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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Under 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.
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.