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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Bombardier said Monday it has recognized suppliers Hitachi and ABB with its first Bombardier Transportation Sustainable Suppliers Awards.

bombardier_logo.jpgBombardier said the  awards, to be issued annually, recognize suppliers’ accomplishments in the field of sustainable development, emphasizing the strong strategic importance of a responsible supply chain as part of the company’s objective to foster Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Hitachi was honored for its sustainable product design and life cycle concepts, Bombardier said, while ABB received the award for its long-term engagement and continuous improvement in CSR.

Bombardier Transportation Vice President Operations and Chief Procurement Officer Pierre Attendu, along with Bombardier Transportation CSR Director Christoph Schwärzler, made the announcement during a suppliers day at the company’s headquarters in Berlin. “Congratulations to both Hitachi and ABB for their clear commitment to a responsible supply chain, which is a key component of our continuous commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility,” said Attendu.

The Bombardier Transportation Sustainable Suppliers Awards are based on Bombardier’s supplier self-assessment survey of a total of 423 master vendors. The selection criteria cover quality systems (IRIS); environment, health and safety systems (ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001); labor conditions and business ethics (SA 8000); and general CSR commitment (GRI level B reporting), including philanthropic engagement.
Brad Chase has been named president of OmniTRAX Canada in Winnipeg, with responsibility for overseeing operations including the Port of Churchill, North America’s only deepwater Arctic port, and the Hudson Bay Railway, which delivers freight in Manitoba along 630 miles of track. He will also have oversight of the Carlton Trail Railway, based in Saskatchewan, and the Kettle Falls International Railway connecting British Columbia to the U.S.

omnitraxlogo.jpgChase was formerly senior vice president of Kleysen Group LP in Winnipeg, heading the Intermodal Business unit.

“Brad’s leadership abilities, transportation background, and deal-making skills are keys to expanding our operations and partnerships in Canada,” said Gary Long, president and CEO of OmniTRAX, Inc.

“I look forward to pursuing business opportunities for OmniTRAX that also benefit Canada, and particularly, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the North,” said Chase. “We will make strategic capital investments, seek joint ventures, and work with all levels of government to ensure that the Hudson Bay Railway and the Port of Churchill contribute to the success of Canada's Northern Strategy.”

OmniTRAX-managed businesses are located in three Canadian provinces and 10 U.S. states.
Monday, 11 July 2011 10:02

Rate of rail traffic growth slows

For the first six months of 2011, railroad carloads were up 2.7% over the corresponding period of 2010, but for the month of June carload growth was up only 0.9%, the Association of American Railroads reported Monday.

aar_logo.jpgIntermodal growth, which has often been in the double digits this year, slipped to 4.6% in June compared with June 2010, the lowest monthly year-over-year increase in 18 months, AAR said.

AAR noted that in May, Class I railroads added 745 employees, bringing the total to 157,522 — “the fourth straight month to see an employmentincrease, and the 13th monthly employment increase in the last 17 months.”

“For several months now, rail traffic, along with other economicindictors, has presented a mixed picture of the economy,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “While rail carloads have been relatively weak for the past quarter, largely due to coal traffic being down, rail intermodal remains relatively strong.”

During the month of June, said AAR, railroads brought 2,847 freight cars back into service, leaving 276,236 cars, 18.2% of the North American fleet, in storage.
In response to public comment collected last summer, new rail alignments have been developed in two sections in Virginia of the Southeast High Speed Rail project (SEHSR). The two areas affected are in Brunswick County, north of Alberta, Va., between the Nottoway River and Flat Rock Road (project Section D), and south of Alberta, between Millville Road and the Meherrin River (project Section G).

The two alignments are part of the Draft Tier II Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Richmond, Va. to Raleigh, N.C., portion of the SEHSR route being advanced by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The two states hope to advance HSR along 162 miles of right-of-way in both states, eventually linking with Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and extending HSR to Charlotte, N.C.

The new rail alignments will be presented to the public at a Project Update Meeting this Thursday, at the Southside VA Community College, Christanna Campus, 109 Campus Drive, Alberta, Va. 23821. The meeting is an open-house style gathering, with the public invited to stop by any time between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Maps with the new designs are on the project website www.sehsr.org. Comments may be submitted at the Project Update Meeting, on the web site, or by mail to SEHSR Comments, NCDOT Rail Division 1553 MSC, Raleigh, NC 27699-1553. Comments must be submitted by August 15, 2011. The state agencies say more than 1,800 individuals, local governments, and agencies provided comments on the DEIS.

A Project Update Meeting will be held in Raleigh, N.C., in late summer, to present a newly developed rail alignment in downtown Raleigh. A series of smaller update meetings will be scheduled in Virginia and North Carolina later in the fall to obtain comments on newly developed roadwork in areas where the rail alternatives are on common alignment.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011 07:29

William D. Middleton, 1928-2011

Noted railroad author, photographer, and historian William D. Middleton, a contributing editor to the Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp. Rail Group publications Railway Age, Railway Track & Structures, and International Railway Journal for many years, died June 11 in Livonia, N.Y. He was 83.

bill-middleton-new-color.jpgA prolific journalist, Middleton wrote or co-wrote Railway Age’s Urban Rail, Light Rail, and Regional/Commuter Rail Planner’s Guides, which were later consolidated into the magazine’s Passenger Rail Planner’s Guide. He also contributed numerous feature articles covering all aspects of passenger and freight railroading. He was co-editor, along with George M. Smerck, of Transit Connections, which Simmons-Boardman published in the mid-1990s. Middleton also organized a series of rail transit engineering conferences for RT&S.

During his lifetime, Middleton wrote or co-wrote 23 books. Among his best-known works are “The Interurban Era” (1961), “The Time of the Trolley” (1967), “When the Steam Railroads Electrified” (1974), “South Shore: America’s Last Interurban” (1970), and “North Shore: America’s Fastest Interurban” (1968). More recently, Middleton published his personal memoir, “Yet There Isn’t a Train I Wouldn’t Take” (2000), and, with his son William D. Middleton III, a biography, “Frank Julian Sprague: Electrical Inventor and Engineer” (2009). Along with co-editors Smerck and Roberta L. Diehl and guiding an 18-person editorial board, Middleton produced the “Encyclopedia of North American Railroads” (2004, Indiana University Press).

Middleton also was a frequent contributor to Trains magazine, producing more than 80 articles beginning in 1957. His photography appeared numerous times in Trains, Railway Age, and other publications.

Middleton was born in Davenport, Iowa, on March 25, 1928. His father, William, was a National Indian Service physician. His Scottish grandfather, also named William, was the first chief physician for the Rock Island Railroad.

Middleton graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1950 with a degree in civil engineering. He earned a graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin, then spent 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a career that included service in Korea, Japan, Turkey, and Morocco. After the Navy, he became chief facilities officer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He retired in 1993.

Middleton’s wife of 53 years, Dorothy, died in 2009. He is survived by two sons, Nicholas, in Seattle, and William, in Livonia.

Light rail transit news in Ontario lately has been dominated by the Waterloo region, but Hamilton, Ontario, on the western edge of Lake Ontario, has quietly continued advancing its own LRT plans, with an environmental assessment due for completion by year’s end on a 10-mile route.

City residents are being invited to a series of public hearings on the project, beginning this week, during which comments will be accepted concerning station design, public area access, and other items.

Christine Newbold, senior project manager on the city's transit team, says the project should reach 30% design completion by December. Hamilton so far has received $3 million from Metrolinx, charged with serving the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), for design work in exchange for meeting milestone deadlines.

Full funding for the project has yet to be identified, unlike the nearby project in Waterloo and vicinity, which has secured provincial and federal funding.
Monday, 20 June 2011 10:18

Big hitters prepare for STB hearing

Railroads and some of their biggest customers have assembled all-star panels to argue their cases as the Surface Transportation Board opens two days of hearings this week on in issue worth billions dollars to each side, depending on the outcome of the proceeding. The question is whether the federal government should require the railroads to offer shippers new competitive options that would drive down rates.

stb_logo.jpgThe board on Monday released the speakers’ lineup for the June 22-23 hearings. Panel 1 will consist of “members of Congress, speaking on arrival.” Subsequent panels will try to convince Panel 1, as well as the STB commissioners, that their cause is just.

Representing shippers will be such corporate giants as E.I. Dupont de Nemours and Company, Dow Chemical Company, Occidental Chemical Corporation, and Olin Corporation. They will be backed up by a phalanx of special-interest or trade groups: National Industrial Transportation League, Consumers United for Rail Equity, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Grain and Feed Association, Western Coal Traffic League, Concerned Captive Coal Shippers, American Chemistry Council, and the Chlorine Institute.

Speaking for the railroads (and contending that the only trouble shippers have with the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 is that is has worked just as intended) will be CEOs Michael J. Ward of CSX, Union Pacific’s James R. Young, and Kansas City Southern's Michael R. Haverty, along with top talent from BNSF and Norfolk Southern.

Speaking for the railroad industry will be one of the most forceful lobbyists in Washington: Association of American Railroads President Edward R. Hamburger. The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s Richard F. Timmons, another respected presence on Capitol Hill, will speak up for several hundred small railroads.
Monday, 20 June 2011 11:11

EMD delivers locomotives to Akiem

La Grange, Ill.-based Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) on Monday said it has delivered seven Class 77 locomotives to Akiem, the leasing subsidiary of SNCF Geodis. Akiem will lease these locomotives to the cargo operating company Voies Ferrées Locales et Industrielles (VFLI). This contract was made possible through a financing structure organized by the Bank of America, EMD said.

SNCF Geodis will use the locomotives primarily for heavy cargo operations in northern France.

emd_logo.jpgIn addition, Electro-Motive Diesel Services International (EMSI), the after-sales service organization of EMD, and Akiem signed a contract for maintenance of the new locomotives. EMSI will also maintain other EMD locomotives obtained by Akiem through earlier mergers.

EMD said the Class 77, or JT42CWRM-100, “is a 3.300 brake horsepower, DC locomotive with French, German, and Belgium homologation and certification. It offers an enhanced gear case, which increases the tractive effort and makes the locomotive a good choice for operating heavy trains. The Class 77 locomotive is also equipped with EMD’s Euro IIIA emissions-compliant 12-710 engine, FIRE™ display system, and EM2000 control system.”

“EMD is proud that Akiem has selected the Class 77 locomotive to expand its fleet. We are confident that Akiem and VFLI will be very pleased with the performance of these locomotives and we look forward to a long-term relationship between our companies,’ said Glen Lehmann, chief marketing officer for EMD’s international operations.

Akiem CEO Fabien Rochefort said, “I consider these two contracts with EMD and EMSI as a new step into Akiem’s developments. This demonstrates to the market the ability and the commitment of Akiem to develop specific offers as required by its customers.”

EMD is a subsidiary of Progress Rail Services Corp.  

Jeffrey E. Geary, a 30-year railroad industry veteran who most recently served as vice president and chief operating officer of Florida East Coast Railway and FEC Highway Trucking Services, has been named Amtrak’s vice president of operations. Geary, who will be based at Amtrak’s Consolidated National Operations Center in Wilmington, Del., will have oversight of the transportation, engineering, and mechanical departments. His appointment is effective June 20, 2011.

amtraklogo.gifGeary has extensive freight rail operating experience—an asset considering that, with the exception of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak operates almost exclusively on freight railroad right-of-way. He started his career in 1978 with Conrail, where he spent 21 years in several operating positions including trainmaster, terminal superintendent, and director of operations for one of the company’s largest divisions. In 2000, Geary joined CSX Transportation as assistant general manager of the Baltimore Division. At CSXT, he completed Six Sigma training and attained Master Black Belt status. From 2005 to 2007, Geary worked for Rail Link in Jacksonville, Fla., where he was responsible for eight short lines and one transload logistics operation. In 2007 he joined Rail America, Inc., as regional vice president, Southeast Region, responsible for eight short line properties. This region had the company’s best financial performance in 2009, and was injury and incident free for 14 months. While at FEC, Geary was credited with improving the bottom line, developing a new safety culture, and increasing ontime performance. He has completed the Executive Management Transportation course at Penn State University, along with media crisis training and10 years of hazmat training.

“Jeff has proven experience in operations, budgeting, forecasting, strategic planning, and performance management,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman. “This appointment is the latest step made by Amtrak to create a high-performing organization that is aligned to deliver excellent service. Jeff is a highly respected and dedicated railroad professional with a strong desire to increase safety on the railroad for our passengers and employees. His leadership is key for the effective operation of the railroad, which directly impacts the travel experience of our passengers and ultimately the success of Amtrak. His oversight responsibilities are fundamental to the delivery of service including train crews, the locomotives and other train equipment, and the Amtrak-owned infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor and elsewhere around the country.”

“I am excited to join the Amtrak team during this time when record numbers of passengers are boarding our trains,” stated Geary. “Amtrak is a vital component of the national transportation system and we must work to advance safety, improve ontime performance, and enhance the delivery of service for our customers.”

The Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) board of directors has appointed Lisa Stabler as TTCI’s new President, effective Oct. 7, 2011. Stabler will succeed Roy A. Allen, who will retire this October.

lisa-stabler.jpgStabler has been TTCI’s Vice President of Operations and Training since arriving from BNSF Railway, where she was Assistant Vice President of Quality and Reliability Engineering. While at BNSF, she chaired the ATSI (Advanced Technology Safety Initiative) program, the Association of American Railroads-sponsored industry‐wide initiative “that redefined the way that freight car maintenance is performed,” TTCI said in announcing her appointment. Stabler was also Director of Marketing, Planning, and Administration at Delphi Corporation in Dayton, Ohio.

Stabler holds a Master’s in Science in Mathematics from Wright State University and a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Dayton. She is certified by the American Society for Quality as a Quality Manager, Quality Engineer, Reliability Engineer, and Six Sigma Black Belt.

Roy Allen will retire with 40 years of service in the rail industry. During his career, he rose in the ranks from Senior Engineer at the Transportation Test Center (TTC) to Manager of the AAR Applied Technology Division for the R&T Department in Chicago, Assistant Vice President in charge of TTC, and to Vice President of the AAR R&T Department in Washington, D.C. Allen led the successful consolidation of all R&T Department activities to TTC, which led to the formation of TTCI. He is a previous chairman and board member of the International Heavy Haul Association and World Congress on Railway Research. Allen will conclude his career as President of TTCI.

“Under Roy’s tremendous leadership, TTCI has become the gold standard for rail research and innovation around the world,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Lisa brings tremendous talent and expertise—from both inside and outside of the rail industry—that will continue Roy’s legacy of advancing technology that enables rail to be the safest, most efficient, and productive way to move freight and people.”

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.


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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