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. railroads reported 225 fatalities to the Federal Railroad Administration in this year’s first four months, an 8.7% increase compared with the corresponding period last year. Trespasser fatalities increased 14% to 130. Highway-rail grade crossing accidents declined 1.2% to 85. There were seven employee fatalities compared with six in the prior-year period. The FRA data show that 737 reporting railroads recorded a total of 3,421 incidents/accidents in January-April 2011, down 8.3% from last year. The number of collisions increased 17.5% to 47, and derailments increased 5.7% to 479. Yard accidents declined 2.8% to 343.
[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the safety figures to the Surface Transportation Board.]
Phoenix Valley Metro on Wednesday began operating a solar-cooled light rail transit stop, located at Third and Washington streets in the state capital. The station structure (pictured below) combines solar power with air to cool the stop for passengers using the station. NRG Thermal LLC, a subsidiary of Phoenix-based NRG Energy Inc., contributed to the installation of the system, which will allow LRT riders to push a button at the station for a dose of air conditioning. NRG is covering all costs of the project and maintenance. The air comes from NRG’s downtown district cooling system, which uses chilled water underground to help cool buildings. Fans at the light rail stop will use solar power to blow the cold air onto riders, operating from May to September each year. The project was timed in part to precede Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, set for July 12 at nearby Chase Field.
Siemens Mobility reportedly is asking Ottawa officials to adjust or alter the city’s domestic content rules so it can rebid on the proposed C$2.1 billion light rail transit project in the Canadian capital. A Siemens consortium was selected by the city to build a project, but the deal fell through when a new municipal government took over in 2006. A lawsuit followed, with the Siemens consortium awarded C$37 million for breach of contract. Siemens says it still seeks the city’s business, but is being thwarted by a 2008 law forcing all Ontario province-funded transit vehicles to contain at least 25% Canadian content, which the company claims gives an unfair edge to competitor Bombardier Transportation. Siemens produces its North American equipment primarily from its Sacramento, Calif.-based plant. A spokeswoman for the provincial transportation ministry said the province had “no plans to change the policy,” but said Siemens and others were welcome to bid on the Ottawa project.
Ottawa on July 4 released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for its LRT project, to run from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Station, as outlined and approved by City Council on May 25. Submissions are expected by September 13, and the city is expected to publish a short list of pre-qualified participants sometime in October. Pre-qualified respondents then will be invited to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP), with the RFP process lasting roughly nine months. The city hopes to sign a final contract by December 2012.
A rare 2011 setback for Bombardier Transportation has prompted the company to plan layoffs for 1,400 workers in Great Britain. Bombardier says it will let go 446 permanent employees and 983 temporary workers at its Derby, England, facility, following its failure to land a contract to build passenger trains for Thameslink, a regional rail line running from Bedford through London to Brighton. A consortium led by rival Siemens AG was awarded a $2.25 billion contract in June to supply 1,200 cars. Britain’s Department for Transport says Siemens will hire about 650 people in Britain to build the trains. Bombardier’s announcement, made Tuesday, has prompted British political interests to voice larger concerns over open market policies within the European Union. Some have suggested France and Germany have adhered to EU rules somewhat haphazardly, sometimes favoring hometown companies during bidding procedures.
Last month Bombardier landed a 354 million pound ($566 million) contract from Transport for London (TfL) to install Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) on London Underground’s Sub-Surface Line (SSL) network. Bombardier also scored in Australia during June, landing a $265 million stake in a $1.1 billion contract with the Queensland state government.
Regional Rail, LLC, on Friday said it has entered into an agreement with Norfolk Southern Corp. to lease and operate the Class I railroad’s York Industrial Track, which runs from York, Pa., to Stony Brook, Pa. Regional Rail said the line will be operated as part of its subsidiary East Penn Railroad, LLC, which serves southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. Kennett Square, Pa.-based Regional Rail filed the notice of exemption with the Surface Transportation Board last week and plans to initiate service on the line on August 1. “This addition to our operations further illustrates our solid relationship with NS which has resulted from our mutually beneficial carload growth and quality service on our existing NS served lines,” said Regional Rail President and CEO Bob Parker.
Regional Rail Vice President Al Sauer said, “The presence of a number of existing customers, along with the opportunity to reactivate rail service to other customers and the ability to provide transload services to non rail served facilities gives us an established base from which to grow and expand the carload traffic on the York Line.” Regional Rail LLC also is the parent company of the Middletown & New Jersey Railroad, LLC which owns and/or operates four rail lines in southeastern New York State.
San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit has hired HNTB Corp. as a program manager to determine plans for an urban rail line. HNTB, with an office in the city, will work as VIA's in-house consultants to determine the potential rider market, route or routes, and whether light rail transit (LRT) or streetcar would better serve the city. VIA has tentatively proposed north-south and east-west streetcar lines through San Antonio’s downtown, and hopes HNTB will help it pinpoint more exact routes.“We're the glue that's going to be responsible for day-to-day focus on these efforts, supporting the staff here,” said Kyle Keahey, HNTB Corp.’s associate vice president and the VIA project program manager. HNTB also will counsel VIA on finding the financial means to build any rail system, something Keahey says must occur before the Federal Transit Administration will consider providing any fiscal support. “As program manager, we will help you find the money,” Keahey said.
San Antonio, population 1.33 million, is the largest city in Texas without an urban rail transit system.
Axion International announced that it has signed a letter of intent with Sicut Holding Ltd. to form a global joint venture for the manufacture and sale of Recycled Structural Composite (RSC) crossties utilizing their respective licenses from Rutgers University.
The new company, to be known as Axion Rail LLC, will be 65% owned by Axion, which is based in the U.S., and 35% by U. K.-based Sicut.
Axion’s current licenses cover markets in North America, South America, Australia, Russia, and a portion of the Chinese market. Sicut is the licensee of patents owned by Rutgers for Europe, India, South Africa, Southeast Asia, and part of the Chinese market.
“We have been working with our partners at Sicut since Axion’s founding,” said Steve Silverman, Axion’s president and CEO. “However, instead of dividing our efforts among the world’s different geographic regions, the time has come to take advantage of our synergies and combine forces to sell our innovative products on a truly global basis.”