Metrolink has reassigned chief executive David R. Solow to a new position, overseeing deployment of safety system upgrades (including Positive Train Control), and appointed Eric Haley interim chief executive.
Haley was previously CEO of the Riverside County, Calif., transportation agency; Riverside is one of five Southern California counties served by Metrolink, along with Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernadino, and Ventura counties.
Solow, who joined the agency at its formation in the early 1990s, has been under political pressure following the fatal train crash September 2008 in Chatsworth, Calif., between a Metrolink passenger train and a Union Pacific freight train. Investigation of the crash, still not completed, suggests the Metrolink engineer involved ran a red signal while texting on his cell phone.
A prepared statement issued by board Chairman Keith Millhouse emphasized Solow's expertise in technical matters, and the contributions Solow could make to ensuring rapid deployment of a $200 million safety upgrade.
Solow’s contract runs until at least midyear 2010. In a statement of his own, Solow said he would work closely with Haley, and was dedicated to implementing PTC. “I am pleased to be able to continue this aspect of the work that I have begun," he said.
Unresolved wage and benefits issues for 1,700 Canadian National locomotive engineers will be submitted to binding arbitration after renewed negotiations between the company and Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) ended Saturday without a settlement.
CN and the union agreed, as part of the memorandum of settlement that ended the TCRC's strike Dec. 2, 2009, to third-party arbitration of wage and benefits issues if further talks failed to resolve their contractual differences.
Canada’s Minister of Labour will appoint an arbitrator, who will have 90 days following the appointment to report to the Minister with a final decision on a new collective agreement. CN and the TCRC can resume negotiations at any time during the arbitration process. However, under the dispute resolution mechanism of the Dec. 2 memorandum of settlement, no further strike action is permitted by the TCRC, nor can CN lock out TCRC members.
Britain’s Nomad Digital says it has won the Railway Interiors Expo Award for Passenger Service Innovation of the Year for its work in providing WiFi capabilities to the Dubai Metro.
Nomad’s system provides seamless broadband connectivity to all trains and stations on the automated light rail network, giving passengers Internet access. Trains run along a corridor of wireless coverage linked to trackside wireless base stations, with WiMAX radios located at frequent intervals along the route. Nomad Digital’s advanced mobile WiFi system can be fully integrated with a variety of applications, including real-time security CCTV, entertainment downloaded by passengers, and automated driver performance systems.
Dubai Metrois projected to carry approximately 1.2 million weekday on its 318 kilometers (197miles) of route.
Said Nomad Commercial Director Jay Saw, “I was honored and delighted to receive this award. It is a recognition of Nomad Digital’s achievement in meeting the highest quality of standards for the Dubai Metro WiMax system. This award has reinforced our position as global leader in transportation mobile services.”
The $1.1 trillion spending bill approved late Thursday by House-Senate conferees contains $4.1 billion for new and existing intercity passenger rail. Amtrak gets $1.6 billion to maintain and improve its current operations, and $2.5 billion is authorized for high speed passenger rail.
The high speed allocation is a down payment on the $8 billion President Obama pledged early this year for high speed rail corridors. The President's total commitment came to $13 billion with the addition of $1 billion annually for five years as part of the transportation reauthorization process.
Initial high speed grants are expected to be made by February. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last week that the Federal Railroad Administration has received 45 applications from 24 states to advance major high speed corridor programs. An additional 14 applications have come from 34 states for corridor planning and related projects.
LaHood also said that 30 domestic and foreign suppliers have committed to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States to carry out President Obama's pledge to use stimulus funds to"create good jobs here in America and help reinvigorate our manufacturing base."
Texas’ capital city, awaiting regional rail service delayed by at least one year, is nonetheless evaluating possible streetcar alternatives. Austin’s City Council Thursday approved $1 million to complete a preliminary engineering study for a streetcar operation designed to connect some of the city's key business districts.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority late Thursday approved plans for an 8.5-mile light rail line, running roughly north-south, dubbed the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Project. LACMTA cited input from numerous community leaders and citizens calling for LRT to augment, or replace, existing bus service (many rejecting calls for Bus Rapid Transit in the process).
Still at issue for the proposed line is one of location. Some supporting the LRT line want much of it placed underground. Despite that residual concern, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hailed the decision, saying, "It's a huge victory for the Crenshaw community and the South Bay community ... I expect it will have a highly positive impact on the quality oflife in that corridor."
The line would run from Exposition Boulevard to Imperial Highway, following Crenshaw Boulevard and passing through Leimert Park and Southwest LA, before running southwest through Inglewood and south to Aviation Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport.
Officials hope to break ground on the project in 2012 or 2013, and open the line in 2018.
Five regional planning organizations Thursday announced the formation of the Western High Speed Rail Alliance (WHSRA). The alliance envisions a Denver-to-Los Angeles corridor with regional hubs in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Phoenix as well as links from Denver to Salt Lake City to Reno, Nev., and ultimately to San Francisco.
"We believe implementation of a regional high speed rail plan for the Rocky and Intermountain West is critical to the development of a national high-speed rail system. Corridors must be studied now to lay the groundwork for additional development," said Jacob Snow, chairman of the organization.
To fund these studies, WHSRA will request $50 million from the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Act that Congress will take up next year.
Included in the alliance are the Denver Regional Council of Governments (the greater Denver area), the Maricopa Association of Governments (the greater Phoenix Area), Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (Las Vegas), the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (Reno), and the Utah Transit Authority (Salt Lake City).
Union Pacific says its Pipeline Express service has reached a milestone by delivering its 25,000th rail car of customerproduct since being formed in 2005.
Pipeline Express serves the steel pipeline industry for oil and gas producers with truck-competitive transit times and a rail network that aligns well geographically with new pipeline projects. Pipeline Express has grown from moving approximately 1,700 rail cars in its first year to nearly 8,000 for its customers through year-end 2008.
“By offering the best value proposition to the natural gas industry, Union Pacific has emerged as the clear transportation choice,” said Greg Shimonek, senior business director for the railroad’s Pipeline Express service. “Our carloads tell the story.”
Natural gas reserves are expected to grow 39 percent from 2007 levels by the end of 2009, according to the Energy Information Administration. Having invested nearly $17 billion in its rail network since 2005, Union Pacific says it is ready to serve that growth. “We have the industry’s largest fleet of 89-foot flat cars capable of hauling 100 tons of pipe,” Shimonek said.
The Association of American Railroads reported Thursday that traffic volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Dec. 5 added up to an estimated 31.8 billion ton-miles, down 4.8% from the same week last year, and off 7.6% from 2007.
The railroads originated 284,177 carloads during the latest week, down 5.4% from the same week in 2008 and 13.3 % from the same week in 2007. (The AAR notes that in order to offer a complete picture of the progress in traffic, it is now comparing 2009 volume with both 2008 and 2007.)
Intermodal traffic, at 207,242 trailers and containers, was down 4.25% from 2008 and 13.6% from 2007.
Increases were reported in nine of the 19 carload freight commodity groups compared with the same week last year: nonmetallic minerals (25%), metals and products (17.1%), grain (14.1%), chemicals (13.9%), farm products not including grain (13.7%), motor vehicles and equipment (8.95), grain mill products (8 %%), metallic ores (1.3%), and waste and scrap metal (0.7%). Declines ranged from 0.6% for food and kindred products to 21% for crushed stone, sand, and gravel.
Canadian railroads reported 62,576 carloads for the week, down 12.4% from last year, and 39,608 trailers or containers, down 13.5%. Mexico’s two major railroads originated 12,393 carloads, down 4.8% from the same week last year, and 6,241 trailers and containers, up 0.8%.