U.S. railroads reported 144 train accidents in January, down 26.9% from the 197 accidents recorded in January 2009, according to a preliminary report released March 31 by the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis.
Derailments declined 27.1% to 102, and collisions were down 82.4% to three. The number of yard accidents dropped 28.6% to 65.
Taking exposure to risk into account, the rail accident rate was down 23% in January from January 2009, and the yard accident rate dropped 20.7%.
There were 43 reported fatalities in January, an increase of 7.4% from January 2009. Reversing a long downward trend, trespasser fatalities increased 33% to 24. Continuing a trend, rail-highway crossing fatalities dropped 5.6% to 17. Two employee fatalities were recorded, compared to four in January a year ago.
Voters in St. Louis County (Mo.) going to the polls April 6 will address the status of Proposition A, levying a half-cent sales tax to support the region’s Metrolink light rail, Metrobus, and call-a-ride services.
Voters rejected a similar proposal in November 2008, and Metro Transit-St. Louis subsequently cut transit service in March 2009. Advocates of Proposition A say its passage will head off any additional service cuts.
Adella Jones, spokeswoman for citizens group Advance St. Louis, is optimistic on the latest measure’s passage due to the impact of the previous measure’s rejection on everyday service. "If you go back to the service reductions that were put in place … people began to understand the value of Metro," Jones said. "Now people see that it doesn't matter if you ride. Someone in this community who has no other [transportation] access does ride."
Supporters of Propostion A include local universities, preservation groups, tourist attractions, and many mayors and cities within St. Louis County, as well as Advance St. Louis and the Greater St. Louis Transit Alliance.
If the measure fails to pass, Jones said, Metro may have to halve its current service.
For a price of C$168 million (US$164 million), Canadian National has sold a section of track west of Toronto Union Station to Metrolinx, an Ontario government Crown Corporation responsible for delivering an integrated, multi-modaltransportation network in the Greater Toronto Area.
Metrolinx’s jurisdiction extends from the York and Durham regions through Toronto, the regions of Peel and Halton, and the city of Hamilton. GO Transit, the operating division of Metrolinx, provides regional rail and bus services in the GTA.
“The transaction will give Metrolinx ownership of a critical section of its busiest GO Transit corridor and one that links Union Stationand GO Transit’s Willowbrook rail equipment facility in southwest Toronto,” said CN in a statement Wednesday. “The transaction allows CN to preserve certain operating rights over the line segment, which will enable the company to maintain service for its freight customers.”
Denver’s Regional Transportation District and BNSF Wednesday signed an agreement, worth $144 million, allowing RTD to acquire existing railroad right-of-way and relocate BNSF facilities to allow expansion of the city’s FasTracks program. RTD’s Board of Directors approved the agreement on March 23.
RTD, in a statement, said the accord includes a Purchase and Sale Agreement for acquisition of property from Denver Union Station toapproximately 71st Avenue in Westminster, Colo.; a Relocation and Construction Agreement for relocation and construction of BNSF facilities required to make the acquired property available to RTD for use on the Eagle P3 and other commuter rail projects; and a Joint Corridor UseAgreement with the BNSF governing ongoing operations between the two entitiesin the shared corridors.
“It is great to celebrate yet another major step forward in the FasTracks program,” said RTD General Manager Phil Washington. “Our partnership with BNSF is a successful example of how a transit agency and a railroad entity can work together for the best interests of the whole region.”
“BNSF has a cooperative history of working with commuter rail agencies to provide access to our right-of-way for passenger service while also preserving our capacity to serve freight rail customers,” said BNSF Assistant Vice President of Passenger Operations DJ Mitchell. “We look forward to continuing to work with RTD in their efforts to bring commuter rail service to the Denver region.”
A group led by Vinci SA has won a $9.7 billion contract to build and operate 186 miles of high speed rail between the French cities of Tours and Bordeaux. The deal, expected to be signed during the second half of the year, also includes consortium partners Axa SA and Caisse des Depots et Consignations.
The five-year project is expected to commence construction in 2011, according to French National Railways (SNCF). The concession runs to 2060.
Local authorities will finance half of the public/private partnership, while the Vinci-led consortim and French railroad operator Reseau Ferre de France will finance the other half. “It’s one of the biggest PPPs in the world,” said Pierre- Denis Coux, head of the project at Reseau Ferre de France.
Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm says it has provided a wireless remote control third rail and switch heater system on the New Jersey side of the bistate Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail system.
The turnkey control system includes the RailComm heater controllers communicating to a central office via RailComm’s RADiANT™ data radio network. RailComm’s Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) System commands the central office and provides the operator with a user interface to control the third rail and switch heaters. RailComm says the system reduces energy costs, while also increasing safety and reliability.
The DOC® (Domain Operations Controller) software-based control system is an advanced command, control, communications, and information (C3i) server-based platform that supports indication, control, access, and distribution of critical operational data.
Just days before terrorist bombs killed 38 people on the Moscow metro, the adequacy of security funding for U.S. ground transportation came under sharp questioning at a Senate hearing in Washington.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), told the hearing, “Perhaps we haven't looked enough at surface transportation safety for buses and trains.” She pointed out that only 2% of the White House TSA budget proposal for fiscal 2011 would go to surface transportation while 68% goes to aviation.
Her comments came on March 23 as Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) chaired a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the confirmation of Robert Harding to lead the Transportation Security Administration (Harding withdrew his name from consideration on Friday).
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) also expressed concern about the state of ground transportation security.
“I worry that TSA's delay in issuing final regulations for public transportation and railroad training programs has allowed some transportation agencies to ignore security vulnerabilities and avoid providing training to their employees on these transit lines in which literally millions of Americans travel every day,” Lieberman said.
Meanwhile, transit systems beefed up their security in the wake of the Moscow attacks.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority on Monday conducted random inspections of stations and yards with Metro Transit Police K-9 Explosive Ordnance Detection Teams.
“We will remain on a heightened state of security at least through the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit scheduled in Washington in a few weeks [April 12-13] and we are partnering with federal and local law enforcement for security related to that summit,” said Metro Transit Police Acting Chief Jeri Lee.
The New York Police Department on Monday doubled is presence on subway trains.
The New York Police Department on Monday doubled is presence on subway trains.
Brian Michael Jenkins, director of the National Transportation Security Center of Excellence at the Mineta Transportation Institute, noted that authorities have uncovered and defused a number of plots against the New York City subway system in the past.
“Although 100% passenger screening is unrealistic,” said Jenkins, “some systems have implemented selective passenger screening, where some randomly selected passengers voluntarily submit their bags and backpacks for brief inspection. In a diverse society extremely sensitive to profiling and privacy protection, selective screening must be carefully planned and closely managed to maintain public acceptance. However, it remains a useful option where, as in the wake of the Moscow attacks, subway and train systems are taking security up a notch to discourage copycats and malicious pranksters and to reassure passengers.”
The Sacramento Regional Transit District’s Board of Directors board voted Monday to reduce bus and light rail service 22% in an effort to fill an $11 million budget gap. RTD avoided any substantial reduction in security services.
RTD approved a plan to eliminate 28 of its 91 weekday bus routes (about 31% of the total), with other bus routes running on reduced frequency and/or discontinued on weekends. Service starts on both bus and light rail schedules will end after 9 p.m., though service already en route at that hour will continue to operate until completion.
The service reductions will begin June 20.
Kansas City Southern Monday announced the promotion of Warren K. Erdman from executive vice president corporate affairs to executive vice president administration and corporate affairs, effective April 1, 2010. Erdman will report to KCS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael R. Haverty.
In addition to his current responsibilities for the company’s federal, state, and local government and regulatory affairs, corporate communications, and community relations, Erdman will also have responsibility for the company’s administrative functions, including the legal department, claims, real estate, industrial development, facilities, and railroad police security functions in the U.S. “Warren is a great administrator, civic leader, corporate image promoter,and absolutely critical member of KCS' executive team,” said Haverty. Prior to joining KCS in 1997, Erdman served as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri for 10 years. He also served Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft in 1985 and Missouri Gov. Bond between 1981 and 1984.
President Obama during the weekend announced recess appointments for two seats on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Both appointees, Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, are Democrats; a third nominee, Brian Hayes, a staffer for Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), was left behind to be voted on by the Senate.
Three of NLRB’s five seats have been vacant for at least two years; the recess appointments will last only until the end of this year, as opposed to the normal four-year term bestowed NLRB appointees approved by the Senate.
Themove came despite warnings from Republican senators to the President not to use the upcoming Easter recess to make such a move. Becker’s appointment in particular was seen as controversial, and has been stalled after failing a Senate cloture vote last February.
A letter signed by all 41 Senate Republicans suggested the Senate should confirm the two other NLRB nominees, Pearce and Hayes, with the President dropping Becker’s appointment. Republicans consider Becker too pro-union because of his work with the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.