Washington, D.C.’s District Council is considering a plan to circumvent a federal law banning overhead wires to power streetcars in the city’s historic district, which would enable the city to re-establish streetcars on H Street in the city’s Northeast quadrant, to be powered by catenary wire.
A bill sponsored by Councilman Tommy Wells would repeal a pair of 120-year-old laws to allow overhead wires to be used in an area bounded by Florida Avenue to the north, Georgetown to the west and the Anacostia River. The prohibitions would be re-established under the D.C. Code, with an exception for streetcar lines on H Street.
Other historic neighborhoods, such as Georgetown (northwest Washington) and Capitol Hill, would retain a ban on overhead wires. Such a move is largely tactical; Georgetown, a well-to-do portion of the city, traditionally is resistant to any rail transit plans, and defeated plans to have the Metro system serve the neighborhood when construction was under way during the 1970s.
The Wells bill also sets a precursor for additional streetcar routes using overhead wire, after a proposed 37-mile citywide streetcar plan is approved, “for the use of aerial wires for the additional streetcar lines and routes, with special attention paid to the view corridors of the federal monumental core.”
Wells says that repealing federal law is within the council's right, citing “legal analysis by several distinguished attorneys,” including the D.C. Office of the Attorney General. But both the National Park Service and the National Capital Planning Commission have specifically opposed the use of overhead wires in older and historic areas of the nation’s capital.
Still, Wells' bill was co-introduced by 12 of 13 council members, suggesting that at the local level, support for the change is substantial. “I believe the council has ample authority to act in this fashion,” said Councilman Jim Graham.
The Finance For Business North East Technology Fund (The North East Technology Fund) said Thursday it had invested £750,000 (about $1.01 million) into Newcastle, England-based Nomad Digital Ltd., which offers on-board IP connectivity services to the rail industry.
The Fund said the investment is being provided by way of venture debt and forms part of a £1.25 million ($1.8 million) financing deal for Nomad Digital, with the balance of £500,000 being committed by Northstar Ventures from the Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund.
Nomad Chief Financial Director Bimal Shah, in a statement, said, “We are pleased to be welcoming the North East Technology Fund as investors at an exciting phase in Nomad’s expansion and have enjoyed working with the IP Group during the investment process.”
Canadian federal authorities are considering new penalties for railroads convicted of breaking safety rules, including identifying a specific railway employee for possible incarceration if a railroad is found guilty of violating the law.
Minister of State for Transport Rob Merrifield announced Tuesday the new legislation will include protections for whistleblowers and greater financial and legal penalties for violations. The changes would designate one railway executive legally responsible for safety, and the minister suggested the person could possibly face jail time if rules were broken.
“What we're really wanting to do is to make sure that they have a culture of safety within the company and if you are saying there's one person deemed to have that responsibility there's a lot more chance that's actually going to happen,” Merrifield said.
Merrifield declined to divulge additional details prior to the bill’s consideration, expected to occur later this week in Ottawa. But he suggested that violators have suffered few penalties in the past. “All of these will be addressed in the bill," he said. "I believe even the rail companies will support it, reluctantly perhaps, but I believe they will.”
The recommended changes are prompted by two separate reviews onrailway safety, completed in 2008. One advisory panel report made 56 recommendations to improve safety, while a Commons committee report made another 14 recommendations. The studies were launched after rail accidents resulted in fatalities in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec.
Bombardier, Inc. reported Tuesday that its rail segment booked new orders valued at $2.9 billion in the quarter ended April 30, up sharply from the $1.2 billion in orders for the same period last year.
Bombardier said revenue generated by the rail segment revenue was flat at $2.3 billion in the quarter.
The company also said the market for its business jets was beginning to strengthen, with cancellations down. Bombardier's commercial aircraft division received its first U.S. order for the new narrowbody C-Series aircraft, its first venture in the 100-150 seat market.
Bombardier reported net income of $153 million for its first fiscal quarter, or 8 cents a share, down from $158 million, or 9 cents a share, a year ago. This topped analysts' expectations of 7 cents. Corporate revenue fell 7% to $4.25 billion.
Bombardier shares were up 4.35% at the opening of the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
ALK Technologies, Inc. Wednesday announced the release of PC*MILER 24, offering routing, mileage, and mapping guidance. Users now have access to a Least Cost Routing feature to generate optimal routes based on custom fuel efficiency settings, operating cost settings, and other corporate priorities. Also included is a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions estimator to factor in carbon footprint calculations.
PC*MILER 24, applicable to trucking needs, also can consider rail intermodal routes for comparison of truck and intermodal mileage, fuel consumption, and carbon emissions. Updated points of interest in PC*MILER 24 can display small, medium, and large intermodal ramps throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as LCV/Tandem Trailer lots. The Intermodal Analysis feature within PC*MILER|Spreadsheets connects PC*MILER's highway and rail products.
PC*MILER can generate mileage and directions based on a vehicle's height, length, width, and weight.
“ALK is pleased to offer accurate, least-cost routing based on real world, customer-specific factors,” said Kara Jo Witkowski, senior product manager, PC*MILER Solutions. “PC*MILER 24 enables carriers, shippers, and 3PLs to make intelligent routing decisions on the highway or across transportation modes based on overall efficiency and company policy.”
PC*MILER runs on Microsoft Windows, UNIX, and Linux platforms as well as IBM AS/400, iSeries and System i
midrange and mainframe computers.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH), New Jersey Transit, and MasterCard Worldwide announced Tuesday the launch of a six-month pilot program in which MasterCard PayPass will be accepted for fare payments on select train and busroutes throughout New York City and New Jersey. The goal is to enable riders ofthe three transit systems to purchase fares and transfer between transit systems simply by tapping a single type of contactless credit or debit card or device.
The trial, which began Monday and runs through November 30, 2010, is the first payment system to link the transit agencies, MasterCard said. Prior to this, riders on both PATH and MTA New York City Transit could use MetroCard fare media; NJ Transit does not accept that option.
The trial is limited to only portions of the service area. Some bus and train routes across New York City and New Jersey will be participating in the trial, including subway locations on the Lexington Avenue train line (4,5,6) from 138th Street in theBronx through Borough Hall in Brooklyn, eight MTA bus routes (M14, M23, M79 ,M86, M101, M102, M103, and BXM7), 11 PATH stations (excluding only the Christopher and 9th Street stations), and three NJ Transit bus routes (6, 80, and 87).
Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm said Tuesday it has been selectedto provide a wireless remote control derail system at Amtrak’s Maintenance Facility in Los Angeles.
Two customized Local Control Panels, located within the maintenance building, will provide wireless remote control to the derails. The panels include a keypad for advanced security and logging. The user is required to input a unique pass-code (PIN #) to operate the derail machines. All control panel operations are recorded and stored on a wirelessly linked PC workstation.
The data entries contain the name and trade of the operator, the nature of the operation, and the date and time. The workstation allows supervisors, managers, and other authorized personnel to review the operation logs and manage the system security.
While most measures of railroad safety are solidly positive, the latest fatality figures tell a slightly different story. Statistics for January through March this year show 153 deaths from all causes, up 6.3% from the same period in 2009 though flat with 2008 and down 14.3% from 2007.
The biggest increase was in highway-rail grade crossing deaths. This year’s 61 fatalities were up 19.6% from 2009 though down 23.8% from 2007’s 80. Trespasser deaths declined 1.2% to 85.
Rail fatalities this year include five blamed on train accidents compared with none in the two prior years and two in 2007.
There were six employee deaths in the first three months of 2010, compared with seven last year, six in 2008, and four in 2007.
A total of 723 reporting railroads counted 2,670 accidents and incidents in January-March 2010, up 2.2% from last year.
Rail accidents declined 6.8% to 47; collisions were down 38.1% to 261, and derailments were down 2.3% to 344.
Track causes were held responsible for 165 accidents, up 6.5% from last year; human factors for 146, down 12.6%; signal causes for 11, down 31.3%; and miscellaneous causes for 94, up 13.3%. Yard accidents, at 254, were flat with last year in this year’s first three months, though down 28.7% from 2009.
Progress Rail Services Tuesday said it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. (EMD) for $820 million in cash from Berkshire Partners LLC and Greenbriar Equity Group LLC.
Upon completion of the transaction, La Grange, Ill.-based EMD, once part of the vast General Motors empire, would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Albertville, Ala.-based Progress Rail, itself wholly owned by Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc.
The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the year, pending final regulatory approvals. EMD will remain headquartered in LaGrange, Ill. John Hamilton will continue as president and CEO of EMD and will report to Progress Rail CEO Billy Ainsworth.
“This acquisition represents the latest step in our strategic plan to aggressively grow our presence in the global rail industry,” said Caterpillar Vice Chairman and CEO-Elect Doug Oberhelman. “Including today’s announcement and our acquisition of Progress Rail, Caterpillar has invested about $2 billion since 2006 to grow our profitable rail and transit businesses. Rail has proven to be a highly efficient and sustainable method for moving freight and people, and we see a positive long-term future for the continued growth of the rail industry.”
Said Progress Rail CEO Ainsworth, “The acquisition of EMD will enable us to provide rail and transit customers an industry-leading range of locomotive, engine, and emissions solutions, as well as unmatched aftermarket product and parts support and a full line of rail-related services and solutions.”
“We feel this is an ideal fit for EMD and our customers and we look forward to developing and providing an even greater portfolio of products and services for the rail and transit industry that we have proudly served for more than 85 years,” said EMD’s Hamilton.
“We are very proud to have had the opportunity to partner with EMD’s management in rebuilding this rail industry icon,” said Regg Jones, managing partner of Greenbriar. “Having redirected the company’s strategy and restored EMD back to strong operating and financial footing, we are confident EMD will continue its growth and success with Progress Rail.”
Richard Lubin, managing director of Berkshire Partners, added, “Our objectives coming in were to transition EMD to a strong, independent company focused on its customers, invest in EMD’s technology and capabilities, and drive operational improvement. We are delighted Progress Rail will be the new owner of this business.”
Caltrain officials say the Federal Railroad Administration has granted a waiver allowing operation of electric multiple-unit (EMU) passenger rail equipment built to European standards in mixed traffic.
The waiver, deemed by Caltrain to be critical to its electrification and modernization program, relies heavily on installation of Positive Train Control along Caltrain’s 55-mile San Jose-to San Francisco route. Without the waiver, Caltrain says it would be unable to complete its $1.5 billion project to electrify its route, which is linked to the Golden State’s 700-mile, $44 billion high speed rail plan.
Though the waiver allows EMU and diesel-hauled passenger equipment to operate concurrently, freight operations remain subject to temporal (time-of-day) separation along the route.
“People thought they could only get this level of service by having BART. This out-BARTs BART,” said Bob Doty, head of the joint Caltrain-high speed rail program. “This tiny little streak of rust out here will be the first in the United States to allow mixed operations of service.”
In a statement, FRA said “collision avoidance … is the first line of defense in assuring passenger rail safety, and that collision management, achieved through the operation of vehicles designed with CEM [crash energy management], is the second line of defense that effectively reduces the severity of an incident, should it occur.”
Supporters of California’s HSR project note that California must apply for a similar waiver from FRA for the statewide project, but since Caltrain has established a guideline, such a waiver might be more easily attained.
FRA says it will revoke the waiver if Caltrain fails to meet various criteria in implementing its plan. Caltrain must conduct crash tests after its new equipment is built, and must construct rail bridges at several intersections, as well as install PTC.
Doty said that in testing to date, EMUs passed each safety test laid out by the FRA, which had never tested its assumption that the European cars were less safe. “In every case, the equipment we wanted to bring in was equal to or better than what’s running in the United States today,” he said.