A refinancing agreement between the U.S. government and Amtrak will save taxpayers approximately $162 million, the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Treasury jointly announced Friday.
During the course of its 39-year existence, Amtrak has incurred a large amount of debt paid by the government through an annual appropriation to the national passenger railroad. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) permitted the Treasury Department to study ways to repay or restructure Amtrak’s debt that would save money for the taxpayer and the railroad, and to take action on its findings if this would produce substantial savings.
Friday’s announcement is based on the government’s findings. Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, the government will exercise early buyout options on 13 existing high-cost leases during the next three years. The $420 million upfront cost will save approximately $582 million in future payments, in effect saving the taxpayer approximately $162 million.
“This announcement is good for taxpayers and important for the future of rail service in America,” said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. “Refinancing these leases will save taxpayers money while continuing the President's vision of improving passenger rail service across the country at a lower cost."
“This is a great opportunity to help Amtrak and save money for the taxpayer,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (pictured at right). “These savings also represent funds that could be used to support the development of high speed rail,” he said, referring to U.S. HSR and higher speed rail (HrSR) efforts.
U.S. freight carload traffic rose 8.8% for the week ending Oct. 9, compared with the same week in 2009, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday.
Fifteen of the 19 carload commodity groups increased from the comparable week in 2009, with metallic ores posting the most significant gain, up 199.7%. Non-metallic minerals, down 18.9%, registered the largest decline for the week.
U.S. intermodal traffic rose 13.1% compared with a year ago; container volume gained 14.1%, while trailer volume rose 7.4%.
Canadian freight carload traffic rose 10.9% from last year’s levels, while intermodal advanced 15.1%. Mexican freight carload traffic rose 16.2% from the same week last year, while intermodal increased 14.9%.
Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 40 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 9.8% from the comparable period in 2009, while intermodal rose 15.1%.
AAR said it “will no longer report 2010 weekly rail traffic with comparison weekly data in 2008, since October 2008 marked the beginning o fthe recession-related downturn in rail traffic.”
CSX late Tuesday reported a third-quarter profit of $414 million, or $1.08 per share, 42.8% better than the $290 million, or 73 cents per share, it notched in the comparable 2009 quarter. It also beat Wall Street consensus estimates of $1.04 a share. Shares of CSX were up more than 4% in trading on the New York Stock Exchange late Wednesday morning, and held a 4.7% gain in mid-afternoon activity.
Third-quarter revenue rose 16% to $2.67 billion, up from last year’s third-quarter sales of $2.29 billion.
“As the economy continued to improve, CSX saw volume growth in nearly all markets while delivering another strong performance in safety, service, and productivity,” said CSX Chairman, President, and CEO Michael J. Ward (pictured at left) in a statement. “These positive financial results are enabling the company to increase investments that create competitive advantages for customers, grow the business, create jobs, and deliver shareholder value.”
CSX said it plans to increase capital investment to about $1.8 billion, up from the previously announced $1.7 billion. CSX also said it will buy back $646 million in shares by the end of the first quarter in the new fiscal year.
Calling it “breakthrough software,” GE Transportation Wednesday announced successful testing of its Trip Optimizer, which it says functions on locomotives much like an automobile’s cruise control.
Erie, Pa.-based GE Transportation, part of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co., said Trip Optimizer calculates the optimal speed profile for a trip based on a specific train’s makeup and route and then automatically controls the throttle to maintain that planned speed and save fuel. Trip Optimizer operates in two ways: automatic control or advisement mode. Automatic control maintains the planned speed automatically, while advisement mode informs the operator which throttle and dynamic braking levels to use to optimize fuel efficiency and speed.
Four major North American Class I railroads have outfitted their locomotives with Trip Optimizer and have accumulated more than five million service miles run in advisement and automatic control, according to GE Transportation. Trip Optimizer generated a fuel savings of approximately 7% and a corresponding reduction of more than 37,000 tons of carbon dioxide, or the same impact as taking more than 7,000 passenger cars off of the road or planting more than 10,000 acres of forest.
The company says Trip Optimizer is the third in a series of transportation software advances from GE. It joins GE’s LOCOTROL Distributed Power product that increases hauling capacity and reduces operating costs, and GE’s RailEdge Movement Planner that enables railroads to move more freight faster on their existing networks.
Pierre Comte, president GE Transportation Intelligent Control Systems, said, “After years of research and a considerable investment, we’re proud to reach this milestone. Trip Optimizer generates fuel saving sranging from 3% to 15% per locomotive depending on territory as measured by North American train operators. It is a significant element in the future of fuel conservation with the added benefit of reducing emissions for railroads around the world.”
R.J. Corman late Tuesday said it promoted Matt Cooper to CSX corporate account manager; Cooper will handle the account from R.J. Corman Railroad Group’s Jacksonville, Fla., office. (CSX is headquartered in Jacksonville.)
Cooper most recently was business development manager for R.J. Corman Derailment Services, LLC. He joined R.J. Corman Derailment Services in May 2001, where he has held a number of sales management positions prior to his current promotion.
Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. Tuesday announced the appointment of Hugh J. Kiley, Jr. as the company’s new general manager. Kiley succeeds Donald L. Saunders, who has been MBCR’s acting general manager since last March.
Kiley will oversee MBCR’s day-to-day operations and manage the strategic direction for the company, which provides service to more than 140,000 daily passengers who ride the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) regional rail system.
Prior to his appointment, Kiley served as assistant vice president-Operations at Norfolk Southern.
“Hugh brings forty years of railroad experience to MBCR and has coordinated service delivery at all levels of the industry, including commuter and intercity passenger service,” said James F. O’Leary, chairman ofthe MBCR Board of Directors. “Hugh will continue to build upon the company’s record of providing safe, reliable service and delivering superior customer service in Massachusetts.”
“MBCR has an impressive track record of service delivery, continual train performance improvement, and safety in its operation,” said Kiley. “I look forward to working with the leadership team and our diverse workforce to improve service even further in Greater Boston.”
Wilmerding, Pa.-based Wabtec Corp. said Tuesday it has formed a joint venture in China to manufacture transformer oil coolers, generator coolers, and related products for the power generation market. The products are expected to be sold in China and other Asian markets.
The joint venture, Hubei Dengfeng Unifin Electrical Equipment Cooling System Co., Ltd., is owned by Wabtec and Dengfeng, which has operational and marketing expertise in the Chinese power generation market.
“We continue to grow our presence in China, one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing markets for our products,” said Albert J. Neupaver, Wabtec president and chief executive officer. “This joint venture provides a way to leverage the technology and expertise of Unifin International, which we acquired in 2009.”
Several Charlottesville, Va., residents gathered at the train station Oct. 7 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the daily Lynchburg-to-Washington Amtrak train, which stops in Charlottesville.