Pressing its efforts (and possible political advantage) to secure high speed rail for the Chicago Hub, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association says it has redesigned and upgraded its website at www.midwesthsr.org.
Executive Director Rick Harnish notes, “We have added a new ‘Roll Call’ page where you can see if your Congressman voted for high-speed rail. We have also added a ‘Fact vs. Fiction’ page to help you counter high-speed rail opponents.”
The website also includes sections addressing the economic and environmental benefits of high speed rail, and details on the association’s vision for a future Midwest rail network, something the group has pushed for since its founding in 1993. The group is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.
The Midwest Hub is one of 10 potential candidates designated by the Obama Administration for development of U.S. high speed rail, and is considered by many rail observers as one of the more likely candidates to receive such funding.
Arizona Railroad Group has changed its name to ARG Trans, the company said in a statement, in order to better reflect the company’s long-term goals.
Benson, Ariz.-based ARG Trans is the parent company of short line San Pedro& Southwestern Railroad, which it has owned since 2003. SPSR connects with Union Pacific’s Chicago-Los Angeles main line at Benson and extends seven miles to Curtiss, Ariz. SPSR also provides switching service for UP customers at Willcox, Ariz.
“Our goal is to broaden our services beyondArizona and expand logistical options for customers, such as transloading freight between rail cars and trucks,” said ARG Trans President Scott Parkinson. “Bottom line, we want to increase our rail and related transportation activities with other communities and businesses--particularly in the West.”
Under a $7.6 million contract, L.B. Foster Co. has supplied 115-pound rail for the 21-mile A-Train line linking Denton and Carrollton, Tex. The Pittsburgh-based company shipped 4,599 tons of 1,600-foot welded rail and 573 tons of 80-foot stick rail to the North Texas Rail Group, a joint venture between Herzog Contracting Corp. and Archer Western Contractors.
"Our L.B. Foster Rail Products estimating and project management teams fast-tracked the contract, manufacturing and delivery to meet a critical construction schedule," said Greg Lippard, L.B. Foster Rail Products vice president.
"Coordinating this shipment on our weld trains helped to expedite the delivery and meet the contractors' tight project schedule," said Dennis Bachtel, L.B. Foster Rail Products western sales manager. The final shipment was delivered Aug.1.
L.B. Foster has a fleet of company-owned weld trains to best manage the shipment and unloading of continuously welded rail.
Amtrak says it will suspend service at its Pittsburgh station during the Group of 20 eocnomic summit Sept. 24-26. Trains will pass through the station, but will not stop.
Spokeswoman Tracy Connell says passengers will not be able to book trips that begin or end in Pittsburgh from Sept. 24-26. The G-20 summit will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, a few blocks away fromthe train station.
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, linking Chicago with Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvanian, traveling between Pittsburgh and New York, serve Pittsburgh.
Providence & Worcester Railroad has reported net income for the second quarter of $322,000 compared to income of $320,000 in the second quarter of 2008. Diluted income per common share was 7 cents for both quarters. Other income for the second quarter of 2009 includes $950,000 received from the settlement of certain legal proceedings and the granting of a permanent easement.
Operating revenue for the quarter dropped $2.0 million, or 24.5%, to $6.1 million. Operating expenses declined by $1.1 million, or 13.7%, from the second quarter of 2008. The reduced cost of diesel fuel accounted for $758,000 of the decrease.
For the six months ended June 30, 2009, the company reported a net loss of $1.1 million (22 cents per common share) compared to a net loss of $605,000 (13 cents per common share) during the first six months of 2008.
"While there have recently been some signs that traffic volumes may begin to improve, management cannot predict when and if economic conditions will improve sufficiently to enable the Company to return to profitable operations," said the company in an earnings statement released Thursday.
Hermon, Maine-based Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway said Thursday it has asked the state to consider purchasing and maintaining its track and right-of-way. The property is worth about $17 million, according to President and COO Robert C. Grindrod, who estimates upgrades of $6 million are required, followed by an annual maintenance cost of $2.5 million.
The railroad seeks the state’s interest as it announced it would sell or abandon approximately 241 miles of track linking Millinocket and Madawaska, citing fiscal woes. Operations will continue during the abandonment process, Grindrod said.
“The reason for this action is purely economic,” said Chairman Edward A. Burkhardt. “For some time, MMA has faced weak lumber, paper, and other forest products markets, and the economic downturn has greatly affected traffic on these lines. This portion of MMA’s network is heavily loss-making, and as such does not generate sufficient cash flow to provide for necessary capital expenditures to ensure sustainability.”
“One solution would be for the state to acquire this segment of our network and to assume the future capital investment requirements,” Burkhardt said. “This would, of course, require funding, which would have to come from federal stimulus monies or would have to be addressed by the legislature. MMA considers this the best possible solution as it would result in rail service being maintained at all stations.”
Both officials said that they have discussed the situation with Gov. John Baldacci and officials at Maine’s Department of Transportation.
The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, born in 2003 from the bankrupt Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, serves customers in Maine and Vermont, as well as the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, operating over roughly 745 miles of track.
The Association of American Railroads reported Thursday that for the week ended Aug. 8, U.S. railroads originated 274,633 carloads of traffic, down 16% from the comparable week in 2008. Carloadings declined 14.1% in the West and 18.8% in the East.
Intermodal volume totaled 195,014 trailers or containers, down 16.6%. Container volume fell 10.8% and trailer volume was down 38.1%. Total volume was an estimated at 29.3 billion ton-miles, down 14.8% from last year.
All 19 carload groups experienced declines ranging from 6.1% for chemicals to 48.3% for metals and metal products.
For this year's first 31 weeks, U.S. railroads reported total volume of 8,159,672 carloads, down 18.9 % from 2008; 5,764,816 trailers or containers, down 17.1%; and total volume of 868.3 billion ton-miles, off 18%.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 55,404 carloads for the week, down 27.2% from last year, and 38,135 trailers or containers, down 20.1%. For the first 31 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads had cumulative volume of 1,846,410 carloads, down 23.9 %, and 1,243,289 trailers or containers, a decline of 16.3%.
Mexican railroads originated 11,533 carloads, down 12.7%, and 6,005 trailers or containers, down 10.5%. Volume for the first 31 weeks of 2009 was 351,153 carloads, down 15.3% , and 150,740 trailers or containers, down 21.4%.
The Norfolk Southern Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to Penn State Altoona to help create a four-year Rail and Transit Engineering program. The program will lead to a Bachelor of Science degree and program will include existing civil engineering courses, as well as customized courses in rail business, mechanical systems, track, operations, communications, and regulation.
In announcing the program Thursday, the Foundation said the goal is “to produce graduates who will quickly acclimate to the rail industry and its suppliers.”
Cindy Earhart, Norfolk Southern’s vice president human resources, said: “While the rail industry is operating in challenging economic times, the fact remains that our workforce is maturing. In order for Norfolk Southern to remain successful, we need to develop a talent pool that understands the railroad work environment. Penn State Altoona’s Rail and Transit Engineering program will provide the industry with skilled and motivated graduates who want to become the next generation of railroaders.” “I want to congratulate Norfolk Southern and Penn State University for coming together to create this fantastic baccalaureate program in railroad engineering,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (Pa.), ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Railroads in the House of Representatives. “Pennsylvania played an important role in building America’s railroads, and our state continues its proud heritage to this day. The transportation of goods and services over railis critical to our economic growth and educational programs like this at Penn State will help improve its role across the country. I want to recognize Norfolk Southern for its commitment to improving the communities it works with and I congratulate Penn State and its students on this exciting new educational opportunity.”
China will invest more than $100 billion per year in rail construction on average during the next three years, an increase from a previously announced increase to roughly $88 billion this year, Vice Railway Minister Wang Zhiguo said in published remarks.
Wang also said the ministry would seek approval for 20,000 kilometers (12,400 miles) of additional rail construction, requiring a total investment of more than 2 trillion yuan, or roughly $280 billion, by the end of next year.
China has said it seeks to expand its rail network to promote economic growth and ease transport bottlenecks. It hopes to have upgraded or put in place 86,000 kilometers (53,320 miles) of rail by year’s end, expanding to 110,000 kilometers (68,200 miles) by 2012.
The Association of American Railroads Thursday urged the Federal Railroad Administration to “faithfully follow the Congressional statutory mandate requiring railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) technologies across certain portions of the national freight rail network.”
Congress in 2008 passed legislation requiring U.S. freight railroads to implement PTC on certain main line tracks used for transporting passengers or toxic chemicals (TIH) by Dec. 31, 2015. But, AAR says, FRA's proposed rule would impose a financial burden above and beyond what Congress intended, potentially adding hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cost to the railroads as they face using private capital to pay for the federal PTC mandate.
"The railroad industry provides efficient, safe, and environmentally beneficial transportation services," said AAR Senior Vice President Safety and Operations Robert VanderClute. "By proposing substantial expenditures beyond what Congress is requiring, the proposed regulations would undermine the ability of the railroads to continue to provide the public benefits of rail."
VanderClute testified that several elements of the FRA proposed rule pose significant technical, operational, and financial challenges to the industry. Specifically, AAR objected to FRA's proposal to: (a) base PTC implementation on 2008 traffic patterns; (b) require dual displays in locomotives; and (c) allow Class II and Class III railroads to operate locomotives unequipped with PTC technology over PTC equipped tracks.
"It does not make any sense that Congress would mandate PTC for TIH routes that existed in 2008, knowing that those routes would besubject to change in the years to come," VanderClute said. He noted FRA is aware these routes would change after 2008 due to implementation of other federal rules requiring risk assessment of the routes used for TIH.
"Given FRA's cost-benefit analysis, and the adverse consequences of extending the mandate beyond what Congress required, FRA should use Dec. 31, 2015 as the date governing the extent of the railroads' mandatory PTC obligation," he said.
AAR also said FRA's proposed requirement for dual-displays in the locomotive could cost the industry as much as $200 million for equipmentthat would serve no additional safety purpose.
"Simply put, the engineer operates the locomotive, and the presence or absence of a second display will have no effect on how the engineer carries out his or her responsibilities," VanderClute said. "All a second display would accomplish is to require the industry to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a screen serving no useful purpose."
AAR also questions FRA's logic surrounding its proposal to allow Class II and Class III railroads to use locomotives not equipped with PTC technology on PTC-equipped routes. FRA was basing this proposed part ofthe rule on the assertion that the financial burden on Class II and III railroads outweighs the safety benefits.
"Surely Congress did not require Class I railroads to spend billions of dollars on PTC systems only to allow Class II and III railroads to operate trains without the technology on our tracks equipped with PTC," VanderClute said.