Calling it “a terrific accomplishment,” CSX Transportation said Tuesday that its maintenance and repair teams worked ahead of schedule to reopen the railroad's 200-mile Memphis-Nashville line in Tennessee, which was heavily damaged by severe flooding earlier this month.
“Despite the fact that many of our employees were directly affected by this tragic flooding, they brought an extraordinary focus to re-opening the line and resuming service to our customers and the communities in that stricken area,” said David Brown, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Operations were scheduled to resume at 6 p.m. EDT over the entire length of the line in western Tennessee, including two bridges spanning the Harpeth River that were heavily damaged. Additional work is planned each day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. Trains will operate over the line from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Some train re-routes over other rail carriers will continue for several days until all work is complete.
CSX also announced that it intends to pre-pay property taxes for tax year 2010 due in early 2011 to affected Tennessee counties to assist recovery efforts. Almost $2.7 million will be paid early to 23 counties, including $1 million to Davidson County in which the City of Nashville lies.
Meeting the federal government's mandate for installing positive train control by the end of 2015 requires spending that goes far beyond implementation of the technology itself.
In a form 10K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Norfolk Southern identifies PTC and related costs and puts them into the context of total capital spending requirements.
“NS expects total capital expenditures for 2010 to be approximately $1.44 billion,” the filing said. “Furthermore, the railroad expects the implementation of positive train control to result in additional capital expenditures of $700 million in the years 2011 through 2015. In addition, $400 million of upgrades to systems and track structure, required for the implementation of PTC, will be accelerated from future years’ spending.”
Earlier this year NS CEO Wick Moorman said that while PTC is a “great technology,” the unfunded federal mandate “could ultimately mean that we will not be able to invest in other areas, some of which conceivably have as much or more of an impact on safety operations as PTC.”
Railroads also warn that without help on PTC, they may have to divert money from vital capacity projects. NS updated two of these in its 10K report.
One is the federally backed CREATE initiative to ease congestion and add rail capacity in metropolitan Chicago, now in is early stages. A total of $321 million in federal finding and $100 million from the railroads has been pledged; much more is needed.
The other is the NS’s Crescent Corridor Project to create a truck-competitive, high-capacity rail intermodal corridor along Interstate highways in 11 states. NS is working through a series of public-private partnerships. State and federal commitments already total $150 million, with NS currently funding up to $133 million, including $42 million in this year’s capital budget.
Transportation Certification Services recently completed training Cargill employees at Cargill’s Channelview, Tex., facility. TCS trained employees in basic rail safety and operations to safely and expeditiously handle grain trains delivered to the facility by the Port Terminal Railroad Association. The facility holds up to 300 cars, necessitatinga coordinated, safe operation.
Overland Park, Kan.-based TCS and its affiliate, Rail Temps Inc., have been addressing training and staffing needs for North American railroads and rail-related industries since 1991. Cargill is a privately held, international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services.
The Florida Coalition for Safe Highways asked Gov. Charlie Crist Monday to veto a bill that it said would make highways less safe as well as “subsidize the trucking industry and require local and state governments to spend approximately $150.7 million annually to compensate the infrastructure damage that would result from heavier trucks.”
Passed in the final hours of the 2010 legislative session, House Bill 1271 went to the governor’s desk late on Friday. The coalition said “lobbyists for powerful trucking companies” inserted language increasing the legal load from 80,000 to 88,000 pounds.
The coalition said that based on a 2000 U.S. Department of Transportation Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study, the additional 8,000 pounds world make trucks "more difficult to control and more likely to be involved in a serious accident."
Veto of the bill was also urged by Steve Casey, executive director at the Florida Sheriffs Association; Fraser Howe, PE, chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) committee, which published a 2008 Report Card on Florida's Infrastructure; and Tom Guilmet, the executive director of the Florida Safety Council.
Amtrak said Thursday that officials from Virginia Railway Express have asked it to continue operating VRE trains beyond June 28, when Amtrak’s contract was to expire. VRE acknowledged the request, while also alluding that Amtrak was obstructing the transition of operations.
Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said Amtrak wants to help VRE and ensure VRE passengers are not negatively impacted by the “inability” of contractor Keolis Rail Services America to start operations. However, he said, if Keolis is unable to meet its contractual obligations, then VRE should re-bid the contract.
Keolis Rail Services America last October was chosen to VRE to assume operations. But VRE Chairman Paul Milde reportedly said VRE has asked Amtrak for breathing room because Amtrak is interfering with the transition. He also said VRE has asked members of Congress to intervene in the matter, claiming Amtrak was hindering the transition process.
For its part, “We are prepared to take over service on the 28th,” said Gregg Baxter, Keolis Rail Services America general manager.
Keolis Rail Services America is part of the Keolis Group, based in Paris.
CSX Corp. on Thursday announced the appointment of William Clement to succeed Jim Hertwig as president of CSX Intermodal when Hertwig retires at the end of June.
CSX said that Clement, currently assistant vice president ofsales and marketing for CSX Intermodal, “has made significant contributions in a wide variety of operational, analytical, and commercial roles within the intermodal business over the past 20 years.”
“Bill Clement brings the right combination of experience, customer relationships, and strong leadership abilities to this job,” said Clarence Gooden, CSX executive vice president of sales and marketing and chief commercial officer. “Our intermodal service offering is ideally positioned to meet our customers’ evolving supply chain requirements while addressing the environmental concerns of our customers and nation.”
The board of directors of Canadian Pacific Railway on Thursday approved a C$70 million (US$66 million) increase in capital spending in 2010. CP now plans to invest between C$750 million and C$800 million (US$710 million and US$757 million) on capital improvement programs this year.
The board also declared an increase in CP’s next quarterly dividend to C$0.27 per share from C$0.2475 per share, payable on July 26, 2010, to holders of record at the close of business on June 25, 2010.
“The improving economy, our strong balance sheet and solid earnings and free cash flows have enabled us to expand our capital programs totake advantage of growth and productivity opportunities,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kathryn McQuade. “CP’s strong franchise showed resilience through the recession and this dividend increase continues our trend of dividend growth aligned with earnings growth.”
Union Pacific and GATX Corp. recently completed an ethanol rail safety conference, instructing about 85 attendees representing more than 30 ethanol shippers. UP and GATX educated customers on the railroad’s safety and security measures. Key areas of focus included non-accident release reduction, emergency response techniques, and safe loading and unloading procedures.
“Safety is one of our core values and hosting this conference gave us the opportunity to teach ethanol shippershow they can embrace the same safety focus that supports our commitment to provide safe, efficient and reliable service to our customers,” said Paul Hammes, Union Pacific vice president and general manager-Agricultural Products. “Union Pacific is proud to be part of an industry that safely delivers more than 99.99% of hazmat shipments to their destination without a release caused by a train accident.”
GATX provided a tank car for the hands-on training session that demonstrated safe practices for transferring ethanol to tank cars.
The conference also featured a panel discussion with industry safety experts, including representatives from Union Pacific, the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition, and the Federal Railroad Administration.
A.W. (Bill) Johnston, who retired as vice president of operations and maintenance for the Association of American Railroads in 1988 and served before that as a Baltimore & Ohio operating officer, died May 16 in Pawleys Island, S.C. He was 85.
Johnston was known industry-wide for representing the railroad industry on the Presidential Emergency Board appointed to handle the explosive "fireman off" issue in the 1960s. He also served on a PEB investigating a shopcraft dispute, and he was a consultant to the Federal Railroad Administration on the Triad Missile Defense System (rail, sea, and air).
Intermodal traffic on U.S.railroads reached its highest level since late 2008, and carload freight traffic also rose, in the week ended May 15, 2010, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. Eighteen of the 19 commodity groups listed by AAR posted gains.
U.S. carload freight rose 16.6% from the comparable week in 2009, still down 11.9% from the comparable 2008 period. Intermodal traffic gained 15.2% from last year but still trailed 2008 by 6.7%. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 16.8% while trailer volume rose 6.9%.
AAR noted that among the 18 carload commodity groups showing increases from last year, 14 experienced significant percentage gains, led by a 140.9% increase in loadings of metallic ores. Loadings of metals were up 82.9%, coke jumped 49%, and waste and scrap rose 31.1%.
Canadian carload traffic rose 36.4% from the comparable period in 2009, and intermodal notched a 20.3% increase. Mexico’s two major railroads reported carload freight increased 14.8%, while intermodal rose 18.9%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 19 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 9.3% from last year, while intermodal rose 10.7%.