originated 15,390 carloads, up 24.2% percent from the year, and 6,915
trailers and containers, up 37.4%.
Total North American rail volume for the first 21 weeks of
2010 on 13 reporting railroads was
7,729,358 carloads, up 10.2% from last year, and 5,412,142 trailers and
containers, up 11.9%.
Canadian Pacific told analysts at its annual investors day in Vancouver Wednesday that it remains undecided on building a line to the Powder River Coal Basin in Wyoming, an option it acquired in 2008 with acquisition of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern. DM&E had advanced the planned line through the Surface Transportation Board and past numerous environmental obstacles.
Jane O'Hagan, CP’s vice president for marketing, said no decision is likely to be made before the United States clarifies positions that will affect the future of coal as a major source of energy—and that’s just one of several hurdles.
“Market volatility, coupled with the politics of coal-generated energy and CP’s requisite conditions for investment, such as mine access, long-term contracts, and assembly of the right-of-way, have not been met,” said O'Hagan.
CP officers seized the occasion to describe a number of actual and potential initiatives that would increase the railroad’s productivity and efficiency at relatively modest cost. One is continuing to shrink the system without significant loss of business. On CP’s current line-abandonment map are 1,400 miles of track in Canada and the northern United States targeted for action in the next 18 months.
Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliott Wednesday said Canadian National must hold to the terms STB announced when CN acquired the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway. “We are fully behind that decision,” said Elliott, “and we will defend it in court.”
That includes a requirement that CN fund the bulk of the cost of railroad overpasses in Lynwood and Aurora, Ill., which CN reportedly has challenged.
Elliott met with a group at the New Lenox, Ill., village hall, including some representing The Regional Answer to Canadian National (TRAC), which still opposes the acquisition and seek STB’s decision approving the purchase to be reversed. Opponents argue that impact on the environment and their communities have been more than anticipated. Elliott did not suggest such a reversal was likely, however.
CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said 22 communities along the EJ&E route have signed voluntary mitigation agreements with the railroad. CN has committed $60 million in mitigation projects altogether, exclusive of the two overpasses in contention.
RMI, a provider of transportation management software, announced Thursday that RailAmerica, Inc. will implement RMI’s RailConnect® systems at all 40 of its North American railroads.
RMI said RailAmerica plans to use RMI’s mCrew product for remote train-crew reporting, as well as ShipperConnect® for improved service to its customers with RA’s accounting system.
“Our Horizon Project is focused entirely on improving the customer experience,” said RailAmerica Vice President Planning Mike Oakley. “The entire business case for this initiative was based on the premise that better service enhances the bottom line, and RMI is a major enabler of achieving that goal.”
Pete Kleifgen, RMI chairman and CEO, said “we lookforward to continuing our aggressive implementation process across the entire family of RailAmerica railroads.”
Washington, D.C.’s District Council is considering a plan to circumvent a federal law banning overhead wires to power streetcars in the city’s historic district, which would enable the city to re-establish streetcars on H Street in the city’s Northeast quadrant, to be powered by catenary wire.
A bill sponsored by Councilman Tommy Wells would repeal a pair of 120-year-old laws to allow overhead wires to be used in an area bounded by Florida Avenue to the north, Georgetown to the west and the Anacostia River. The prohibitions would be re-established under the D.C. Code, with an exception for streetcar lines on H Street.
Other historic neighborhoods, such as Georgetown (northwest Washington) and Capitol Hill, would retain a ban on overhead wires. Such a move is largely tactical; Georgetown, a well-to-do portion of the city, traditionally is resistant to any rail transit plans, and defeated plans to have the Metro system serve the neighborhood when construction was under way during the 1970s.
The Wells bill also sets a precursor for additional streetcar routes using overhead wire, after a proposed 37-mile citywide streetcar plan is approved, “for the use of aerial wires for the additional streetcar lines and routes, with special attention paid to the view corridors of the federal monumental core.”
Wells says that repealing federal law is within the council's right, citing “legal analysis by several distinguished attorneys,” including the D.C. Office of the Attorney General. But both the National Park Service and the National Capital Planning Commission have specifically opposed the use of overhead wires in older and historic areas of the nation’s capital.
Still, Wells' bill was co-introduced by 12 of 13 council members, suggesting that at the local level, support for the change is substantial. “I believe the council has ample authority to act in this fashion,” said Councilman Jim Graham.
The Finance For Business North East Technology Fund (The North East Technology Fund) said Thursday it had invested £750,000 (about $1.01 million) into Newcastle, England-based Nomad Digital Ltd., which offers on-board IP connectivity services to the rail industry.
The Fund said the investment is being provided by way of venture debt and forms part of a £1.25 million ($1.8 million) financing deal for Nomad Digital, with the balance of £500,000 being committed by Northstar Ventures from the Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund.
Nomad Chief Financial Director Bimal Shah, in a statement, said, “We are pleased to be welcoming the North East Technology Fund as investors at an exciting phase in Nomad’s expansion and have enjoyed working with the IP Group during the investment process.”
Canadian federal authorities are considering new penalties for railroads convicted of breaking safety rules, including identifying a specific railway employee for possible incarceration if a railroad is found guilty of violating the law.
Minister of State for Transport Rob Merrifield announced Tuesday the new legislation will include protections for whistleblowers and greater financial and legal penalties for violations. The changes would designate one railway executive legally responsible for safety, and the minister suggested the person could possibly face jail time if rules were broken.
“What we're really wanting to do is to make sure that they have a culture of safety within the company and if you are saying there's one person deemed to have that responsibility there's a lot more chance that's actually going to happen,” Merrifield said.
Merrifield declined to divulge additional details prior to the bill’s consideration, expected to occur later this week in Ottawa. But he suggested that violators have suffered few penalties in the past. “All of these will be addressed in the bill," he said. "I believe even the rail companies will support it, reluctantly perhaps, but I believe they will.”
The recommended changes are prompted by two separate reviews onrailway safety, completed in 2008. One advisory panel report made 56 recommendations to improve safety, while a Commons committee report made another 14 recommendations. The studies were launched after rail accidents resulted in fatalities in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec.