New Jersey Transit said Tuesday it will advance a “cost-effective” maintenance program instead of overhauling its diesel locomotive fleet, authorizing $3.4 million (plus a 5% contingency) to a program to detect problems using customized diagnostic tools, and tapping an Alstom subsidiary for the task.
NJT in 2008 entered into a contract with Alstom Transportation Inc. Train Line Services (TLS), based in Naperville, Ill., to develop technical specifications for overhauling GP-40 and F-40 series locomotives, “and to develop and implement a formal Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) program for the entire diesel locomotive fleet, which includes the Alstom-manufactured PL42AC.”
NJT committed $3.5 million to this task, with the $3.4 million approved Tuesday bringing its overall authorization to roughly $6.9 million. NJT says its fleet includes 105 PL42AC, GP040, and F-40 series locomotives, many of them more than 20 years old.
Alstom/TLS performed “a teardown and re-build of two NJ Transit locomotives” to evaluate the fleet’s condition and determined that “complete overhauls of the diesel fleet are not necessary,” NJT said in an agenda statement Tuesday. In response, NJT approved a contract amendment authorizing Alstom/TLS “to extend support services for a period of one year in order to give NJ Transit staff the necessary time to prepare a Request for Proposal fo ra three-year Condition-Based Maintenance program, while allowing the current program to continue uninterrupted.”
Said Rich Sarles, NJ Transit’s executive director, “You can address the problem before you have a breakdown” under the new program. Full rehabilitation could cost the agency about $3 million per locomotive, Sarles said. NJT expects to fund the program through the state’s Transportation Trust Fund.
A majority of Montgomery County Council officials in Maryland Tuesday endorsed a second light rail transit proposal for the Corridor Cities Transitway from Shady Grove to Clarksburg, opting for LRT over a Bus Rapid Transit alternative.
The LRT plan is part of a transportation package to improve transport flow along I-270 in the county, which lies northwest of Washington, D.C. It includes widening the Interstate north of Route 124 from its current three-lane capacity in each direction.
Still unclear is what Maryland state officials will do to support or thwart the county’s endorsement of LRT. The LRT component of the the Corridor Cities Transitway would have to compete for federal funding with two other proposals: the Metrorail Purple Line, linking Bethesda and New Carrollton, in neighboring Prince George's County, in a circumferential route connecting with Washington’s Metro rapid rail system, and the Baltimore east-west Red Line.
The council’s support of LRT put it in synch with other local officials, including County Executive Isiah Leggett, and also with many local business leaders, who see more potential from economic developmentthrough an LRT alternative.
Still, the council’s support for LRT may be lukewarm; several supporters of light rail on the council said Tuesday that if state officials chose bus rapid transit for the Corridor Cities Transitway, they would not vigorously protest.
Grassroots support for LRT may be a decisive factor; council staff had recommended BRT as “cheaper” (a point contested by numerous LRT advocates nationwide), but some council members said they feared a political uproar in northern Montgomery if they backed bus over rail.
"I have not had a lot of conversation with folks who want to get on a bus, no matter what you call it, whether it is a pretty bus or not," said one member, Michael Knapp. He said his constituents expect light rail.
Plans by Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. to purchase BNSF Corp. in its entirety have spurred a rally among Chinese rail-related stocks, including transportation and construction firms. A number of companies have benefited from the rally, including Daqin Railway Co., China Railway Tielong Container Logistics, Guangshen Railway, and Good Hand Railway. Railway construction companies such as China Railway Construction Corp. (CRCC), China Railway Group, and China Railway Erju Co. also have seen their stock prices rise.
Revenue at these railway construction firms has been growing steadily thanks to the massive stimulus allocated to the infrastructure sector by the government. CRCC's orders surged by 80% in the third quarter and its revenue has been forecast to grow by 21.5% this year, according to a research note by Guosen Securities.
U.S. firms hope to capitalize on the vote of confidence, as well. Earlier this week, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Trimble Navigation, Ltd. and the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co. (CREEC) announced a definitive agreement to form a 50-50 joint venture in China. The joint venture will be based in Chengdu, China, where CREEC is headquartered. The deal still requires regulatory approval from the Chinese government.
Despite the encouraging signs, industry analysts said that the fundamentals did not fully justify a rally. Said Qiu Bo, an industry analyst at Guosen Securities, "The next two years will only see mild growth in railway construction."
The United Transportation Union says it has asked a federal district court in East St. Louis, Ill., to rule--"yet again"--that the UTU has no obligation to bargain nationally over crew consist.
"That same federal district court so ruled on March 10, 2006, after the railroads' bargaining agent, the National Carriers' Conference Committee, demanded that the UTU negotiate, at the national level, that crew size be reduced," says the union. "The carriers had sought, during the 2005 round of negotiations, to eliminate conductor and brakemen positions on through freight trains."
At that time the court accepted UTU's contention that "existing agreements relating to minimum train crew size are negotiated on a railroad-by-railroad basis through UTU general committees of adjustment, and any attempt by the carriers to change those agreements must be handled at the general committee level and not in so-called national handling where the major railroads coordinate their bargaining through the NCCC."
In its new petition to the same court, UTU notes that "in serving on the UTU their latest intended amendments to agreementsaffecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions, the NCCC on Nov. 2 said it wants to '[e]xplore opportunities for mutually beneficial alternatives to existing staffing models that enhance safety and productivity, fairly address employee interests and concerns, and recognize the unique opportunities still available to the parties to negotiate meaningful changes.'"
CN has announced that Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing James M. Foote has decided to leave the company after 14 years of service.
"Jim has been a key player at CN since the company's privatization," said President and CEO E. Hunter Harrison. "Since 2000, Jim has been responsible for the strategic direction and leadership of the Company's Sales and Marketing group and made tremendous contributions to CN over the years."
The CN announcement Monday said that Jean-Jacques Ruest, senior vice-president, Marketing, and Stan Jablonski, senior vice-president, Sales, as well as the Sales and Marketing organization as a whole, will report directly to the Hunter Harrison until year-end, following which they will report to incoming CEO Claude Mongeau.
A report compiled by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority staff recommends light rail transit over Bus Rapid Transit for an 8.5-mile route through South Los Angeles.
The recommendation, hailed by some South LA leaders, must still be approved by LACMTA’s planning and programming committee, as well as by the agency’s board of directors.
As LRT, from north to south, the $1.7 billion project (marked by the dark orange dashed line on the map at left) would begin at the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards, offering connections to the Expo Line (black dashed line), currently under construction. It would proceed down Crenshaw Boulevard, southwest through Inglewood, and south to a stop near Los Angeles International Airport and a connection with the existing Green Line (at bottom of map).
About 2.5 miles of the project is proposed as a subway,including a section that would run underneath Leimert Park, said Metro Project Manager Roderick Diaz.
"We do consider it a victory," said Trevor Ware, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Urban League, referring to the choice of LRT. "Look at the transportation options that we have now. We have buses on Crenshaw and we see other neighborhoods that are developing other types of transportation options.”
Two U.S. senators Monday said an investigation of safety lapses attributed to Washington Metro was required after a newspaper reported subway officials had barred independent monitors from live tracks.
Washington Metro Board Chairman Jim Graham acknowledged Monday that the transit agency's safety chief was "out of order" when she denied access to the monitors. "The safety monitors have got to be given the chance to monitor," Graham said. “We're going to fix this."
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) called on U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to investigate Metro's treatment of theTri-State Oversight Committee, the regional body that oversees safety at Metro. "Time after time after time, we hear about safety practices at Metro that give us pause," said Mikulski, who is a member of the Subcomittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies, which oversees transit funding.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) also weighed in, saying, "This is a case study on how the current patchwork of state safety organizations are failing our nation's commuters. The Banking Committee is pursuing stronger federal transit safety oversight, and I will be chairing a hearing on this very topic in the coming weeks. There needs to be a change before more people are killed in another preventable rail disaster."
Efforts to monitor the Metro’s safety have intensified following the train collision last June on the Red Line north of Fort Totten Station, which killed nine, as well as two subsequent incidents, each of which killed a Metro employee working on the tracks.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Trimble Navigation, Ltd. and the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co. (CREEC) have signed a definitive agreement to form a 50-50 joint venture in China. The joint venture will be based in Chengdu, China, where CREEC is headquartered. The deal still requires regulatory approval from the Chinese government.
The companies said the joint venture will leverage Trimble's commercial positioning, communications, and software technologies and CREEC's expertise in rail design and construction to develop and provide digital railway products and services that address the design, construction, and maintenance needs of the Chinese railway industry.
"The next stage of China's railway development will embrace digital solutions, which require higher standards in survey, design, and construction and creates new opportunities at the same time. Thus, the cooperation between the two parties is in line with the long-term development strategy under such prospects," said Qi Baorui, chairman of CREEC.
"We are extremely pleased to be partnering with CREEC, a world leader in railway design and management," said Steven W. Berglund,Trimble president and CEO. "With China's rate of economic development and modernization, infrastructure projects in the area of transportation are national priorities. By leveraging our respective capabilities, we believe the joint venture will create innovative digital solutions that will increase efficiency and productivity for the railway industry."
Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. disclosed in documents filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it will sell all of the shares it holds in Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern prior to completing its planned acquisition of BNSF Railway.
Berkshire will dispose of 9.6 million shares of Union Pacific and 1.9 million shares of Norfolk Southern.
Berkshire, which already owns 22.6% of BNSF's stock, announced last week that it plans to acquire the rest for $100 a share in a deal worth a total of $44 billion, including assumption of debt. Two years ago, Berkshire began to sell some of its NS and UP stock as it increased its stake in BNSF.