Latest News Continued

The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding $20.9 million to states, territories and Native American tribes to improve the nation's response to transportation incidents involving hazardous materials. The grants will help train first responders to react to incidents involving hazardous materials and to meet the safety challenges posed by new chemicals and alternative energy products such as ethanol.

"This program strengthens local emergency response capabilities and serves a vital role in a comprehensive hazmat safety program," said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "Although prevention is our first priority, preparing communities to respond effectively to incidents that do occur is essential to protecting the safety of all Americans."

The grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are funded by user fees paid by shippers and carriers of certain hazardous materials.

Since 1993, more than 2.4 million emergency responders and others have received training assistance nationwide using Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grants. Assistance was also given to approximately 1,700 local emergency planning committees each year in preparing and exercising hazardous materials emergency response plans, and in conducting commodity flow studies that identify transportation hazards. Effective in 2008, transportation legislation more than doubled the funding of the HMEP grants program.

All 50 states, one territory, and seven North American tribes received HMEP grant funding this year.

More information on the HMEP grants program can be found at: http://hazmat.dot.gov/training/state/hmep/hmep.htm .

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The SunRail commuter train that would serve Central Florida likely will get a third shot at approval from the Legislature in December, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

sunrail.jpgGov. Charlie Crist joined Senate President Jeff Atwater, R- North Palm Beach, in calling for a special session in Tallahassee Dec. 7-11 to approve SunRail and prop up the Tri-Rail commuter train in South Florida. SunRail has been defeated twice in the Senate, most recently in April during the regular session. Proponents are hopeful of victory this time.

"This is our best chance. We've got to get it," said Sen. Lee Constantine, R- Altamonte Springs, who has led local delegation efforts for the $1.2 billion project.

Triggering the optimism is the repeated warnings of federal officials - voiced again Oct. 19 - that Florida's application for nearly $2.6 billion in stimulus money to build a high-speed train between Orlando and Tampa is contingent on getting SunRail up and running and improving Tri-Rail's finances.

Atwater and two other state senators personally got the word during a visit to Washington, where they met with federal transit officials and Florida Sens. George LeMieux and Bill Nelson.

"Shame on us if we don't take advantage of this historic opportunity," LeMieux said. "The federal government is ready to invest billions of dollars, but they need a firm and long-term commitment from our state. Building commuter and high-speed rail lines will create thousands of jobs; it will stimulate our economy; and it will mean transformative change for our metropolitan areas."

Atwater called for the special session after the meeting. He was joined by state Sens. Al Lawson of Tallahassee - leader of the Democratic caucus - and J.D. Alexander, R- Lake Wales.

Crist said during an impromptu news conference in Tallahassee that he would back a special session. A formal announcement of the session, however, is still pending. Timing is critical because the Obama administration intends to announce this winter which states will get high-speed rail money. Federal officials are sifting through 45 requests from 24 states seeking a total of $50 billion. The fund holds only $8 billion.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, one of SunRail's leading supporters, predicted success if the session is held.

"I don't think we would have a special session if we didn't have the votes," said Dyer of the train that would run for 61.5 miles and link DeLand in Volusia County with downtown Orlando and Poinciana in Osceola County.

It takes 21 votes to pass the 40-member Senate; last session SunRail garnered only 16.

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BNSF Railway Chairman, President, and CEO Matt Rose, delivering the keynote address at Railway Age’s 16th Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads Conference in Washington, D.C., said that carefully targeted investments in the national freight rail infrastructure will be absolutely needed if high ...

Kansas City Southern de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. said that David W. Eaton will replace Gloria M. Ballesteros as leader of the sales and marketing department effective Nov. 1, 2009. Ballesteros has decided to transition her position with the company to an active consultancy role, so that she can spend more time with her family. She will remain in her current position until the end of the year, and will assist Eaton in his transition.

In addition to leading the sales and marketing and service design functions, Ballesteros has led customer service, network services and served as a superintendent for the Southern Region. Prior to joining the company, she was the Association of American Railroads rules coordinator for ALSTOM. She holds an industrial engineering degree from Technological Institute of Monterrey.

Eaton has moved from vice president corporate affairs and right-of-way protection to vice president sales and marketing. He will now focus his efforts on the KCSM sales and marketing department; however, he will also provide transitional leadership for the company's corporate affairs and right-of-way protection department, which handles the company's federal, state and local relations program, as well as other right of way protection responsibilities.

After serving as a consultant on the team transitioning TFM to KCSM, Eaton became a full-time KCSM employee in 2005. Prior to that, he was a partner in Monterrey Business Consultants and ran a NAFTA legal think tank at the Technological Institute of Monterrey. A dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, he holds a Masters degree in commercial law from Technological Institute of Monterrey, a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arizona and a Bachelor's degree in business administration and political science from Northern Arizona University. He is a member of the board of directors of the American Chamber of Commerce-Monterrey Division and chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce International Trade Committee.

Current assistant vice president for right-of-way protection Edgar Guillaumin will lead the corporate affairs and right-of-way protection department during this period of transition.

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IBM and MERMEC Group will jointly present a technical paper on their “Smart Management Platform for Railway Infrastructure” at the Oct. 26 Permanent Way Summit in Beijing organized by the Chinese Ministry of Railways and the China Railway Association. The summit is targeted toward the local railway industry and includes technologies available for railway infrastructure management. Several M.O.R. executives, including Kang Gaoliang, general director of the M.O.R. Permanent Way Department, and people from local Railway Bureaus and CARS (China Academy of Railway Sciences) will attend the summit.

“The Chinese Railway network will incorporate million of sensors that will verify all aspects of rail operation from train speed to brakes needing replacment,” said IBM and MERMEC. “Building these intelligent rail networks will require a high-powered, integrated system that can collect, manage, and analyze an enormous amount of data flowing in from the field, through the trains and stations, and across the maintenance process.”

The Smart Management Platform presentation will introduce RAMSYS, a decision-support system for maintenance and renewal planning, and MAXIMO, a linear asset management system. The focus will be on safety and preventive maintenance.

“Smarter capabilities and greater insight can help prevent accidents before they happen,” said IBM and MERMEC. “Sensor-based early detection of potential equipment failures provides a more optimal predictive maintenance scheme, and various monitoring capabilities for rail infrastructure such as tracks and trains can reduce disruptions to passenger and freight service. Working on these projects demands a unique set of products, skills and services. IBM and MERMEC Group can jointly offer these skills and put the products and services into action.”

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Siemens Mobility will equip the classification yard at Maschen, Germany, the largest freight hub in Europe, with new control technology. Siemens has been awarded the order by DB Netz AG to upgrade a total of 88 classification tracks with the MSR 32 classification control system by mid-2013. The first classification tracks are due to go into service as early as August 2010. The order is worth E$18 million euros (US$27 million).

The Maschen class yard, near Hamburg, is the main hub for freight traffic of the seaports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven as well as traffic bound for Scandinavia. Cars of regional, national, and international freight trains are split and made up into new trains for the next leg of their journey. To provide for the increasing importance of freight transportation at the seaports, equipment from the 1970s is to be upgraded as part of comprehensive construction measures.

The modification of the classification yard will be carried out while normal operation continues. Siemens will be modernizing 48 classification tracks and the classification zone of the South-North (MSN) hump yard and 40 classification tracks of the North-South (MNS) hump yard. The MSR 32 control system deployed by Siemens controls radio remote control-operated locomotives,  routing of rolling stock and their speed at  master, intermediate, and group retarders and, by means of the haulage systems, makes up the cars ready for coupling in  classification tracks. The routing control sets the switches for all the cuts from the hump to the classification tracks automatically. A continuous computation of the variable hump speed and cut monitoring reduces the risk of bumping or catch-ups.

During the modernization phase, the MSR 32 system will control both the old and new classification systems.

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metra.jpg At a time when base sales tax receipts have eroded to a 10-year low, Chicago’s Metra commuter rail service has proposed a $613 million 2010 operating budget that calls for no changes in service and some revisions to its fare structure.

The proposed fare structure includes adjustments in one-way fares and the first change in the cost of weekend passes since the program began in May 1991.  One-way fares would increase about 6%, an average of about 30 cents a ticket. Weekend fares,  for unlimited rides on Saturdays and Sundays, would increase to $7 from $5. To simplify onboard fare collection, increases will be rounded to the nearest quarter, a practice common to other U.S. commuter rail operations. 

The impact of the new fare structure on regular Metra riders will be limited, since most use 10-ride tickets and monthly passes, the cost of which won't change. The new fare structure, which would start Feb. 1, 2010, “is intended to encourage customers to use 10-ride tickets and monthly passes, which already offer a discount over the one-way fares,” Metra said. Those multiple-ride options “are easier than ever to purchase,“ because Metra recently invested $3.9 million in a new website that allows riders to buy 10-ride tickets and monthly passes on line with credit and debit cards. To encourage riders to buy tickets at stations and over the Internet, Metra would increase the penalty for onboard purchases to $5 from $2. That penalty is not assessed on passengers who board at unmanned stations.

Metra says it has adopted a variety of cost-containment measures that saved about $4 million in administrative costs, including leaving about 150 positions unfilled, freezing management salaries, and asking non-union employees to contribute more toward their health insurance premiums. Metra also cited recent actions of the Illinois state legislature that increased the regional transportation sales tax last year andapproving a public works bond program earlier this year. Those provisions, Metra said, “are greatly assisting in balancing our budget and investing in our infrastructure.”

Public hearings on the proposed budget and presentations to the boards of the six counties in Metra’s service area will be held over the next few weeks. The budget also must be approved by the Regional Transportation Authority.

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IBM and MERMEC Group will jointly present a technical paper on their "Smart Management Platform for Railway Infrastructure" at The Permanent Way Summit organized in Beijing by the Ministry of Railways and the China Railway Association on October 26 the gathering will attract the attention of the local railway industry on the latest technologies available for railway infrastructure management. Several important M.O.R. executives, including Kang Gaoliang, general director of the M.O.R. Permanent Way Department, as well as the Leaders from the local Railway Bureaus and CARS will attend the Summit.

The new Chinese Railway Networks will incorporate million of sensors that will verify all aspects of rail operation from train speed to brakes needed to be replaced. Building these intelligent Rail Networks will require a high-powered, integrated system that can collect, manage and analyze an enormous amount of data flowing in from the tracks, through the trains and stations, and across the maintenance process.

The "Smart Management Platform" presentation will introduce RAMSYS, a decision-support system for maintenance and renewal planning, and MAXIMO, a linear asset management system. The focus will be on the greatest priorities of today and tomorrow for railway authorities: safety and preventive maintenance.

Smarter capabilities and greater insight can help prevent accidents before they happen. Sensor-based early detection of potential equipment failures provides a more optimal predictive maintenance scheme, and various monitoring capabilities for rail infrastructure such as tracks and trains can reduce disruptions to passenger and freight service.

Working on these projects demands a unique set of products, skills and services. IBM and MERMEC Group can jointly offer these skills and put the products and services into action, the two companies note.

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The Maschen marshaling yard at the gates of Hamburg is the main hub for freight traffic of the seaports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven as well as toward Scandinavia. Here the cars of regional, national and international freight trains are split and made up into new trains for the next leg of their journey. In order to provide for the increasing importance of freight transportation at the seaports, marshaling equipment from the seventies is to be upgraded to the state of the art as part of comprehensive construction measures.

The modification of the classification yard will be carried out while normal operation continues. Siemens will be modernizing 48 classification tracks and the classification zone of the South-North (MSN) hump yard and 40 classification tracks of the North-South (MNS) hump yard. The MSR 32 control system deployed by Siemens controls the radio-operated locomotives, the routing of rolling stock and their speed at the master, intermediate and group retarders and, by means of the haulage systems, makes up the cars ready for coupling in the classification tracks. The routing control sets the switches for all the cuts from the hump to the classification tracks fully automatically. A continuous computation of the variable hump speed and cut monitoring enables the risk of any bumping or catch-ups to be avoided.

During the modernization phase the control system from Siemens must be able to control both the old and new classification systems.

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At a time when the economy is tough and base sales tax receipts have eroded to a 10-year low, the Metra Board of Directors unveiled a $613-million operating budget that calls for no changes in commuter rail service in 2010 and some revisions to its fare structure.

Metra is grateful for the recent actions of our elected officials in Springfield, first for addressing its operating needs by increasing the regional transportation sales tax last year and then for addressing its capital needs by approving a public works bond program earlier this year. Those efforts are greatly assisting Metra in balancing its budget and investing in its infrastructure.

The new fare structure includes adjustments in one-way fares and the first change in the cost of weekend passes since the program began in 1991. But the impact of the new fare structure on regular Metra riders will be limited, since most use 10-ride tickets and monthly passes and those fares won't change."Any fare adjustment is difficult, particularly in today's economy, but we believe we are taking a responsible, targeted approach that is sensitive to the needs of our passengers," said Metra Chairman Carole R. Doris.

Metra's new fare structure, which would start Feb. 1, 2010, is intended to encourage customers to use 10-ride tickets and monthly passes, which already offer a discount over the one-way fares. Those multiple-ride options are easier than ever to purchase, because Metra recently spent $3.9 million on a new Website that allows riders to buy 10-ride tickets and monthly passes online with credit and debit cards.

To encourage riders to buy tickets at stations and over the Internet, Metra would increase the penalty for on-board purchases to $5 from $2. That penalty is not assessed on passengers who board at unmanned stations.

One-way fares would increase about six percent, an average of about 30 cents a ticket. In order to simplify on-board fare collection, the increases have been rounded to the nearest quarter, a practice common to other commuter rail operations in the United States.

Weekend fares would increase to $7 from $5. This would be the first increase in the existence of the weekend fare program, which started in May 1991. During that time, Metra has raised its general fares four times (in 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2008). Weekend passes are good for unlimited rides on both Saturday and Sunday.

The tough economy has prompted Metra to adopt a variety of cost-containment measures that saved about $4 million in administrative costs, including leaving about 150 positions unfilled, freezing management salaries and asking non-union employees to pay more for their health insurance.

Public hearings on the proposed budget and presentations to the boards of the six counties in Metra's service area will be held over the next few weeks. The budget also must be approved by the Regional Transportation Authority.

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