Light rail transit expansion for Calgary and Edmonton trumps provincial needs for high speed rail, according to Alberta provincial government officials, despite rising clamor for linking the two cities with intercity service.
The stance follows the release Monday of a feasibility and ridership study, conducted last year, showing HSR service between the province’s two largest cities, with travel times of one hour, would cost between C$3 billion and C$20 billion depending on the type of train chosen. The report projected ridership of up to 4 million per year on trains traveling 300km/h (186 mph).
"At this time, when we're a little short of cash, show me the money. That's what I would have to say because we've got a lot of other needs that will have to come first," said Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans.
Provincial officials have indicated a preference for a public-private partnership, including a design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM) option. Under such an arrangement, Alberta likely would acquire rights-of-way needed for any HSR service.
Edmonton’s light rail system, which opened in 1978, was thefirst “new” LRT system to debut in North America, while Calgary’s C-Train LRT,which began revenue service in 1981, was second.
The Greenbrier Cos. Tuesday reported revenue of $244 million for its fiscal third quarter, ending May 31, down 36% from the comparable quarter in 2008. Earnings before special impairment charges for the quarter declined steeply to $600,000, or three cents per diluted share, compared with net earnings of $8.1 million, or 49 cents per diluted share, in the prior year’s third quarter.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, and also before special charges, was $20.3 million, or 8.3% of revenue, compared with $34.5 million, or 9.0% of revenue, in the third quarter of 2008, the company said.
Lake Oswego, Ore.-based Greenbrier Cos. noted several pre-tax conditions for the quarter, including $900,000 in pre-tax costs associated with reductions in work force and interest rate swap breakage costs.
New railcar deliveries in the third quarter of 2009 were approximately 800 units, compared with 2,200 units in the third quarter of 2008.
Greenbrier Cos. President and CEO William A. Furman, in a statement, said, “Year-to-date rail loadings in North America are down about 20%, and it is estimated that about 20%-to-25% of the entire North American railcar fleet remains idle. In this environment, we continue to scale our operations to reflect the current economic situation, control costs and expenditures, manage the company for cash flow, and seek to pay down debt. During the quarter, we paid down net debt by an additional $19 million. We expect this trend to continue in the fourth quarter.”
Greenbrier Cos. noted its dispute with GE Railcar Services Corp. has not been resolved, stating GE seeks to “substantially reduce, delay or otherwise cancel deliveries under a multiyear contract to build 11,900 tank cars and covered hopper cars over an eight-year period, with a current value of $1.0 billion. We are currently in discussions with GE.”
The company continued, “We believe GE is in breach of its obligations under our contract. GE has recently instructed us to slow our production of railcars to a rate of production less than that required under our agreement and does not allow for efficient operations of our manufacturing facility, also as required under our agreement.” The moves were “unilateral” in nature, Greenbrier said.
Eurostar Tuesday said it notched a 22% rise in passenger traffic between London and Amsterdam, following the full reopening of the Channel Tunnel in February. Eurostar said its service on-time performance since then was 96%.
The statement coincided with an announcement Tuesday from both Belgian National Railways (SNCB) and the Netherlands' NS Hispeed that additional high speed rail service linking Brussels and Amsterdam will begin next year. "Fyra" high speed trains will connect with Eurostar services at Brussels-Midi, while also stopping at Antwerp, Belgium, and Rotterdam and Schiphol, in the Netherlands, en route to Amsterdam.
Eurostar Director of Communications Simon Montague said, “Travelers are now discovering the advantages of high speed rail for longer journeys across Europe. By making one simple connection they can avoid all the hassles of flying and enjoy journeys from city centre to city centre that arejust as fast overall–and a lot more convenient.”
Rail operations in the Channel Tunnel were disrupted last September when a truck aboard a freight shuttle train caught fire roughly seven miles from the Calais portal. Repairs took about five months, with the tunnel infrastructure restored by February 9; Eurostar resumed full normal service on February 23.
Waiving border fees previously demanded by Canada’s Border Service Agency, Ottawa has agreed to allow a second Amtrak train to link Seattle with Vancouver, doubling international rail access to the city in time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The federal government said the fee would be waived from August of this year through March 2010, as a pilot program. The Border Services Agency had sought C$1,500 (roughly US$1,300) per day to cover costs in processing rail travelers. The waiver period “will allow an assessment of traffic well outside the actual Olympic Games themselves," Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said.
Provincial officials in British Columbia and their counterparts in Washington state have argued for the fee of roughly C$500,000 per year to be eliminated altogether, noting Amtrak's current single Cascades train crossing the border incurs no such penalty. "People from both sides of the border have wanted this train for a long time," said Vickie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Washington’s Department of Transportation.
U.S. railroads moved 255,668 fewer carloads of freight in June than they did in June 2008. Total volume of 1,059,889 carloads was down 19.7%. Intermodal traffic in June was off 18.2% to 755,000 units--meaning that railroads hauled 168,031 fewer containers and trailers than in June last year.
The Association American Railroads reported that for the first six months of 2009, U. S. carloads were down 19.5 % (1,594,411 loads) to 6,579,2944. Intermodal traffic dropped 17.0% (950,147 units) to 4,647,068.
Of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR, 18saw carload declines in June. The catch-all “all other” category was up slightly.
June's biggest carload declines were: coal, down 7.9%; motor vehicles and equipment (down 50.5%); metals and metal products, down 59.8%; and crushed stone and gravel, down 25.2%.
For the second quarter of 2009, total U.S. rail carloadings were down 22.4% (958,324 carloads).
Canadian rail carload traffic in June was down 25.7 % to 232,156 carloads. Canadian intermodal traffic was down 19.2% in June to 156,441 trailers and containers.
For the second quarter of 2009, Canadian rail carloadings were down 27.9%; Canadian intermodal traffic for the quarter was down 18.5%.
For the first six months of 2009, Canadian rail carloadings were down 24.1% and intermodal traffic was off 15.5%.
The Rail Products business unit of L.B. Foster Co. is supplying transit rail and associated products for Chicago Transit Authority's Dearborn Subway Project under a $6.5 million contract announced Thursday.
L.B. Foster has begun delivery of 80-foot rail sections, direct fixation fasteners, insulated joints, and contact rail insulators for the long delayed project, which will eliminate slow zones on CTA's Blue Line. The project is scheduled to complete construction in December.
Amtrak throughout 2009 has reiterated its commitment to long-distance train service, and an infusion of stimulus package funds, along with a healthy dose of appropriations financing, has even spurred consideration of service upgrades, including making its tri-weekly Sunset Limited route daily this fall.
But New York State budget woes could force Amtrak’s Adirondack to an opposite course, with the daily train possibly becoming tri-weekly—if not discountinued outright—between Montreal and Albany, N.Y., by Sept. 30. The Albany-to-New York portion of the train presumably would remain in operation.
New York State helps finance the train between Albany and Montreal by about $5 million per year, and Amtrak says it wants to retain the train’s current status. "We have funding for the service through Sept.30," said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole. "We've been working with the state and we'll continue to work with them to try to ensure that that service continues beyond that date."
Montgomery County, Md., planners evaluating I-270 Corridor transit needs are recommending Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead of light rail transit (LRT) for the route, citing lower costs, uncertain federal funding support, and planned highway widening that favor BRT as the choice.
The 14-mile “Corridor Cities Transitway” route, serving “upper” Montgomery County, would link Clarksburg and the Metrorail’s Shady Grove Station near Rockville, Md.
The recommendation for BRT runs counter to that of many Montgomery County public officials, and much general public comment, that have called for light rail as a better long-term permanent investment option for the 14-mile route.
LRT is estimated to cost $778 million vs. $450 million for LRT, but rail advocates say LRT ridership would be higher and cost perpassenger mile significantly lower. County planners claim that BRT offers “flexibility”; LRT backers counter that rail offers “permanence.”
The county endorsed LRT for its portion of the proposedPurple Line, linking its withneighboring Prince George’s County and creating a circumferential route linkingat numerous points with Washington, D.C.’s Metro system. Last month the NationalCapital Region Transportation Planning Board, the metropolitan planningorganization, also endorsed LRT for the Purple Line.
Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian Railways, or FS) Thursday suspended use nationwide of rail cars owned by GATX Corp. FS issued a statement by email, saying the suspension will remain in place until Chicago-based GATX provides certified information on its fleet.
Though no immediate reason was offered, the move appears to have been prompted by the June 29 accident in Viareggio, Italy, caused by axle failure on a tank car carrying liquefied gas, causing a derailment that killed at least 18.
GATX Rail Austria, which owns the tank cars involved in the accident, says it does not know the cause of the explosion.
Italian Transport Minister Altero Matteoli said a small crack and traces of rust had been found in the axle of the car that derailed, causing other cars to derail as they passed through the center of Viareggio.
Private investors affiliated with Value Recovery Group, Inc.,Columbus, Ohio, are behind the move by US Railcar, LLC, to acquire the Colorado Railcar diesel multiple-unit (DMU) design, in order to advance the manufacture of a U.S. DMU alternative for transit markets. The assets acquired include proprietary rights and information, manufacturing documentation, inventory, tooling, fixtures/jigs, and other equipment necessary for production.
In a statement, VRG Chairman & CEO Barry H. Fromm said, “US Railcar intends to reestablish passenger train production in the United States.”
“We want to keep American jobs and U.S. public investment at home,” said Fromm. “There is a major commitment by the Obama Administration and the Congress to make investments in intercity and high speed rail to promote economic growth and mobility, create jobs, conserve energy, and address climate change. This opens a new era for passenger trains and railcar manufacturing in the United States.”
Michael P. Pracht will serve as president and CEO of US Railcar; Pracht’s career includes stints with Siemens and Ansaldo STS. US Railcar intends to manufacture both single- and bi-level DMUs per the Colorado Railcar design.