As expected, New Jersey Transit’s Board of Directors Wednesday approved fare increases averaging roughly 22% for its rail, light rail, and bus operations. Statewide rail operations suffered the steepest increase, averaging 25%, the target increase initially advanced by NJT earlier this year.
By contrast, increases for intrastate bus and light rail operations were more modest, up about 10%. NJT also restored almost $4 million in bus routes eliminations that were announced in March.
Off-peak rail discount fares will be eliminated. All changes are set to take effect Saturday, May 1.
Aware of the inevitability of the Board’s actions Wednesday, rail advocates attending the meeting at NJT’s Newark, N.J. headquarters still voiced their dissent, with one speaker lamenting the state’s willingness to punish transit riders “for doing the right thing,” while the state’s drivers suffer no comparable fate.
Gov. Chris Christie has vowed not to raise New Jersey’s state motor fuels tax, currently among the lowest in the nation. The state last raised its motor fuels tax, which funds the Transportation Trust Fund, in 1988. The TTF is a primary source of capital for improvements to New Jersey’s rail and highway infrastructure.
For additional perspective on see Railway Age Editor William C. Vantuono’s editorial, “Read my lips: No new gas tax?”
Maine Gov. John Baldacci said Tuesday he has created a watchdog group to oversee the proposed abandonment of about 240 miles of right-of-way and possible state purchase of the property.
Baldacci announced the move one day after state legislators in both houses approved a $57.8 million bond package containing $14 million to purchase northern Maine’s last major rail line, operated by Hermon, Maine-based Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway. The measure had sailed through the state House but the state Senate had balked at the proposal, with fiscal conservatives objecting to the potential debt burden passage would place on the state.
“This task force will ensure that [the] abandonment andacquisition process is done openly and in a way that protects the interests of Maine taxpayers,” Baldacci said in a statement Tuesday. “It will also work with the Department of Transportation and other interested parties to develop an operating plan once the railroad is purchased.”
The plan include the creation of a public-private partnership with the state, either MM&A or another carrier, and 22 stakeholders, including some of Maine’s largest manufacturers and businesses, to help acquire federal funding to save rail freight service in northern Maine. On a visit to Bangor, the state capital, earlier this month, FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo recommended such a partnership.
CSX Corp. today announced a 22% year-over-year improvementin earnings per share from continuing operations in the first quarter. Earnings rose to $306million, or 78 cents per share, from $254 million, or 64 cents per share, inthe same period last year.
“CSX drove strong efficiencies in its operations andproduced outstanding results as the economy continued to recover,” said MichaelJ. Ward, chairman, president and chief executive officer (pictured). “We areparticularly proud of our excellent safety performance in the quarter, as ouremployees achieved record results in one of America’s safest industries.”
First quarter revenue increased 11% from the prior year tonearly $2.5 billion, with gains in most commodity groups. Higher revenuescombined with increased productivity resulted in a record first quarteroperating ratio of 74.5% and record first quarter operating income of $634million.
“Our focus on safety, service, and productivity haspositioned CSX to produce strong results as the recovery continues,” Ward said.“These results will enable the company to continue investing in its business tosupport the nation’s growing demand for freight transportation, while driving shareholdervalue.”
CSX has invested approximately $5 billion in its networkover the past three years, and is investing another $1.7 billion in 2010.
Dahlman Rose & Co. Director-Equity Research and Railway Age Contributing Editor Jason Seidl sees CSX's results as an indicator of overall rail industry strength: “CSX, which grappled with historically high utility coal stockpiles and harsh winter weather conditions, delivered revenues of $2.50 billion, beating both our and consensus estimates of $2.40 billion and $2.37 billion. Despite a mere 5% growth in carloadings, revenue jumped 11% year over year as the pricing environment remained strong and fuel surcharges increased. More important, the solid top line performance trickled down to the bottom line. We believe that CSX’s ability to accommodate incremental business without having to significantly ramp operating resources is a manifestation of the existence of operating leverage in the rail industry. CSX achieved overall core price increases around 5% in the quarter, which is at the high end of the company’s previous full year guidance, above our expectation. We are raising our earnings estimates to reflect a strengthening freight recovery, improving coal outlook, solid pricing, and high incremental margins. We continue to rate shares of CSX a buy as we believe there is ample upside for investors who wish to have exposure to the Class I railroad sector.
Norfolk Southern and Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. have entered into
a joint venture to test blended biodiesel locomotive fuel. In what both parties
are describing as “one of the most extensive testing programs to date on the
use of biodiesel fuel for locomotives, ten units—eight EMD SD70M-2 road units
and two EMD MP15, all owned by NS, will run in regular service for uo to 11
months to evaluate of performance over a wide range of operating and
environmental conditions. Biodiesel’s effect on emissions, fuel consumption,
performance, and durability will be evaluated. The fuel blends will range from
B10 (10% biodiesel) to B20 (20%).
“Biodiesel fuel, a renewable resource, has been shown to reduce
emissions of greenhouse gases, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter, while
essentially eliminating exhaust emissions of sulfur oxides and sulfates,” said NS
Vice President Real Estate and Corporate Sustainability Officer Blair Wimbush. “Norfolk
Southern is committed to exploring ways to conduct our business using renewable
resources. Our work with EMD will hopefully result in an environmentally sensitive,
domestically-produced fuel option for the rail industry.”
“This demonstration is a part of EMD’s work in further reducing
emissions and improving the efficiency of our locomotives and our environmentally
friendly two-stroke engine.” said EMD President and CEO John S. Hamilton. “We
look forward to working with NS on efforts to positively impact the environment
and decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil.”
Two companies that operate a total of 102 short line and
regional railroads—RailAmerica and Genesee & Wyoming (GWI)—have reported
solid gains in freight traffic for March.
RailAmerica’s 40 railroads, which operate over approximately
7,400 miles of track in 27 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces, carried
75,295 carloads of freight in March, up 8.7% from March 2009. These results exclude
the discontinued Ottawa Valley Railway operation.
RailAmerica reported increased shipments in six out of 12
commodity groups in March. Much of the increase was in shipments of
agricultural products, chemicals, and metallic ores and metals. The largest
declines were in coal and the catch-all “other” commodity group.
Genesee & Wyoming’s 60 railroads, operating over 9,400
miles of track in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands, carried 74,923
carloads in March, an increase of 6.9% over March 2009.
The strongest growth was in steel shipments in GWI’s New York/Ohio//Pennsylvania
and Southern regions, and in grain shipments in the Australia Region.
Railroad customers will turn the spotlight on such urgent industry issues as Positive Train Control and re-regulation at the 2010 North American Rail Shippers annual meeting. The sessions will be held at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C., May 26-28.
"Both PTC and re-reg will impact customers and rail carriers alike," notes NARS President Allan Roach. "PTC is estimated to cost $10 billion. If the government doesn't subsidize that in some way and the railroads still have to do it, who's going to pay?"
"There are two sides to re-regulation," adds Roach. "Some shippers believe it will reduce transportation expenses, while railroads say it will force them to curtail capital spending—just when they are expected to carry more of the nation's freight."
A key NARS feature is the railroad chief marketing officers' panel, followed by breakout sessions where shippers can discuss their concerns with railroads individually.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been asked to give the opening address, followed by Association of American Railroads and Norfolk Southern Chairman Charles W. Moorman.
Philadelphia’s Suburban Station will host a public display Tuesday of a married pair of new Silverliner V cars being delivered to SEPTA. Agency staff will be on hand toanswer questions. The cars will be on display through Thursday.
SEPTA in 2005 ordered 120 of the cars from South Korea’s Rotem (now Hyundai-Rotem), with delivery initially expected to begin a year ago. Cars will be arriving on the property throughout this year and during 2011. Final assembly of the cars is taking place in South Philadelphia.
The cars have been ordered in part to replace older Silverliner II cars built by the Budd Co. in 1963, and Silverliner III cars produced by St. Louis Car Co. in 1967.
In October 2008, SEPTA offered its customers a chance toreview and comment on a Silverliner V mock-up display, also positioned atSuburban Station.
GE Transportation announced Sunday that it is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Kazakhstan’s Joint Stock Company Locomotiv (JSC Locomotiv) and Joint Stock Company Kurastyru Zauty (JSC LKZ) for the supply of 150 switcher locomotives.
GE called it “the next milestone in a long-term commitment to develop the railway infrastructure in the Republic of Kazakhstan.”
The new a.c. traction locomotives will be suitable for use in the Republic of Kazakhstan and across the CIS region using a track gauge of 1,520 mm.
The first five locomotives are to be built at GE Transportation’s Erie, Pa, plant. After the prototypes are successfully tested, the remainder of the order is to be assembled at Joint Stock Company Kurastyru Zauty’s plant in Astana, Kazakhstan, with kits from GE Transportation. Locomotive delivery is is to be completed in 2012.
“The ongoing cooperation between the Republic of Kazakhstan and GE demonstrates that a solid strategic partnership can help fuel both short-term infrastructure improvements as well as long-term economic growth,” said Askar Mamin, president of Kazakhstan’s state-run railroad Kazakhstan Temir Zholy. “Today’s announcement continues to enable Kazakhstan’s critical rail infrastructure to remain modern and efficient in the future. I look forward to continuing the relationship with GE as it helps the Republic of Kazakhstan develop a world-class rail system.”
Amtrak Thursday said it expects record ridership in fiscal year 2010, noting that with its first two fiscal quarters completed, rail ridership of 13.6 million was up 4.3% compared with the first half of FY09. Amtrak ridership set a record in fiscal year 2008 of 28.7 million.
The company said March ridership was strong, up 13.5% systemwide, up 14.3% on Acela high speed service, and up 12.9% on its Northeast Regional trains.
Ridership on long-distance trains increased by 16% in March and is up 5.2% for the first two quarters of FY10. Ridership on all short-distance routes also increased, with many routes notching double-digit gains.
“Americans are beginning to travel again and are choosing Amtrak as an affordable and efficient way to move around the country,” said President and CEO Joseph Boardman, noting a slowly improving economy and continued high fuel prices as factors in Amtrak ridership growth.
Boardman said the ridership growth demonstrated the presentand growing need for the carrier to replace, expand, and modernize its fleet of aging locomotives and passenger rail cars, calling it Amtrak’s “most urgent unfunded need.” Amtrak has requested $446 million from Congress to fund its Fleet Acquisition Program.