British Columbia’s C$2 billion (US$1.8 billion) Canada Line, the third Skytrain route serving metropolitan Vancouver, began revenue operations Monday. The new route, operating along 11.8 miles linking Vancouver with Richmond, includes a 2.5-mile spur linking downtown Vancouver with its international airport in approximately 26 minutes, reportedly making Vancouver the first Canadian city with a rail rapid transit link to an airport.
The new line “is going to have the capacity to move a very large number of people in a reliable travel time," TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said. "When it has its own right of way, it's not subject to traffic congestion."
Some 6,000 people an hour are expected to ride the Canada Line on its opening day Monday. TransLink forecasts ridership will grow to 100,000 riders per day by 2013, served by 16 stations (three more remain in the planning stages). Originally scheduled to open this November, the line has opened early in part to prepare for anticipated heavy use by visitors to the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Inc. oversaw the Canada Line’s implementation under a design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM) contract; the company will operate the line for 35 years. Funding for the C$1.35 billion project was provided by the federal government (C$450 million), as well as the British Columbian provincial government, Vancouver International Airport Authority, and TransLink, which each contributed C$300 million.
The Surface Transportation Board posted statistics on its website Monday showing that Class I railroads earned a return on net investment of 8.94% in the 12-month period that ended June 30, compared with 9.20% in the corresponding period a year ago.
Total operating revenues in the latest 12-month period were $53.6 billion vs. $55.7 billion in the prior year.
Individual carriers posted these ROIs in the 12 months ended June 30, 2009 (compared with their ROIs a year earlier):
Burlington Northern Santa Fe: -- 9.69% (9.90%)
CSX Corp. -- 7.61% (7.87%)
CN/Grand Trunk -- 8.59% (9.68%)
Kansas City Southern -- 8.59% (9.68%)
Norfolk Southern -- 10.23% (13.57%)
Soo Line -- 12.09% (15.20%)
Union Pacific -- 8.43% (9.16%)
Return on investment is based on net railway operating income, which is the difference between net railway operating revenues and the total of railway operating expenses, railway tax accruals, and net equipment and joint facility rents.
Tim Heilig, vice president-mechanical for Norfolk Southern, and Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo will highlight the agenda of the Railway Supply Institute’s Global Railway Tech 2009, occurring Sept. 16-18 in the Northwest Hall of the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel.
Heilig will discuss “Managing the Future during Challenging Times,” while Szabo will update attendees on FRA’s oversight of safety and high speed rail matters.
Following the opening session Wednesday, Sept. 16, RSI is hosting an opening reception in the exhibit hall beginning at 4:30 p.m. Registration is required through RSI or one of the mechanical associations to attend these events. Registration and hotel information are available on the RSI website www.rsiweb.org/.
RSI Executive Director Tom Simpson notes the Coordinated Mechanical Associations (the Air Brake Association, International Association of Railway Operating Officers, Locomotive Maintenance Officers Association, and Mechanical Association of Railcar Technical Services) technical sessions have been finalized. In addition, the RSI trade show in the Hilton’s Southeast Hall is virtually sold out (with 75-to-80 booths anticipated). All social events will be held in a food court located in the exhibition hall, Simpson says.
BART has reached a tentative contract agreement with its operating employees in time to avoid a strike scheduled for Monday morning. Terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.
Jesse Hunt, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said the agreement must still be ratified by the 900 rank-and-file members of his union; those members had rejected an earlier contract proposal, making a strike seem more likely.
Hunt expressed cautious optimism, however, for this proposal. "There are no guarantees in life, but we think this is a solid, fair agreement given the economic times," he said. "And I'm confident our members will do what's right for everyone involved."
"It's the greatest thing for the Bay Area. It's what everybody wanted," said James Fang, vice president of BART's Board of Directors.
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.