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.
Watertown, N.Y.-based New York Air Brake (NYAB) said Mondayit has earned the International Railway Industry Standard (IRIS) Certificationfrom UNIFE, the Association of the European Rail Industry. Two NYAB facilitiesachieved certification: the company’s Watertown, N.Y., facility; and NYAB’sKingston, Ont. subsidiary, Knorr Brake Ltd.
“IRIS certification gives further recognition to the highstandard of NYAB’s comprehensive quality management system” said J. PaulMorgan, NYAB president. “IRIS is of particular importance to ourinternational customers and certification will support our internationalgrowth”.
Created by UNIFE and supported by operators, system integrators and equipmentmanufacturers, IRIS complements the internationally recognized ISO 9001 qualitystandard by introducing rail specific requirements. To become certified,companies must pass a comprehensive certification audit by approved third partyauditors.
The States For Passenger Rail Coalition is publicly questioning the recently released study, sponsored by Pew Charitable Trusts, that highlights Amtrak subsidies, pegging the average cost to the individual taxpayer at $32 per passenger trip. Subsidyscope, an arm of Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, conducted the study.
Coalition members are reiterating a common refrain heard by passenger rail advocates for decades: All forms of transportation, including highways and aviation, receive annual subsidies from the federal government.
“Why Amtrak was singled out in this study is a mystery,”Coalition Chair Frank Busalacchi, who is also Wisconsin’s secretary of transportation, said. “The fact is all forms of transportation require federal support. A national transportation system cannot exist without all modes receiving support from the federal government. The irony in this study is that it singles out passenger rail, which receives the lowest level of support.”
Pew’s study, released October 27, said the $32 figure “is four times higher than the loss of $8 per passenger, which was calculated using Amtrak’s own figures. Further, 41 of Amtrak’s 44 lines lost money, between $5 and $462 per passenger depending on the route. Amtrak received $1.3 billion in direct payments from the federal government in FY2008.”
CSX Transportation said Monday it “continues to invest intechnology to make its fleet of more than 4,000 locomotives as efficient as possible. Efficient locomotives, pulling an average of 7 million carloads of freight annually on CSXT, allow freight railroads to be the most environmentally friendly way to move goods over land.”
“Since 2000, CSXT has invested more than $1 billion intechnology to upgrade its locomotive fleet, allowing for a 90% improvement in fuel efficiency since 1980. This drastic improvement in efficiency has allowed for lower fuel consumption and fewer emissions. We continually research and invest in new technologies that are good for the environment and also meet the needs of our customers," Carl Gerhardstein, CSXT director of environmental systems, said at the "Greening of Transportation" panel discussion at the Fall 2009 Business Advisory Council Meeting hosted by Northwestern University's Transportation Center in Evanston, Ill.
CSXT says it was the first Class 1 railroad to join the EPA's Climate Leaders program, and has been recognized for its commitment to developing and implementing environmentally friendly initiatives.
Gerhardstein also addressed the National Gateway initiative, an $842 million, multistate public-private infrastructure project which will create a more efficient freight rail route between Mid-Atlantic ports and Midwestern markets. "The EPA estimates that moving freight by rail emits three times less nitrogen oxide and particulates per ton-mile than highway transportation--shifting 10% of long-haul freight from the highway to the railroad would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12 million tons," Gerhardstein said.
CSXT announced last week that it was the first transportation provider selected to join the Maryland Green Registry, a voluntary self-certification program that promotes and recognizes sustainable practices by organizations throughout that state.
London-based Freightliner Group Ltd. and GE Transportation announced Monday that Freightliner has taken delivery of the first PowerHaul locomotives—introducing what the companies describe as state-of-the-art technology to the U.K.’s rail freight market. The locomotives (pictured below) represent Erie-Pa.-based GE Transportation’s entry into the British and European marketplace.
The locomotives are designed to provide greater hauling capacity and significant improvements in fuel economy. They will undergo commissioning before entering service and complementing Freightliner’s existing fleet of more than 160 locomotives, the companies said in a joint statement.
“I am extremely proud to see the first two PowerHaul locomotives arrive in the U.K. This product is a culmination of two years of hard work and partnership with GE, in order to produce a locomotive that will increase our haulage capabilities and bring further reduction to our carbon emissions,” said Tim Shakerly, Freightliner Group Ltd. engineering director.
Brett BeGole, general manager of Global Locomotive Operations for GE Transportation, said, “We are excited today with the arrival of the first PowerHaul locomotives as this represents GE Transportation’s entry to the U.K. and European marketplace. The PowerHaul Series is GE’s most technologically advanced, fuel-efficient and low-emissions diesel-electric freight locomotive to date.”
A poll conducted for the Railway Association of Canada found that 86% of those surveyed would either “strongly” or “somewhat” support establishment of high speed rail in Canada.
The survey, conducted by Ottawa-based EKOS Research Associates, Inc., surveyed 1,647 Canadians, 16 years old and older, from Oct. 23 to Oct 28 for the poll that was released last week at a North American HSR summit organized by the association, which represents companies and stakeholders in the Canadian railroad industry. The association held the conference to raise awareness of HSR opportunities.
The poll also found that 68% of respondents said all levels of government should be involved in funding high speed rail; 29% said the federal government should provide funding by itself, while 3% said it should be solely up to provincial governments.
Railcomm Monday said CSX has placed RailComm’s DOC® Yard Automation System “into production” at its Selkirk, N.Y., facility (outside of Albany). RailComm’s Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) server-based control system provides wireless remote control from the yard tower to 48 GETS HydraSwitchTM machine locations.
The company says the DOC® System features eNtrance and eXit(NX) routing and stacked route planning capability, providing the tower operator with complete control of all routes within the yard. RailComm’s 2.4GHz RADiANTTM data radios provide a wireless communications network to link the office with the field locations, including pre-existing switch heater locations.