The Canadian government and VIA Rail Canada have launched a C$20 million (US$18.7 million) program to “renew and improve two key components of its nationwide locomotive and rolling stock fleet,” including 78 passenger cars and 21 P-42 diesel electric locomotives. The program will be funded from the federal government’s C$407 million (US$381 million) Economic Action Plan.
The renovation and upgrade of 78 HEP 1 longhaul passenger cars will primarily benefit VIA’s world-renowned Toronto-Vancouver Canadian service. By contrast, the P-42 locomotives will primarily cover VIA’s Quebec-Windsor Corridor.
Said Hon. Rob Merrifield, Minister of State (Transport), “Combined with the other capital projects announced recently, it will give Canadians a more efficient, reliable and comfortable passenger rail network.”
“Equally satisfying for all of us at VIA is the fact that this program will create and maintain skilled employment, contributing to the government’s strategy of employment and economic stimulus,” said VIA Chief Operating Officer, John Marginson. “This initiative is creating 58 positions at VIA’s Montreal Maintenance Centre (MMC): 51 positions for the HEP 1 project and seven positions for the P-42 locomotives.
“When coupled with our other fleet renewal programs, it adds up to the largest investment ever in Canadian passenger rail equipment,” added Marginson.
Geneva, Ill.-based Miner Enterprises, Inc. Tuesday announced its new DuraShield™ covered hopper car hatch cover, which it says combines lightweight, high durability, low profile design with a high performance seal.
The company says it developed the hatch cover to outfit hopper cars from the bottom up, and claims the covers are lighter than similar aluminum products and more durable than fiberglass ones. They are available in all standard lengths to accommodate most 24-in. troughs with round or square ends.
"We looked at available covers on the market and decided that customers should not have to trade off qualities such as long life for light weight. In the DuraShield, our engineers have combined the advantages of both fiberglass and aluminum covers while avoiding their drawbacks," said Miner Vice President of Sales Ric Biehl. "And, they've been able to incorporate a superior gasket seal in the bargain."
The DuraShield design incorporates a patent pending aluminum and steel boxed frame with a composite skin. Extended support straps help hold the cover's shape and afford hinge stiffness in a low profile configuration. Superior stiffness allows the gasket to be uniformly clamped to the hatch coaming.
Miner says this develops a seal that exceeds the Association of American Railroads (AAR) requirement by one-and-a-half to two times. An improved adhesive secures the gasket to the cover so that its attachment exceeds the AAR specification by almost three times, the company says.
FreightCar America Inc. reported a profit larger than anticipated for its second quarter, with earnings of $7 million, or 59 cents per share, compared with a loss of 3 cents a share, or $368,000, in the comparable 2008 quarter. Consensus analyst estimates anticipated a profit of 10 cents per share.
Revenue declined 26% to $104.3 million, close to the company’s July forecast of $104 million, and more optimistic than analyst expectations.
FreightCar America President and CEO Chris Ragot said the company has controlled spending and expects to reduce expenses by 20% this year.
The company said orders for new railcars rose 39% from a year earlier, and more than doubled from the moribund levels of the first quarter. Deliveries were 48% lower than the comparable 2008 quarter but also rose from the first quarter of 2009, up 24%. FreightCar America’s backlog declined to 1,472 units.
SteelEye Technology, Inc. announced Monday that Alstom Transport had selected the company to deploy SteelEye® LifeKeeper® for Linux to protect mission-critical applications of the maintenance system services for Beijing Metro Line 2. The deployment will “control and manage high availability and potential faults to ensure the continuous availability of maintenance services for the Chinese capital’s two essential metro lines,” the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company said.
Track installation finally has begun for Washington, D.C.'s first new streetcar line, Anacostia Streetcar, in the district’s Southeast quadrant, following years of delays and still with no firm assurance that the line will operate.
The $55 million project has held three Inekon streetcars in storage in the Czech Republic for nearly three years while it struggles with numerous issues. Besides controversy over exact routes, station locations, schedule times, and environmental issues, the District Department of Transportation also has struggled to comply with federal rules prohibiting overhead wire in the Capitol Zone.
"The tracks are actually going in," said DDOTchief Gabe Klein. "As people see that, they'll realize we're getting closer than we've ever been." Klein said the District might have some part of the Anacostia line running before fall 2012.
Revised several times, the initial route at present would connect with MetroRail’s Anacostia station on the Green Line and would also serve the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters, scheduled to be built on the current campus of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
DDOT hopes eventually to extend the line across the new 11th Street bridges when they are built and along H Street in the district’s Northeast quadrant.
Signal Peak Energy, an expanded coal mining operation near Roundup, Mont., with a new 35-mile link to the BNSF Railway mainline, has confirmed reports that it will send an undetermined number of coal cargoes to China on a trial basis by the end of this year.
It has been unofficially reported that two Panamax cargoes, 60,000 to 70,000 deadweight tons, and a Capesize cargo, 125,000 tons, could move through Vancouver, B.C., by year-end.
Don Drabant, president of the marketing company Global Coal Sales Group, which represents Signal Peak, said discussions were under way with South American markets as well as Asian rim countries.
Signal Peak, formerly the Bull Mountain coal mine, expects to increase production from few hundred thousand tons a year to around 14 million tons a year by 2011.
The new operation is owned by the joint venture of Ohio utility First Energy Corp. and Boich Companies. The mine produces 10,300 Btu bituminous coal with 0.55% sulfur content that is said to combine the advantages of eastern U.S. coal and low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal.
French National Railways (SNCF), which owns and operates France's TGV high speed rail network, said Friday it had responded to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Request For Expression of Interest process with respect to four of FRA’s 10 prospective HSR corridors: California, Florida, Texas, and the Chicago Hub Network.
SNCF said each of the four submissions, filed September 14, outlines SNCF’s project rationale for the project, including: evaluation of the benefits of high speed rail networks to the targeted communities and environment; detailed technical descriptions of the project, including proposed route; estimated operations costs, services, and schedules; the project’s business model, including simulated revenue, financial statements, and possible financing opportunities with both the public and private sectors; and the plan’s compliance with existing legislation and the possibilities for federal, state, and local government partnerships.
SNCF Chairman Guillaume Pepy, who also is chairman of Eurostar service, wrote that that in California, Florida, and Texas, SNCF’s review and analysis of the available data regarding these three states leads it to the preliminary conclusion that HSR passenger service at speeds of 220 mph would produce significant public benefits, offsetting “by almost twice the public investment in the design and construction of the systems.”
Concerning the Chicago/Midwest Hub, Pepy said local and state authorities in and around this corridor intend to effect a dramatic improvement in the public transportation system; Pepy said SNCF believes 220 mph service would also work for this region, and proposed a 1,400-mile network including a bypass line in Chicago, servicing 28 stations in seven states.
Said Pepy, “While the RFEI process in the United States, first announced in 2008, has been overtaken somewhat by more recent legislation and a new process, we elected to proceed with our detailed submission on the four corridors in the interests of advancing the discussion about how high speed rail can benefit the U.S., and especially the regions where high speed rail planning is most advanced.”
He continued, “The United States is well-suited for high speed rail, and the significant benefits, beyond being a better transportation option, include economic stimulus, community enhancement and growth, environmental advancements, energy efficiencies, and reduced dependence on foreign oil.
“SNCF has a longstanding and strong interest in participating in the development of high speed rail in the United States and hopes that its decision to proceed with the RFEI submission advances the conversation and underscores its commitment and ability to help the United States realize the potential for HSR systems,” Pepy said.
In a stunning move certain to affect the rail supply industry within North America and beyond, London-based Balfour Beatty plc, Britain's biggest builder, has agreed to buy construction and infrastructure-services provider Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., a U.S. powerhouse, for $626 million.
Balfour Beatty said Friday it plans a $583 million rights offer to provide the majority of funding for the acquisition. New York-based PB, which is employee-owned, had annual sales of $2.34 billion in fiscal year 2008, which ended in October.
PB’s prominence in the U.S. likely will aid Balfour Beatty as the U.S. market for rail solutions grows, particularly in the passenger rail segment, now being bolstered by the federal stimulus package. Balfour Beatty already has considerable U.S. rail experience and exposure, observers say, and roughly 30% of its overall sales are generated within the U.S.
Balfour Beatty CEO Ian Tyler acknowledged the potential U.S. market. "We've been looking to develop over a long time the weight and depth of our U.S. business," Tyler said in an interview. "This really does create a very strong and powerful business there."
Industry observers, however, suggest to Railway Age the more significant impact may be the opportunity PB offers Balfour Beatty for entry into potentially lucrative markets in Australia, India, China, and South Africa. Tyler also acknowledges the potential of these markets, including rail but also encompassing electrical and mechanical design, airports, and other construction segments.
In a conference call with Morgan Stanley analysts William Greene and Adam Longson, former Surface Transportation Board Chair Linda Morgan anticipated a draft version of rail legislation to be introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va., pictured at right) “very soon," and likely before the month ends. Morgan Stanley foresees a “compromise bill” resulting as Congress seeks to handle a potentially contentious issue.
Morgan told the Morgan Stanley duo a focus on other issues, including healthcare and climate, has delayed rail legislation, but Congress is likely to act now and not wait for 2010, a congressional election year. “If a rail bill is going to pass by year-end, the end of September is likely a critical deadline for introducing draft legislation,” the analysts said in a note.
“The mere introduction of rail legislation will create headline risk for rails, and the recent appreciation in shares makes the stocks increasingly vulnerable to a near-term correction,” Greene and Longson warned. “There are three key areas the proposed legislation is likely to address: 1) provisions to strengthen the STB, giving it more authority, resources and commissioners; 2) provisions to help increase customer access to the rail networks; and 3) reforming review process on rail rates and service.”
Added Morgan Stanley, “Significant compromise is the most likely outcome, in our view. Any rail bill will need consensus to ensure it passes with little debate, given the proposed timeline. The rails may support a compromise bill to avoid potentially more onerous legislation, while shippers may accept a compromise to avoid potentially walking away with nothing.
“We don't think a compromise bill will lead to a wholesale change in rail economics. While far from the best-case scenario, this is more favorable than antitrust legislation or re-regulation, which could affect rail profitability in a materially negative way,” Greene and Longson wrote.
A planned $4 billion Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco took a big step forward Thursday when the U.S. Department of Transportation's Credit Council recommended the approval of a $171 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for the project. The loan will help fund 14% of the Phase I capital cost. A combination of federal, state, and local sources is funding the project.
“We are very grateful to the council for this unanimous recommendation of approval,” said Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA). “This important step will help us move the project forward and bring to fruition the largest, fully approved transportation project in the country.”
The Joint Powers Authority submitted a letter of interest to the DOT in October 2003 and the application was submitted in October 2008. Following the Credit Council's recommendation, the next step is for the Secretary to approve a term sheet and loan agreement. The Joint Powers will bring the agreement to its board of directors for approval by November.
TIFIA was established to create a Federal credit program for eligible transportation projects of national or regional significance.
The Transbay Transit Center will replace the existing Transbay Terminal with a multi-modal facility, and centralize the region’s transportation network by accommodating nine transportation systems under one roof. The project also involves extending the Caltrain rail line 1.3 miles into the heart of the Financial District and redeveloping the surrounding area with 2,600 new homes, parks, and a retail main street.
The project broke ground on the temporary terminal in December 2008 and demolition of the current bus terminal is scheduled for February 2010.