The Surface Transportation Board will receive an updated report on the state of rail-industry competition this fall. The agency is paying Madison, Wis.-based economic consulting firm Christensen Associates $125,000 to feed data from 2007 and 2008 into a revision of the report, "A Study of Competition in the U.S. Freight Railroad Industry and Analysis of Proposals that Might Enhance Competition," that it released last fall.
In an announcement Thursday, the STB noted that "Christensen was chosen by the Board in September 2007 to provide a comprehensive analysis of a wide range of issues in the freight rail industry, including competition, capacity, and the interplay between the two. In addition to incorporating the latest economic data, the update will also make some technical corrections to the report."
The Association of American Railroads on Thursday reported continued "slight" improvement in U.S. rail carloadings for the week ended July 25, though traffic remained down from the same period last year.
Railroads originated 273,943 carloads in the latest week, down 17.4% from 2008. Intermodal loads added up to 193,332 trailers or containers, down 17.9%. Total volume for the week ending July 25 was estimated at 29.3 billion ton-miles, down 16.3%.
U.S. carriers reported cumulative volume for this year's first 29 weeks of 7,610,311 carloads, down 19.1% from 2008; 5,376,118 trailers or containers, down 17.2 %; and total volume of 809.7 billion ton-miles, down 18.1%.
Canadian railroads reported 61,503 carloads for the latest week, down 18.4% from last year, and 41,902 trailers or containers, down 17.1%. For the year to date, Canadian roads reported volume of 1,728,034 carloads, down 23.8% from 2008, and 1,163,185 trailers or containers, down 16.2%.
Mexican railroads originated 11,541 carloads, down 13.8% from the same week last year, and 5,779 trailers or containers, down 15.0%. Cumulative volume for the first 29 weeks of 2009 was 329,211 carloads, down 14.7%, and 139,425 trailers or containers, down 21.8%.
Total North American rail carload volume for the first 29 weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting railroads was down 19.8% from last year, and intermodal traffic was down 17.1%.
Canadian Pacific Thursday noted a one-time gain from the sale of a share of the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership boosted it second-quarter net income. Net profit rose to C$157.3 million ($145 million), or 93 Canadian cents a share, for the quarter, compared with C$154.7 million, or C$1, in the comparable 2008 quarter.
Excluding items, earnings dropped to 59 Canadian cents a share from 97 Canadian cents a share a year earlier. That still beat analyst EPS expectations of 38 Canadian cents, before exceptions.
"The recession continues to have a significant impact on our business and although freight volumes appearto have stabilized, we have not yet seen a sustained recovery in traffic," Chief Executive Fred Green said in a statement. Freight volume fell 18%, CP said. Offsetting that to a degree were lower operating costs, down 10% to C$225.8 million compared with the second quarter of 2008.
CP said it would increase its 2009capital program spending to between C$800 million and C$820 million, up substantially from the previous outlook of C$720 million to C$740 million. CP shares climbed 9% in Thursday morning trading.
Kansas City Southern Thursday reported that second-quarter net income declined more than 86% to $6.7 million, 7 cents per share, compared with $50.5 million, or 56 cents a share, in the second quarter of 2008. That fell short of Wall Street analyst projections of 8 cents a share.
Revenue also fell short of projections of $357.9 million for the quarter; KCS notched revenue of $341.3 million, down from $486.2 million in the year-ago period. The railroad attributed some of the decline to lower fuel prices, resulting in a 72% drop in fuel surcharges.
Wall Street traders ignored the missed projections, sending shares of the company up 4.4% to $20.52 in late morning trading; KCS stock was up more than 6% Thursday afternoon.
“In the second quarter, KCS continued to demonstrate its ability to combat declining volumes with persistent efforts to improve operating efficiencies and to keep costs down," said Dahlman Rose & Co. analyst and <i>Railway Age</i> Contributing Editor Jason Seidl, who called the railroad’s long term prospects “attractive.” Siedl also said KCS’s new Victoria-Rosenberg line in Texas “will eventually lead to solid long term growth.”
“With the rail industry still trying to cope with the most drastic volume declines in recent history, we believe management will continue to focus its efforts on cutting costs and reducing capital expenditures,” Seidl added. “However, despite the significant spending reduction, KCS announced that it did complete its Victoria-Rosenberg line in the second quarter as it had projected. While many may question the need for expansionary capital in a recessionary environment, this line should help reduce costs and improve service for the railroad’s burgeoning cross border intermodal business.”
Greenwich, Conn.-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc. Thursday reported second-quarter net income of $7.4 million, or diluted earnings per share of 20 cents, less than half the net income of $15.4 million, or 42 cents per diluted share, in the second quarter of 2008.
GWI's income from continuing operations in the second quarter was $8.1 million compared with income from continuing operations of $16.2 million, in the second quarter of 2008.
The company said revenue fell $22.7 million, or 14.8%, to $130.1 million, compared with $152.7 million in the second quarter of 2008. Same-railroad revenue decreased $37.7 million, or 24.7%, partially offset by revenue of $15.1 million from acquisitions.
GWI announced last month that subsidiary Huron Central Railway Inc. intended to discontinue operations in October. As a result, GWI said its results in the second quarter included a non-cash write-down of HCRY's non-current assets of $6.7 million as well as restructuring and related charges of $2.3 million (net after-tax impact of $5.4 million, or $0.15 per diluted share).
John C. Hellmann, GWI president and CEO, said, "Our financial results for the second quarter were consistent with the revised guidance that we provided in early June. Our revenues in the second quarter of 2009 proved to be 6% weaker than the first quarter of 2009, and we consequently implemented additional cost reductions. We now have 13% of our locomotive fleet parked and 10% of our employees furloughed. These and other cost-cutting initiatives have enabled us to maintain a core operating ratio in line with last year."
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority Wednesday released both its 2010 Preliminary Budget and proposed Four-Year Financial Plan for 2010-2013. The MTA Board will not consider a final budget until December, but MTA says the release allows for an extended period of public discussion about the MTA's finances and budget proposals.
The 2010 budget, as released, includes no service cuts or fare increases beyond those already planned, MTA said, adding that projected cash balances were $29 million in 2009, $39 million in 2010, and $1 million in 2011. “Manageable” deficits are projected for 2012 and 2013. MTA also cited “significant” spending restraints contributing to save $64 million in 2010. These savings grow to $279 million by 2013.
MTA Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger said: "We are grateful to Governor Paterson and the Legislature for their strong commitment to the transit system during this current economic downturn. Meeting the MTA's fiduciary responsibilities while sparing our customers from the drastic and painful measures proposed earlier this year will help us keep to our mission of providing safe, dependable, and affordable public transportation."
MTA Interim Executive Director and CEO Helena E. Williams said: "Today's presentation kicks off six months of public discussion before a final budget is approved in December. Engaging in a productive dialogue with our customers and stakeholders before a final plan is presented to the board assures maximum transparency throughout the entire process."
The financial plan anticipates a continued falloff in real estate tax revenue and ridership due to recession, also includes the 2009 Mid-Year Forecast which reflects changes from the February 2009 plan resulting from the passage of legislation to stabilize the MTA's short-term finances. As discussed with state legislative leaders in Albany, the plan includes a 7.5% fare increase in both 2011 and 2013.
More information on the plan is available online at www.mta.info. MTA said the complete plan will be online “in the coming days.”
Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell says the Nutmeg State will expand a planned signal upgrade of Metro-North Railroad’s Danbury Branch to cover the entire 24 miles of the line. Connecticut will use federal stimulus funds to do so; the entire project is projected to cost $53 million, including $30 million in stimulus funds.
Rell said the original plan called for installing Centralized Train Control on just eight miles of the branch, between Norwalk and Wilton, Conn. The Federal Transit Administration already has approved the project, which will allow Metro-North’s Control Center in Grand Central Terminal to oversee operations on the entire branch.
“Upgrading this system will ultimately mean better, safer, more reliable service for the thousands of commuters who depend on the Danbury Branch to get to and from work,” Rell said. “That is key to our effort to encourage greater use of public transportation and reduce congestion on ourroads and highways. Improving the commuting and business climate improves our economy.”
Metro-North forces will perform the initial work, with a contract expected to be issued to a private-sector contractor in 2010 by Connecticut’s Department of Transportation. Completion is expected by the end of 2011.
The Danbury Branch runs from its namesake city to South Norwalk, where it joins with Metro-North’s New Haven Line.