U.S. freight carload traffic for the week ended March 28 declined 24.4% from the comparable week in 2008, the Association of American Railroads reported, with coal traffic slumping significantly. U.S. intermodal traffic also fell, down 15.4%. Volume of an estimated 26.6 billion ton miles was down 23.8% from the year-ago period.
Canadian freight carload traffic for the week was down 24.7%, while intermodal declined 16.3%.
AAR said a decline in coal shipments impacted the month of March and 2009’s first-quarter numbers significantly, as did weather-related woes. "A blizzard in the Wyoming coal fields, flooding in the Midwest, and other weather-related problems added a 'kick them when they're down' element to the month, dropping already depressed rail traffic levels even further in March," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.
U.S. coal traffic fell 20.9% in the week ended March 28 compared with last year, and was down 4.2% for the quarter compared with 2008's first three months.
Overall, U.S. freight carload traffic in March fell 17.3% compared with the 2008 counterpart month; intermodal traffic fell 14.9%. For the quarter, U.S. freight carload traffic declined 16.3% compared with the first quarter of 2008; intermodal traffic fell 15.5%.
Canadian rail carload traffic fared similarly, down 21.7% in March 2009 from March 2008 levels; Canadian intermodal traffic in March fell 13.3%. For the first quarter of 2009, Canadian rail carloadings plunged 19.5% compared with the 2008 quarter; Canadian intermodal traffic for the quarter was down 12.1%.
Though U.S. rail carloadings of coal fell during the first quarter, impacting overall volume, other commodities suffered even more in percentage terms, including motor vehicles and equipment (down 51.8%), metals and metal products (down 52.1%), and grain (down 22.4%).
The Caltrain Board Thursday unanimously approved an agreement with the California High Speed Rail Authority to establish an initial organizational framework where the authority and Caltrain will engage as partners in planning, design, and construction of improvements along the Caltrain corridor to be shared by both Caltrain and a portion of the state’s planned $44 billion, 700-mile HSR network.
The agreement will allow the parties to incorporate high speed rail in the Caltrain corridor on a phased basis.
"Community outreach is an extremely important part of this agreement," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage, who is chair of the Caltrain board and also serves on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, in a statement. "As we move forward, there will be many opportunities for people to voice their opinions. I would encourage everyone to participate in the process."
Since the ultimate configuration of the system has yet to be determined, references to a four-track system were deleted from the agreement before it was approved. The agreement states, "The Caltrain corridor will consist of a multiple track, grade-separated high speed rail system."
Caltrain had voiced some concern that its needs wouldn’t be protected adequately if HSR was established. Similar concerns, along with other dissent, have been voiced by some of the communities Caltrain serves. Caltrain provides service linking San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy, Calif.
Bombardier Inc. announced Thursday that it earned a net profit of $1 billion in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, a record, on revenue of $19.7 billion. The train and plane manufacturer earned $317 million on revenue of $17.5 billion in the prior year.
Bombardier ended the fiscal year with a strong cash position of $3.5 billion and a backlog of unfilled orders worth $48 billion. This is less than the backlog of $53.6 billion reported on Jan. 31, 2008, due to the impact of the weakening of foreign currencies compared to the U.S. dollar.
Pierre Beaudoin, Bombardier president and CEO, commented: "During the past year, we more than held our own as the world's financialmarkets tumbled and the global economy weakened. ... There is no doubt that we are going through challenging times and our business environment is changing fast. There's a need for prudent execution, clear priorities, and decisive action in the current context. However, we believe we are well positioned to face this difficult economic environment with a strong balance sheet and a high level of liquidity, as well as a large and diversified backlog."
Norfolk Southern customers invested $2.2 billion in new and expanded facilities along the railroad's lines in 2008. The investment is expected of generate 136,000 carloads of new rail traffic annually and create 3,623 new jobs in the railroad's territory. NS worked with government and economic officials in 20 states to identify ideal industrial locations.
"Renewable energy projects led the way across our service area in 2008," said Newell Baker, assistant vice president industrial development. "Our group was able to assist in the location of 19 ethanol and bio-diesel production and distribution facilities across 10 states. In addition, we created eight projects with stone producers and electric utilities to facilitate rail shipment of high-calcium limestone for use in 'scrubbing' power plant emissions to reduce atmospheric sulfur dioxide and meet future clean air standards."
NS said that during the past 10 years its Industrial Development Department has participated in the location or expansion of 1,115 facilities, representing an investment of $23.6 billion and creating nearly 55,000 customer jobs in the railroad's territory.
Washington, D.C.-based Universal Air Travel Plan, Inc. (UATP) has added Amtrak as a corporate partner, allowing corporate card holders to make Amtrak purchases at all points of sale with their UATP cards. UATP accounts are accepted for corporate business travel by several airlines and travel agencies worldwide.
"We have seen a shift in corporate travel to rail fromair in the last several months; having UATP accepted by Amtrak at all points of sale will allow UATP clients to seamlessly make travel plans on all one card,UATP," said Ralph Kaiser, UATP president and CEO. "This is a strategic move for UATP and we look forward to providing our client base with all the tools and options needed for their corporate travel programs."
"Corporate travel on Amtrak has grown significantly and our clients have made it known they want the ability to pay for Amtrak purchases with their UATP cards, we had to respond," said Craig White, Amtrak senior director, Travel Industry Sales. "It is a win-win situation; the corporate client is able to use their preferred form of payment, UATP, and Amtrak is able to reduce expenses.”
Portland, Ore.’s TriMet will proceed with preliminary engineering for its sixth light rail line, this one to Milwaukie, Ore., with approval from the Federal Transit Administration.
FTA’s approval allows TriMet to proceed with the 7.3-mile Orange Line extending from Portland State University to Milwaukie. TriMet says the extension’s construction will generate 12,300 jobs; the line is set to open in 2015.
TriMet’s MAX Green Line, linking Clackamas Town Center with the Portland Transit Mall and Union Station, is set to open this May. Portland’s first light rail line went into service in 1986, linking the city with eastern suburb Gresham; the city was the second in the U.S., following San Diego, to initiate “new start” LRT.