Officials from VIA Rail Canada, Canadian National, and the federal government will gather at Toronto’s Union Station Thursday to tout two developments aimed at improving passenger rail service on VIA’s Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal route.
The news conference in Toronto is highlighting VIA infrastructure work on CN's Kingston Sub Project, designed to improve passenger train frequency and capacity. In addition, VIA will ceremonially acknowledge receipt of its first fully rebuilt F40 locomotive at simultaneous events in both Toronto and Montreal. The locomotive is the first of 54 F40s to be rebuilt by CAD Railway Industries (CAD) of Lachine, Québec.
Slated to appear are Gary Goodyear, federal Minister of State (Science and Technology), CN Executive Vice President Claude Mongeau, and Donald E. Wright, chairman of VIA Rail Canada.
Washington state’s Port of Vancouver Commission has approved plans to acquire six acres of property to allow new rail access into port facilities across the Columbia River from nearby Portland, Ore.
The West Vancouver freight access rail project plans call for the new line to be built across property adjacent to the port and owned by Clark Public Utilities and Clark County, Wash., as well as port property leased by Great Western Malting Co.
Four Class I railroads currently serve the port, including BNSF,Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, and Canadian National.
The port will pay Clark County an amount still to be determined for approximately four acres and will swap parcels, each less than an acre, with Clark Public Utilities. The port intends to negotiate a new lease with Great Western Malting Co. intended to reclaim nearly an acre for port use.The port has planned to purchase the properties for more than three years, but has not yet set a price.
Planners in California’s Sonoma and Marin counties, north of San Francisco, have recommended diesel multiple-unit (DMU) equipment for a proposed 71-mile rail line serving the northern Bay Area. The Sonoma Marin Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Board of Directors approved the recommendation Wednesday in a 9-2 vote, directing staff to write specifications. The process will take several months at a cost of $400,000.
SMART’s directors endorsed plans for a fleet of 11 “American-style” DMU units, projected to cost $88 million, as opposed to diesel light rail transit (DLRT) cars similar to those used in New Jersey and southern California. Doing so would allow the project to meet crash standards mandatedby the Federal Railroad Administration, and avoid temporal separation of freight and passenger services; the proposed rail service, linking Cloverdale and Larkspur, Calif., would share the right-of-way with existing freight rail services. The line would interface with Golden Gate Ferry services at Larkspur, providing intermodal passenger service to and from San Francisco.
Planners and area rail advocates are aware of the difficulties Austin, Tex., has experienced in its ongoing, much-delayed startup of rail service there; Austin’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority opted for DLRT equipment, which FRA said necessitated temporal separation of freight and passenger rail operations.
“The majority understand it’s a tough choice, but in the end the regulatory environment is what it is, and we don’t want to have a systembased on regulations that we wished existed. We need to build a system based on regulations the way they are,” said SMART spokesman Chris Coursey, explaining SMART’s desire to avoid any entanglements with FRA.
“It is passionate because this is one of the biggest decisions we will make and it will impact the people who ride it,” said Debora Fudge, vice chairman of the SMART board. “They will see these cars, and theywill look sleek and modern.”
The board says it’s aware that only one U.S. manufacturer, Columbus, Ohio-based US Railcar LLC, is capable of producing DMU equipment. US Railcar, owned by the Value Recovery Group, purchased most of the assets of Fort Lupton, Colo.-based Colorado Railcar earlier this year.
The city of Phoenix has awarded contracts valued at $255 million to Bombardier Transportation for the design, supply, operation, and maintenance of an INOVIA automated people mover (APM) at Sky Harbor International Airport.
New York Gov. David Paterson Tuesday nominated Jay Walder to head the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Walder must be confirmed by the state Senate, which is expected to meet Wednesday on the matter.
Walder, 48, previously served with MTA as its chief financial officer from 1983 to 1995. He also served as managing director for finance and planning at Transport for London from 2000 to 2006. He then became a partner in McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm.
If confirmed, Walder will serve as both chairman and chief executive officer. Walder would succeed Lee Sander as MTA’s CEO; Sander was forced to resign last May. Helena Williams, president of MTA Long Island Rail Road, has been acting CEO in the interim.
Walder’s nomination has been greeted warmly by regional transit advocacy groups, including the Straphangers Campaign and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
CSX’s second-quarter earnings decline of 20% nonetheless beat Wall Street consensus estimates, as the company announced earnings of $308 million, or 78 cents per share, compared with $385 million, or 93 cents a share, in the second quarter of 2008. Revenue fell 25% to $2.19 billion.
Dahlman Rose & Co. cautioned that the earnings per share results, “when stripped of $0.06 per share in discontinued operations related to the [sale of the] Greenbrier resort ... came in at $0.72.” But even that, Dalhman Rose said, was “above our estimate of $0.66" and the consensus estimate of 62 to 64 cents per share.
Morgan Stanley analysts, though even more cautiously noting “$0.59 may be a cleaner number” for second-quarter earnings per share, also allowed that CSX generated a “solid performance, all things considered,” and added, “CSX remains a top pick in our freight transport universe.”
“While the economy continues to significantly impact our business, there are some signs that we may be seeing the bottom in many markets,” said CSX Chairman, President, and CEO Michael J. Ward.
Analysts said CSX has acted aggressively to control costs, but some see continued pressure on pricing. Dalhman Rose said the pressure is most acute in the intermodal sector, affecting CSX’s operating ratio.
Said Dahlman Rose, “We believe CSX Intermodal has had to resort to cutting rates in an attempt to remain competitive with the very aggressive trucking market. While operating expenses declined 17% to $255 million, it was not enough to offset the steep drop in revenues for the segment, bringing the operating ratio up over 730 basis points to 87.6%.”
In a related development, the United Transportation Union said that the impact of furloughs will be lessed for some CSX workers under an "innovative furlough retention board agreement." Furloughed employees placed on each furloughretention board will be guaranteed four days of work each bi-weekly payperiod, retain health-care insurance, continue buildingseniority and Railroad Retirement credits, remain current for ruleexaminations and qualifications, and recalled to active serviceunder a pre-determined mathematical formula. UTU members placed on continuous employment boards or furloughretention boards also are able to pursue part-time employmentelsewhere, with knowledge that their families are protected, and thatwhen the recession ends, they will return to full-time employment with CSX. These agreements do not impact the operation of extra boards. The agreement is similar to a continuous employment board agreement negotiated with Union Pacific.
"In negotiating these agreements, UTU officers have stressed to thecarriers that short-term economic gains from furloughs could backfireduring the peak vacation season and implementation July 16 of newhours-of-service regulations—both of which will limit availabilityof qualified operating crews," UTU noted. "Agreements such as UP's continuous employment boards andCSX's furlough retention boards lessen the likelihood that youngeremployees will depart the railroad permanently, triggering, eventually,an expensive search for new hires who then must be trained fromscratch."
UTU said it is seeking similar agreements with other major railroads, including BNSF and Norfolk Southern.
Genesee & Wyoming Inc. Tuesday reported a decline in traffic for both June and the second quarter of 2009, compared with their respective periods a year ago.
Greenwich, Conn.-based GWI said traffic in June 2009 fell 1.8%, while second-quarter traffic declined 4.3%.
Excluding acquisitions made by the company in the past 12 months, GWI's same-railroad traffic in June 2009 decreased 17.2%, compared with June 2008, led by declines in metals traffic, pulp & paper shipments, and mineral & stone traffic. Same-railroad traffic for the second quarter fell 20.0%, attributed to pulp & paper moves, metals traffic, and coal, coke, and ores traffic.
GWI railroads acquired within the last 12 months include the Georgia Southwestern Railroad and the Ohio Central Railroad System, both of which GWI purchased on Oct. 1, 2008. Carloads from acquisitions in the second quarter of 2009 includes traffic from the Georgia Southwestern Railroad, the Ohio Central Railroad System and, for April 2009 and May 2009, from CAGY Industries, Inc., which GWI purchased on May 31, 2008.
Last month GWI announced its intent to discontinue operations of its Huron Central Railway (HCRY) in October. HCRY traffic volume in June was half that of June 2008; second-quarter carload volume fell almost as much, 46.8%.
New York’s MTA Metro-North Railroad has awarded Ansaldo STS USA an $8.7 million contract to design and furnish 38 pre-wired signal houses and cases for a portion of Metro-North’s New Haven Line, spanning 17 miles, from Woodlawn, N.Y., to Riverside, Conn.
The contract is the third ASTS USA has received in recent years from Metro-North to replace the railroad’s relay-based signaling control system with the microprocessor-based MicroLok II® control system, interconnected over a fiber optic communications network.
“We are pleased that Metro-North has once again chosen us to provide them with our products and services,” said Ansaldo STS USA President and CEO Dr. Alan E. Calegari. “And we will continue to support their commitment to provide the utmost in quality systems for passenger, employee, and community safety.”
Metro-North’s New Haven Line links its namesake city with Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Amtrak also uses much of the New Haven Line, which is part of the Northeast Corridor.
The National Transportation Safety Board Monday issued a safety recommendation to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) calling for enhanced safety redundancy of its train control system. The call follows the June 22 accident on the Metrorail Red Line between Fort Totten and Takoma stations, which according to NTSB shows the Metrorail train control system is susceptible to a single point failure, which did not “stop a train when detection of a preceding train was lost.”
The NTSB recommendation says WMATA should evaluate track occupancy data on a real-time basis in order to detect losses in track occupancy and automatically generate alerts to prompt such actions as immediately stopping train movements or implementing appropriate speed restrictions to prevent collisions.
NTSB also made a second recommendation to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) urging the agency to advise all rail transit operators with train control systems capable of monitoring train movements to evaluate their systems for adequate safety redundancy.
"While the NTSB is still in the very early stages of its investigation into this tragic accident here in our nation's capital, we have concerns about the failure of WMATA's train control system to prevent this collision," said Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. “By calling upon WMATA to take swift action to upgrade the safety redundancy of its system and by urging FTA to alert other transit agencies of the hazards of single point failures such as the one experienced by WMATA, we hope to prevent something similar from happening again."
Per NTSB protocol, the letters were issued to the heads of both agencies with a request for a response from each organization within 30 days, addressing the actions taken or planned in response to the Board's recommendation.
The safety recommendation letter to WMATA may be found here.
The safety recommendation letter to the FTA may be found here.