As business starts to return to the railroads, more freight cars and locomotives are being put back to work, though the size of the stored fleet remains too large for comfort.
Norfolk Southern's executive vice president and chief operating officer, Mark Manion, told analysts in a conference call Tuesday that while "a significant potion of our fleet remains in storage due to continued weak volume levels ... we have reduced the number of cars stored from the peak of over 35,000 cars in July to over 22,000 cars at the end of September."
Manion said the railroad has reduced the number of locomotives stored from 700 in May to about 350.
Groupe Eurotunnel SA may bid for the high speed trainline running from the Channel Tunnel to London, Chief Executive Officer Jacques Gounon said in a radio interview on France’s BFM radio station.
Groupe Eurotunnel is in discussions with possible financial partners for a bid for a long-term concession to operate the rail line, Gounon said. The cost of the concession is estimated to be $2.5 billion, and possibly 30% higher.
Paris-based Groupe Eurotunnel holds the concession to operate Channel Tunnel, as well as terminals in Folkestone in the United Kingdom and Coquelles in France, and railcars that transport cars and trucks.
Sponsors of “Joint Rail Conference-2010: High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail” have issued a call for papers for presentation at the event, April 27-29, 2010, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Ill. Abstracts for such papers are sought by Saturday, Nov. 14.
JRC 2010 is a cooperative effort of ASME, IEEE, ASCE, AREMA and TRB. JRC 2010 Chair Chris Barkan, professor of Railway Engineering at the university, says the event will be the principal, multi-disciplinary, North American conference focused on rail transportation for the year.
Papers and presentations are being solicited on various aspects of railroad civil, mechanical, electrical, and systems engineering, as well as rail safety, planning, design, financing, operations, and management. JRC 2010 will encompass issues involving both freight and passenger rail, but the conference theme will be HSR and other forms of developing intercity passenger rail.
Though any topic can qualify for submission, the conference is encouraging papers on some specific topics, including: railroad infrastructure engineering; rail equipment engineering; HSR experience and development; shared corridors; planning, management, and operation; and safety, security, and environment.
Abstracts, due Nov. 14, should be submitted to JRC 2010 at http://ict.illinois.edu/railroad/JRC/callforpapers-jrc.asp.
Another New York Metropolitan Area transit agency has embarked on resignaling its rail rapid transit system with CBTC (communications-based train control), with Siemens as the prime supplier.
Norfolk Southern reported Tuesday third-quarter net income of $303 million, or 81 cents per diluted share, down almost 42% from $520 million, or $1.37 per diluted share, in the comparable third quarter of 2008. Revenue of $2.1 billion fell 29% from year-ago levels, which NS attributed primarily to a 20% falloff in traffic volume and fuel-related revenue. However, NS’s railway operating expenses for the quarter were $1.5 billion, a decrease of 25% over the same period of 2008. Its railway operating ratio was 72.8%, compared with 69.1% during the third quarter of 2008.
“While our third-quarter results reflect the continuing weak economy, they also show Norfolk Southern's resilience and the strength of our franchise," said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman. “By controlling costs and maintaining service levels, we are managing through this economic downturn and will emerge an even stronger company.”
NS’s results drew positive comments from some Wall Street analysts. “NS’s favorable outlook with respect to key pillars of our Attractive Industry View is likely to stabilize and support rail shares,” said Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc.'s William Greene, Adam Longson, and John Godyn. “In contrast to the relatively less favorable outlook issued by the Western rails, NS management commentary was positive on both pricing and volume trends in addition to expected productivity gains.”
In early afternoon trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, shares of Norfolk Southern were up roughly $1.00, or more than 2%.
Canadian Pacific Railway earned a third-quarter profit of $195 million, up 14% from 2008, the railroad announced Tuesday. Diluted earnings per share were $1.16, an increase of 5% (All figures are in Canadian dollars.)
CP said foreign exchange gains and losses on long-term debt and other after-tax items, including the sale of two large properties, had an impact on earnings of $0.31. Excluding these items, adjusted diluted earnings per share were $0.85, handily beating the Wall Street consensus estimate of 78 cents.
“We delivered strong cost control and tight resource management this quarter while traffic volumes remained under pressure,” said Fred Green, President and CEO. “We are continuing to refine and optimize our business processes to further drive structural cost improvements. This increases our flexibility and positions us well to respond to changes in volumes as the economy begins to recover.”
Said Dahlman Rose & Co. Director-Equity Research and Railway Age Contributing Editor Jason Seidl, “Canadian Pacific has demonstrated an ability to keep costs down and improve operating efficiencies. While it seems unlikely that a significant upturn in volumes will follow the ongoing stabilization in the near term, CP is well positioned to further improve its bottom line results by continuing its cost control and service enhancement strategies.”
CP said that in the third quarter and the first nine months of 2009, the results of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern are consolidated with CP’s results; however, for the same periods in 2008 DM&E earnings were reported as equity income on one line of the income statement. In order to aid in the evaluation of the underlying earnings trends, 2008 results have also been presented on a pro forma basis, which is a non-GAAP measure. Financial data presented on a pro forma basis, redistributes DM&E’s operating results from an equity income basis of accounting to a line-by-line consolidation of DM&E revenues and expenses.
Maryland Transit Administration Police plan to begin aprogram of random security checks at MARC train stations this Friday, usingbomb-sniffing dogs to screen passengers' luggage and packages to detectexplosives. Administration officials warned riders that delays could occur andurged passengers to allow extra time to board trains on the MARC’s Penn, Camden,and Brunswick lines.
Lt. Col. John E. Gavrilis, chief of the MTA police, said thetighter security was not a response to a specific threat but part of a generaleffort to "target-harden" Maryland transit facilities. The effortcould be extended to Baltimore’s Metro and light rail stations in the future. Gavrilis said the MTAhas been working with the federal Transportation Security Administration todesign the program and noted the agency has received a federal grant to hirepersonnel and to purchase equipment needed for the screenings.
Screenings could involve luggage, packages, or othercarry-on items. Police will rotate the random screenings among the variousstations in the MARC system.
One day after regional competitor Norfolk Southern heralded a joint effort with Union Pacific, CSX announced its own coordinated effort with UP, dubbed “RailChem Connect,” designed to coordinate and expedite chemical transport within the Texas Gulf Coast region and the Southeast.
RailChem Connect aims to allow shipments to bypass smaller rail yards for expedited transit between major hubs, the railroads said. “These changes, along with increased operations coordination between the railroads,increase reliability of east- and west-bound service between Union Pacific-served chemical markets such as Houston, southern Texas, and Louisiana, and CSXT-served consumption markets in the southeastern states.”
Besides striving for more consistent and speedier transit time, RailChem Connect also will offer both railroads faster equipment turns and a shorter route than previously available for chemical shipments in the service region, the railroads said. CSX and UP said such improvements are in addition to gains already made, including reduction of transit time “between major markets by 25% in the last three years while improving consistency by 23%.”
"Our teams are coordinating efforts to focus on animproved service product for chemicals customers by reducing transit times and tightening the variability in our delivery, significantly improving reliability for customers," said Diane Duren, vice president and general manager of Chemicals for Union Pacific.
"In addition to the inherent safety and environmental advantages that rail offers shippers, RailChem Connect creates advantages for Union Pacific and CSXT customers that allow them to derive even more value from rail," said Dean Piacente, CSXT vice president-Chemicals & Fertilizer. "The increased coordination between our railroads results in improved transit and consistency, which translates into enhanced supply chain efficiency, a more balanced cycle for private rail equipment, and bottom-line cost savings for our customers."
Brookville Equipment Corp. said late Monday locomotive BMEX259 went into “immediate service” at short line Central California Traction Co.’s Port of Stockton (Calif). operations, "working its three diesel GENSETS and powerful regenerative brakes," with both the manufacturer and the railroad claiming significant results that exceeded expectations.
CCTC General Manager Dave Buccolo says he noted a 43% fuel savings over the railroad’s current fleet of SW1500s. “On the CCTC Lodi Line,” he said, “the BMEX 259 achieved a 49% fuel savings over one of the lines where GP1800 locomotives handle the daily train duties and car counts on the main line at 25 mph.” He added, “CCTC saw the locomotive’s dynamic braking system added to the fuel and brake shoe wear savings.”
Brookville says the locomotive’s “Power on Demand” feature employs a microprocessor to sense when additional engines are needed for power and automatically restarts the engine or engines required, reducing engine exhaust emissions by at least 51% over a single-engine application.
CCTC's Buccolo also said Brookville’s traction and engine control system (TECU) provided tractive effort that allowed the short line to increase the number of cars hauled per trip. He said substituting the CoGeneration locomotive into a standard CCTC train consist allowed the railroad to pull “4,700 tons out of a dead start up a 2.2% grade for 2,900 feet to a speed of 10 mph,” faster than with the railroad’s current multiple-unit consists.