mid-teen revenue growth guidance for 2011 is attainable.”
Following earlier recommendations from VIA Metropolitan Transit and Bexar County (Tex.) officials, and despite earlier political turmoil surrounding the subject, the San Antonio City Council on Thursday voted to help fund VIA’s capital plan, including the city’s first modern streetcar line.

san_antonio_via_logo.jpgMayor Julián Castro and eight council members voted in favor of the plan, with only one nay vote and one council member not voting. VIA and the city must now work out an interlocal agreement that includes Bexar County, which is helping to fund the capital plan. The city will also pursue creation of a special assessment district along the streetcar route, which is critical to the line’s advancement.

San Antonio will contribute $40 million to the five-year capital plan, which also includes money for two downtown transit centers and two park and ride facilities. The assessment district, if approved by more than half of the property owners in the proposed area, will generate an estimated $15 million for the project.

Bexar County earlier agreed to provide $55 million in advanced transportation district funds to the plan. VIA says its recently approved bonding capacity will allow the transit authority to give another $70 million.

As is common in streetcar startups, the proposal has generated objections from some residents objecting to purported high costs compared with bus alternatives; some residents called for a public referendum, noting a similar proposal for light rail transit was defeated by voters in 2000.

San Antonio’s plan does include a bus circulator route that runs east and west instead of a streetcar, though VIA has said it eventually wants to build out the east and southern leg of the streetcar system.
Friday, 21 October 2011 05:23

GE Transportation notches solid 3Q gains

GE Transportation Friday reported $1.3 billion in third-quarter revenue, up 48% from the comparable quarter in 2010, and a profit of $196 million, up 94% compared to the year-ago quarter.

ge_transport.jpgGE Transportation’s report was part of Fairfield, Conn.-based parent General Electric Co.’s third-quarter report; parent GE reported third-quarter earnings of $3.4 billion, up 11% from the comparable 2010 quarter and in line with Wall Street analyst consensus estimates.

GE Transportation received $1 billion of orders in the third quarter, down 28% due to nonrepeat multi-year orders last year. The division’s performance was driven by anincrease of orders for mining equipment, drill motors, parts and services.

“We have stayed the course of double-digit growth in the third quarter as a result of dynamic infrastructure developments around the world,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, president and CEO of GE Transportation. “We are making major investments to expand our manufacturing footprint and build capacity in the rail, mining and related industries. We continue to shape the future of the transportation industry in order to better serve our customers.”

Erie, Pa.-based GE Transportation earlier this week announced an investment of $231 million in its manufacturing facilities in Erie and in Fort Worth, Tex., to meet accelerating domestic and global demand. It also announced it would fill approximately 490 U.S. jobs by the end of 2011.
Friday, 21 October 2011 06:37

Amtrak activates RailComm system in Chicago

Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm said Friday its Yard Automation System at Amtrak’s Chicago Union Station is now operational.

railcomm_logo.jpgThrough a contract with HNTB and Kiewit-Western, RailComm designed its system to meet the challenging requirements that were presented within Amtrak’s existing rail infrastructure.

The automation system is commanded by RailComm’s DOC® (Domain Operations Controller) server-based central control platform. The system operator is in control of over 100 GETS Hydra-Switches and dozens of power derail devices, blue flag indicators, switch heater locations, and two diesel generators. Additionally, the system uses RailComm’s RADiANT™ data radios to communicate between the office system and the network of controlled devices. Amtrak personnel operate the automation system from two tower locations.
Union Pacific Railroad will continue improving right-of-way in Wyoming and Nebraska by investing $17 million in the rail line that runs from Egbert, Wyo., to Hershey, Neb., the Class I railroad said Friday.

union-pacific-logo-officia.jpgVarious projects on the 161 miles of this line include removing and installing more than 124,000 ties, as well as renewing the surfaces at 113 road crossings. Crews will also spread nearly 72,000 tons of rock ballast to help provide a more stable roadbed and replace more than a half mile of rail in various curves.

UP said the curve rail project began in late-July, the crossing surface projects began in August, and the tie projects began Oct. 12. All projects are scheduled to be completed by mid-December.

Bellevue, Wash., has released drafts of a proposed agreement between Sound Transit and the city to finance a $300 million light rail transit tunnel through the municipality’s downtown.

Bellevue’s City Council has the option of passing the agreement, asking for more time, or taking no action at all at its next meeting, set for Monday night. Some council members have made clear their desire for more time to evaluate the proposal.

sound_transit_logo.jpgUnder the agreement with Sound Transit, Bellevue would be responsible for as much as $160 million of the tunnel's projected cost. Of that, $100 million of that would come in 2014 or 2015 through actions such as donation of land and utility improvements, leaving Sound Transit to commence construction with its share of funding. If tunneling costs are less than anticipated, Bellevue would pocket any savings.

Bellevue has said it welcomes light rail transit, part of Sound Transit's East Link project, a 22-mile extension linking Seattle with Redmond, Wash. But Bellevue has expressed concern that LRT could disrupt businesses and generate safety concerns. Sound Transit has noted that tunneling drives up the cost of LRT construction.

The document includes several options for both parties to terminate the agreement if future disputes arise. The city reportedly gets an out if Sound Transit refuses to adopt the city's requested design changes. Sound Transit reportedly can opt out if Bellevue does not grant a number of permitting changes by the end of 2012.

Sound Transit is expected to act on the agreement at its Oct. 27 meeting.

Monday, 24 October 2011 06:40

Maryland MTA taps Bombardier

The Maryland Transit Administration has reached a contract agreement with Bombardier Transportation to provide 54 Bombardier BiLevel rail cars for MARC passenger rail service at a cost of $153 million.

bombardier_logo.jpgMTA spokesman Terry Owens said MARC intended to retire 38 older rail cars nearing the end of their useful life cycle, but the Bombardier purchase will result in a net fleet expansion of 16 cars. The new cars, capable of handling more passengers than single-level cars, also are expected to relieve overcrowding on some trains.

MTA is exercising an option linked to an order by New Jersey Transit, which MTA says will result in a reduction of nine months to a year off the bid solicitation process.
Monday, 24 October 2011 07:33

Two firms acquire intermodal dry van fleet

Milestone Equipment Corp. and Scrap Metal Services LLC on Monday announced the acquisition of 7,300 intermodal dry van trailers.** The heavy-duty dry van trailers are operated under leases throughout North America in rail intermodal service. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Tiburon, Calif.-based Milestone Equipment and Burnham, Ill.-based Scrap Metal Services said they have created a new joint venture, Scrapstone Intermodal Services, LLC for this transaction as well as for future intermodal opportunities.

In a statement, Milestone’s President and founder Robert Thull said, “Milestone is now the largest domestic intermodal container and intermodal trailer equipment lessor. We are committed to continued rapid growth and investment in intermodal equipment to provide flexible operating leases to our customers.”

Scrap Metal Services CEO Jeffry K. Gertler said, “This acquisition allows Scrap Metal Services to expand its role in the intermodal marketplace, a market segment that we believe will experience considerable growth over the next several years.”

**Editor's Note: The original report stated the intermodal equipment was purchased from GE Capital. An amended statement issued Tuesday by Milestone Equipment Corp. noted the attribution was in error.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Patriot Rail Corp., a short line and regional railroad operator, and CFRail Services, a transportation asset services and investments company,have entered into long-term railcar services agreements at threePatriot-owned railroads.

patriot_rail_corp._logo.jpgUnder the agreements, CF Rail has leased the railcar and locomotiveinspection and repair facilities at Patriot’s DeQueen & Eastern (DQE),Columbia and Cowlitz (CLC), and Golden Triangle (GTRA) railroads. CF Railwill perform railcar and locomotive repairs on system and privately ownedrailcars and locomotives at these facilities, including railcars andlocomotives owned by Patriot.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 02:58

Intermodal strengthens Hub Group earnings

Hub Group, Inc. late Monday reported third-quarter earnings of $16.3million, a 29% increase compared with the third quarter of 2010.

hub_group_logo.jpgThe Hub segment’s revenue increased 17% to $561 million. Third-quarter intermodal revenue increased 19% to $402 million, thanks to a 10% increase in volume and a 9% increase attributable to fuel, pricing, and mix. Truck brokerage revenue decreased 3% to $83 million, and Unyson Logistics revenue increased 39% to $76 million.

The Mode segment’s revenue was $206 million for the third quarter. Operating income was $1.7 million.

Hub Group ended the quarter with $43 million in cash.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 04:27

Canadian Pacific 3Q earnings slip

Canadian Pacific early Tuesday announced third-quarter net income of C$186.8 million, or earnings of C$1.10 per share, down 5%, or 7 Canadian cents per share, from earnings of C$197.3 million in the comparable period in 2010.

cp_logo_2009.jpgCP revenue of C$1.34 billion was up C$55.4 million, or 4%, from the third quarter of 2010. But its operating expenses rose C$68.5 million to C$1 billion, with the average fuel price increasing 47%, CP said.

“We currently see strength in our bulk franchise, but remain vigilant in monitoring economic signals from Asia,” stated CP President and CEO Fred Green. “We are focused on sustaining and improving service and productivity through investments in locomotives, infrastructure, people and technology.”
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