Officials of Austin, Tex.’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority continue to address operations issues plaguing the state capital’s MetroRail system, originally scheduled to open in late 2008, then rescheduled for a March opening, before being placed on hold indefinitely.
CMTA says it has been correcting safety concerns identified by the Federal Railroad Administration. A monthly status report, which chronicles the advancements the agency has made on the 32-mile rail line, said crews are performing what they call a system validation test.
Crews are testing the integration of the MetroRail's signaling, including signal houses, electric circuits, and train location system. Inspection crews will be testing the rail line's systems electronically and will then conduct a performance test on those same systems with one of the system's diesel light rail transit (DLRT) vehicles.
"We still have a few milestones to reach," said CMTA spokeswoman Erica McKewen. "We are kind of going through it with a fine-tooth comb." Capital Metro started its system validation process Aug.3 and has so far tested 25 of the 120 items requiring testing.
CMTA and FRA also had been at odds on the classificication of the the line, with CMTA seeking a waiver to operate DLRT equipment—six Stadler-Bussnag diesel units—under temporal separation (time-sharing) rules similar to that employed by New JerseyTransit’s RiverLINE. FRA in 2008 rejected the request, saying it would “exercise its jurisdiction over the CMTA system, as it does any commuter railroad.”
Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) said Friday it has received the first of 55 light rail vehicles for its new FasTracks fleet from Siemens Transportation Systems, which manufactured the car at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, Calif.
The new fleet will help RTD accommodate service expansion on its West Corridor, I-225 Corridor, Southeast, and Southwest extensions.
RTD said the remaining 54 cars will arrive throughout the next 18 months.
“The arrival of our first light rail vehicle for the new FasTracks fleet represents a considerable milestone,” said RTD Interim General Manager Phil Washington. “This is a visible example of our FasTracks tax dollars at work and the substantial progress being made on the FasTracks program.”
Siemens staff will inspect and test the new vehicles onsite,with the guidance of RTD staff. After that, each vehicle will undergo a 1,500-mile “burn in” period designed to ensure the safety and functionality ofthe car. During this process, the cars will be operated out-of-service throughout the existing system to test its operations.
Vietnam Railways says it will use Japanese high speed rail technology for its proposed HSR route linking Ho Chi Minh City with Hanoi, the capital. Vietnam may seek funds from Japan’s official development assistance program, as well as from the Asia Development Bank and the World Bank, to advance the project.
Work on the $56 billion, 1,560-kilometer (967-mile) line is scheduled to begin in 2020, and would be standard gauge, as opposed to the narrow gauge (1,000 mm, or 3feet, 3/8-inches) rail line currently linking the two cities.
The announcement by Vietnam Railways, made August 17, prompted gains in shares of several Japanese companies on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, including Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo, and Nippon Sharyo.
U.S. Class I railroads employed 150,400 workers in mid-July, 786 more than they employed in mid-June. The 0.53% month-over-month increase was welcome news after a long decline, but the numbers were still 8.65% below July 2008.The biggest numerical increase in July compared with the prior month was in the transportation (train and engine—or operating crew) category, where employment rose 2.49%.Two other groups also showed month-over-month increases—professional and administrative, up 4.26%, and maintenance of way and structures, up 0.14%.Only one group showed an increase over July 2008 — professional and administrative, up 0.61%. Declines were registered in the categories of executives, officials, and staff assistants, down 6.84%; maintenance of way and structures, down 1.07%; maintenance of equipment and stores, down 6.08%; transportation (other than train and engine), down 1.62%; and transportation (train and engine), down 16.60%.
Patriot Rail Corp. and the City of Temple, Tex., announced that Patriot’s new subsidiary, Temple & Central Texas Railway ,has been awarded an exclusive long-term license agreement to provide rail switching and related services to customers at Central Pointe Rail Park.
The 3,000-acre industrial park is owned by the City of Temple, and has more than 50 tenants. The facility has approximately 10 miles of rail line currently serving four customers. Temple & Central will interchange traffic with BNSF and expects to move more than 6,000 carloads in its first year of operation.
Canada’s commissioner of official languages has launched two investigations into allegations VIA Rail Canada staff did not offer emergency instructions in French to 334 passengers who had to be evacuated from a train August 17.
Some passengers, including a journalist, reported emergency instructions were given only in English to passengers on board a train bound for Ottawa, the nation’s capital. Others, however, dispute this.
Member of Parliament Richard Nadeau said he would raise the issue with a House of Commons’ committee when Parliament resumes this fall.
Catherine Kaloutsky, a VIA Rail spokeswoman, said the company “is not disputing” that some customers heard messages only in English. But, she said, there are reports other customers heard messages in French and in English. Staff on board spoke French and VIA has only hired bilingual front-lineworkers since 1985, she said.
Moreover, Anne Marie Harbec, a passenger on board the train, said she witnessed VIA Rail employees giving instructions in French. “They went above and beyond, I certainly have a lot of praise for how they handled it,” Harbec said. She added that some firefighters or fellow passengers who volunteered to help with the evacuation effort may have been unilingual, “but I don’t think VIA can do anything about that.”
Notwithstanding such observations, VIA Rail has issued an official apology and said it was launching its own investigation, saying it is interviewing the staff on board and reviewing its emergency response, including why messages from its megaphone weren’t clear.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index rallied 4.5% Thursday, prompting other Asian markets, their Europe counterparts, and Wall Street to follow suit in similar fashion. While the rally on Wall Street was attributed to several contributing factors, including expansion in U.S. regional manufacturing, some analysts cite China’s continued strong investment in rail infrastructure as abullish factor affecting markets worldwide.
Before Thursday's advance, the Shanghai index was down more than 20% from its early August peak, officially putting it into bear market territory and making global investors nervous.
But China’s Ministry of Railways says its investment for the first seven months of 2009 is up 110% compared with the comparable period of ayear ago. China previously had noted its commitment to invest 700 billion yuan (roughly $100 billion) per year in each of the next three years on rail infrastructure, to promote economic growth and ease transport bottlenecks. It hopes to have upgraded or put in place 86,000 kilometers (53,320 miles) of rail by year’s end, expanding to 110,000 kilometers (68,200 miles) by 2012.
The 700 billion yuan commitment to rail infrastructure expansion and upgrading represents roughly 17.5% of China’s overall stimulus package of 4 trillion yuan.
U.S. railroad carloadings are registering incremental gains but remain down year over year for the week ended Aug. 15, 2009, the Association of American Railroads reported Thursday. Traffic added up to 276,488 cars, down 17.1% from the corresponding week in 2008.
Intermodal volume of 193,488 trailers or containers was down 18.4%. Container volume fell 13.1% and trailer volume was down 38.6 %. Total U.S. volume for the latest week was estimated at 29.5 billion ton-miles, down 16.7% from last year.
All 19 carload commodity groups were down, with declines ranging from 0.9% for farm products not including grain to 51% for metals and metal products.
For the first 32 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 8,436,160 carloads, down 18.9% from 2008; 5,958,304 trailers or containers, down 17.2%; and total volume estimated at 897.8 billion ton-miles, down 18%.
Canadian railroads reported 62,796 carloadings for the week, down 21.7% from last year, and 42,828 trailers or containers, off 16.7%. For the first 32 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads originated 1,909,206 carloads, down 23.8% up from 2008, and 1,286,117 trailers or containers, off 16.3%.
Mexican railroads originated 12,039 carloads of traffic, down 10.6% from the same week last year, and 5,803 trailers or containers, down 15%. Cumulative volume for the first 32 weeks of 2009 was 3635,192 carloads, down 15.2%, and 156,543 trailers or containers, off 21.2%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 32 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 10,708,558 carloads, down 19.7% from last year, and 7,400,964 trailers and containers, down 17.1% from last year.
BNSF Railway says it has created 23 new intermodal services so far this year and has improved transit times on 45 lanes. "These enhancements were developed in direct response to feedback solicited from customers, BNSF said in a service report Thursday.
BNSF claims its intermodal service is approximately 28% faster than that of any other carrier. Ontime performance exceeds 94%.
"We are committed to being the first and best choice for intermodal transport and can only do that by continually making service improvements based on customer needs," said Steve Branscum, group vice president, Consumer Products. "Opening new markets, increasing velocity, and working closely with our customers are just a few of the reasons why BNSF is the largest intermodal carrier in North America."
To allow shippers to see exactly how its intermodal services will move their product through the supply chain, BNSF has created an online Intermodal Transit Advisor that provides information on routes, cutoff and availability times, transit time, and miles between origin and destination. An Intermodal Savings Estimator analyzes route information and shows cost savings of intermodal vs. highway shipping.