Latest News Continued

New Mexico's Rail Runner Express, next week will begin serving a new station Kewa Pueblo Station, located on tribal land between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M.

Augusta Meyers of the Mid-Region Council of Governments said passengers will see only small changes in the Rail Runner's operating schedule when the station opens.  The new station is the 12 on the growing system, which runs approximately 100 miles between Santa Fe and Belen, N.M.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the station is set to occur March 23. The station will offer free parking and about 40 spaces.

RailRunner began operations in July 2006, and service was extended to Santa Fe in December 2008. 

--> New Mexico's Rail Runner Express, next week will begin serving a new station Kewa Pueblo Station, located on tribal land between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M.Augusta Meyers of the Mid-Region Council of Governments said passengers wil ...

Pittsburgh-based Portec Rail Products Inc. said its fourth-quarter earnings fell 5%, as a tax gain and cost-cutting efforts partially offset a steep decline in sales.

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Portec earned $1.4 million, or 15 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2009, compared with $1.5 million, or 16 cents per share, in the comparable period a year ago. The most recent quarter included a tax gain of 2 cents per share. Revenue fell 21% to $19.2 million from $24.3 million in the comparable 2008 quarter. Portec said the company reduced inventory levels during the quarter.

For full-year 2009, earnings fell to $6.8 million, or 71 cents per share, from $7.8 million, or 81 cents per share, in 2008. Revenue fell to $92.2 million, from $109 million in 2008.

Last month, L.B. Foster, also based in Pittsburgh, announced its plans to acquire Portec’s 9.6 million shares of stock for $112 million, or about $11.71 per share. The deal is expected to close before the end of the second quarter.

At midday Tuesday, shares of Portec were trading at $11.75, down fractionally.

--> Pittsburgh-based Portec Rail Products Inc. said its fourth-quarter earnings fell 5%, as a tax gain and cost-cutting efforts partially offset a steep decline in sales. ...
--> Philip Edwin Pierce, who retired from Safetran Systems (now Invensys Rail) as Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Service in 2000, died March 11, 2010. He was 75.Pierce began his long carer in the railroad industry at the Chicago, Burlington & Qu ...
The Michigan State University Railway Management Program (RMP), now in its second year, is undergoing significant improvements, including an upgrade in location and addition of a master’s program. MSU is consolidating the RMP with university’s nationally top-rated Supply Chain ...

Responding to request from the state of Maine and other concerned parties, the Surface Transportation Board has decided to hold a public hearing this spring in Maine on the application of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway to abandon 233 miles of line in Aroostook and Penobscot counties.

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“This proposed abandonment would affect many shippers and the local and regional economy and it is important that the Board hears from as many voices as possible,” said STB Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III. “The best way to do that is for Washington to go to Maine instead of Maine coming to Washington.”

The hearing will be scheduled after the April 26 deadline for the written record but before the end of May.

The official request of Maine for a hearing, filed March 4, won quick support from shippers and politicians, including U.S. Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Michael H. Michaud (D-Maine), as well as Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, all of whom echoed the call for a public hearing.

--> Responding to request from the state of Maine and other concerned parties, the Surface Transportation Board has decided to hold a public hearing this spring in Maine on the application of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway to abandon 23 ...

Wabtec Corp. announced Monday that it has purchased Xorail LLC for $40 million in cash and that it expects the transaction to be accretive in the first year.

Based in Jacksonville, Fla., Xorail has annual revenue of about $40 million from the sale of engineering, design, and construction services, mainly for railway signaling systems. These include wayside signaling, positive train control, and grade crossing warning systems for Class I railroads and passenger transit authorities in North America.

Founded in 1990 as Southwest Signal Engineering Company, Xorail now has 10 satellite offices with about 275 employees. Kash Krishnarao, president of Xorail, will remain with the company.

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“Xorail's engineering and wayside capabilities are a good fit with our existing railway electronics business,” said Albert J.Neupaver, Wabtec's president and chief executive officer. “In addition, these capabilities position Wabtec for a larger role as the rail industry implements positive train control technology over the next several years.”

Wabtec Corp. is a global provider of value-added, technology-based products and services for the rail industry. Through its subsidiaries, the company manufactures a range of products for locomotives, freight cars, and passenger transit vehicles. The company also builds new switcher and commuter locomotives, and provides aftermarket services. The company has facilities located throughout the world.

 

--> Wabtec Corp. announced Monday that it has purchased Xorail LLC for $40 million in cash and that it expects the transaction to be accretive in the first year.Based in Jacksonville, Fla., Xorail has annual revenue of about $40 ...

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association says registration for its annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., is available onlinethis year, as in the past, and urges early registration. “Register by March 31, and save up to $100 on your registration fee.  Fees go up an additional $50 on April 1, and again on April 21,” ASLRRA says.

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Online registration is available at https://members.aslrra.org/mtg_list.asp.

ASLRRA also notes, “We are still holding onto the railroad room block at the Hilton Bonnet Creek, but it is filling fast and we will need to open it up to the rest of the membership by the end of the week.”

--> The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association says registration for its annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., is available onlinethis year, as in the past, and urges early registration. “Register by March 31, and save up to $100 on your registrat ...

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it is evaluating a plan to establish wireless Internet services at Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station-New York, both in Manhattan, and for Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains.

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MTA reportedly has invited companies to submit proposals for installing WiFi. Any company securing a contract with MTA would be expected to finance the project itself. MTA seeks to establish such service by year’s end.

Still unclear is whether customers would be expected to pay for WiFi service or whether any provider could generate revenue by other means. Amtrak recently introduced Wi-Fi service on its Acela trains plying the Northeast Corridor, initially at no charge to Amtrak customers.

--> New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it is evaluating a plan to establish wireless Internet services at Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station-New York, both in Manhattan, and for Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains. ...

In a report characterized by Washington Area Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board Chairman Peter Benjamin as “withering,” former WMATA General Manager David Gunn  (pictured at left) says it will take three years for a new management team to turn around the agency’s accident-plagued Metrorail rail transit system—the nation’s second busiest—that serves the capital city.

 

david-gunn.jpgThe board hired Gunn, 72, an industry veteran who served as Metro general manager from 1991 to 1994, “to diagnose Metro’s ills and outline solutions” and “to provide an analysis on the current status of Metro, identify issues of concern, and recommend corrective actions to alleviate the identified concerns.”

 

Gunn’s report “was more than frank, it was withering," Benjamin said after hearing Gunn’s oral assessment at a board meeting. “He gave us a very clear, very honest, unvarnished-truth type of assessment, and told us we have a lot of issues we have to deal with, and we have to deal with them immediately.”

 

Gunn’s report comes as Metro faces an unprecedented number of safety investigations into deadly accidents (such as last year’s Red Line wreck, pictured, that killed nine, attributed to a failure of the automatic train control system); instability and vacancies in its senior management; and growing deficits in its operating and capital budgets, including a projected $190 million gap in its $1.4 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.

 

A summary of the report released March 11 by WMATA said Gunn urges speedy recruitment of a new general manager with a strong operating and technical background, along with the “hiring and retaining” of senior managers with solid engineering experience. He also urges the troubled agency to “level with the public regarding the seriousness of the problems facing Metro,” and he called for an end to a “shoot the messenger” culture that discourages employees from reporting safety problems.

 

The report followed by exactly one week Federal Transit Administrator Peter M. Rogoff’s call for a “top to bottom” change in the way Metro handles safety issues. Reporting the findings of a safety audit prepared for Congress, Rogoff called Metro’s Safety Department “dysfunctional and ineffective.”

 

wmata-wreck.jpg“Mr. Gunn’s recommendations will help the board move forward in working with Interim General Manager Richard Sarles and it will help us select the next permanent general manager to head the transit agency,” said Board Chairman Benjamin. Sarles will arrive on March 29.

 

According to the summary, Gunn’s recommendations include these:

 

“Create a workplace where safety is openly discussed, problems are reported and solved, and all employees, supervisors, and managers know they can ask for help without fear. Provide all employees with the training and knowledge required to be safe and ensure the system is safe;

 

“Avoid service cuts to Metrorail; recognize cost recovery of 80% on rail and 35% on bus. Manage rail fare increases realistically to minimize ridership losses. Allocate financial resources based on the system’s operating and capital needs. Educate the public about financial realities: this trend cannot continue.

 

“Increase direct reports to the general manager for better control and strengthen senior management. Merge engineering and maintenance functions around systems (examples: signals, power, track).

 

“Create an organization with clear responsibility centers. Develop with key managers realistic, quantifiable goals tied to capital and operating budgets and hold managers accountable. Link personnel allocations more closely to the budget, goals, and objectives.

 

“Monitor monthly reports to assure goals are being met (examples: miles of track, ties, fasteners, joints, and turnouts replaced).

 

“Recruit a permanent general manager with a strong operating and technical background; the quality of the next general manager will significantly affect the ability to hire competent senior managers. Recruit experienced senior managers with engineering experience to fill many currently open positions. Hire and train qualified staff to address the maintenance backlog.

 

“Overcome the negative impact of reductions in force and early retirements.  Stop using hiring freezes to control the budget. Introduce a new reporting regimen so that quantifiable goals are tied to the capital and operating budgets. Prioritize capital and operating budgets by asset class (ex: bus procurement, rail replacement, ties, etc.)

 

“Accelerate track and car maintenance, cleaning, and replacement. Clean tunnels and stations, necessary for equipment reliability and safety. Generally increase maintenance programs.”

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