Union Pacific Railroad and Norfolk Southern Monday introduced the Gulf Coast Flyer, a rail service for the safe transport of chemicals between the Union Pacific-served southern Texas and Louisiana regions and Norfolk Southern destinations across the U.S. Northeast and Southeast.
The two Class I railroads said the service “is designed to build on improved routing and enhanced operations coordination between the two railroads,” with eastbound and westbound shipments between the two railroads connecting at both the Salem, Ill., and New Orleans, La., gateways.
With an investment of $740 million in infrastructure upgrades, UP and NS foresee transit times for shipments moving in major joint lanes improving “by more than 20% for shippers.”
"The investment in these lanes combined with increased coordination between our two railroads directly benefits our customers," said Diane Duren, vice president and general manager of Chemicals for Union Pacific. "Transit times in these lanes are faster, which lowers inventory carrying costs for customers. It also allows them to turn their private equipment faster, getting better utilization from their assets. Service reliability also is improved, providing our customers with greater supply chain efficiencies."
The railroads say they also continue their focus on safety, including “through ongoing training efforts with TRANSCAER (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response), the voluntary national outreach effort to help communities prepare for and respond to a possible hazardous material transportation incident. Working with TRANSCAER, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern have helped train more than 5,000 responders in communities along Gulf Coast Flyer lanes since 2006,” the railroads said.
"As we work together to offer a faster, more reliable product for customers, safety remains a primary focus for both of our teams," said Joe Osborne, vice president-Chemicals for Norfolk Southern. "With Gulf Coast Flyer service, we offer the safety and environmental advantages of shipping by rail, along with the expedited transit and reliable service advantages customers require in these critical markets."
The Advisory Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen announced Oct. 23 that it will review its practices for referring legal counsel to injured union members.
BLET's announcement came several days after the arrest of its president, Edward W. Rodzwicz, on a federal complaint charging him with bribery in connection with attorney referral.
“BLET members rightfully deserve and expect that their elected officers, and those DLC attorneys who represent them in FELA matters, will at all times act with fidelity and in the best interests of the union and its members, and in strict compliance with all laws,” Acting President Paul T. Sorrow said. “Nothing less will be tolerated by our union and hardworking members.”
Injured railroad employees are not covered by workers compensation laws. The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) grants exclusive jurisdiction to federal courts for injury claims brought against rail carriers.
The Surface Transportation Board announced Monday that only one Class I railroad, Norfolk Southern, achieved revenue adequacy for the year 2008. All others were found to be "revenue inadequate" last year.
The annual determination of revenue adequacy is made inaccordance with standards and procedures developed after passage of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which substantially deregulated railroads. A main goal of Staggers was to restore the railroad industry to a return on investment that would at least match its cost of investment capital.
"In Railroad Cost of Capital — 2008, STB Ex Parte No. 558 (Sub-No. 12) (STB served Sept. 25, 2009) we determined that the 2008 railroad industry cost of capital was 11.75%," STB said in its announcement Monday. "By comparing this figure to the 2008 ROI data obtained from the carriers’ Annual Report R-1 Schedule 250 filings, we have made revenue adequacy calculations for each of the Class I freight railroads that were in operation as of December 31, 2008."
Following is STB's summary of the Returns on investment forall Class I railroads in 2009:
BNSF Railway Co.: 10.51%
CSX Transportation, Inc.: 9.34%
Grand Trunk Corp. Consolidated (including all Canadian National U.S. affiliates): 9.89%
Kansas City Southern Railway Co.: 7.72%
Norfolk Southern Railway Co.: 13.75%
Soo Line Railroad Co. (including all Canadian Pacific U.S. affiliates): 9.29%
Union Pacific Railroad Co.: 10.46%
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Monday its six-mile Gold Line extension would open to passengers November 15, a Sunday, following five years of construction. LACMTA will offer free rides on opening day.
The $890 million extension includes eight stations, with two midpoint stops, Soto Station and Mariachi Plaza Station, underground. The extension also routes the Gold Line through Los Angeles Union Station, a current terminus of the route, where connections to other heavy rail and light rail services can be made. Estimated travel time between Union Station and Atlantic Station, the new terminus, is 17 minutes.
Pittsburgh-based Ansaldo STS USA said Monday it has launched www.PTC-ASTS.com, a website dedicated to Positive Train Control (PTC) solutions. The site has been created to address the mandate for PTC nationwide due to the Rail Safety Improvement Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in the fall of 2008.
ASTS USA says it has worked diligently to provide a comprehensive family of products to help the rail industry meet the 2015 deadline set by the act. The website provides a guide to ASTS USA’s VitalNet™ PTC Solution. The VitalNet PTC Solution includes a family of new products specifically designed for PTC wayside, onboard, and office applications.
The website also includes: continuously updated product information; service Manuals and documentation; new product developments; and PTC-specific news from ASTS USA.
Design of the website allows users to find the products that are specific to their application. For example, the company said, the products and solutions relevant to the needs of a freight railroad may not meet the needs of users in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
The company also announced Monday that Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Hill is leaving as of this Friday, October 30, after serving for 30 years. In a statement, Ansaldo STS USA President and CEO Dr. Alan E. Calegari said Hill "has been an important contributor to our organization. The whole Ansaldo STS team recognizes and appreciates the contributions he has made over his years with the company."
Lexington, Mass.-based RailRunner TM, N.A., Inc. announced Friday a 10-year collaborative agreement with Kolkata, India-based Stone Indiathrough Stone’s wholly owned subsidiary, Stone Intermodal Pvt Ltd. Under the exclusive agreement, Stone will manufacture, operate, distribute and sell RailRunner products inIndia.
Railrunner develops and markets an advanced container-based intermodal transport system. The company said it already has received commercial and operating clearance from Indian Railways, and that design validation is in progress and should be completed soon. Once Indian Railway approves, “the company will enter into an agreement with Indian Railways fortrain operation with RailRunner’s unique, container-carrying intermodal cars,” RailRunner said in a statement.
Amit Mondal, managing director and CEO of Stone India, predicts RailRunner will have a major market impact because “through introduction of this patented system, for the first time, Indian container freight movement will have an air-cushioned ride and an articulated bogie, thereby enabling freight trains to run at mail/express train speed and permit sophisticated, fragile products to be transported through rail. The system will enable movement of automobiles, automobile components, and refrigerated productsseamlessly by rail as well as road.”
Stone India will invest $32 million in two phases, in order to first build manufacturing capacity to produce 25 RailRunner freight cars a month, and eventually to set up a “greenfield manufacturing plant” capable of producing 500 cars per month.
All the major components and systems for these freight cars will be manufactured in-house by Stone India. The company expects the cargo market in India will support 50 operating RailRunner freight routes within five years.
For RailRunner’s part, said Presdient and CEO Charles Foskett, “We have been working closely with Stone for some time in preparationof the collaboration agreement.” He added, “We are confident that Stone has the core technology, marketing strength, and understanding of the needs of India Railways to achieve significant market penetration. We are looking forward to working closely with Stone to support them in their commercial efforts. We agree with Stone that the Indian market will be a significant revenue source for our products."
Transport Workers Union 234 may vote to authorize a strike against SEPTA as early as this Sunday, though it’s unclear just how quickly such a move would materialize after the vote is taken. The union, SEPTA’s largest, represents bus drivers, subway and trolley operators, and mechanics; it has been without a contract since spring.
SEPTA regional rail service, covering Pennsylvania's five-county Philadelphia metropolitan area, would continue to run if a strike occurred.
SEPTA and the union reportedly are unable to come to terms over wages, benefits, and subcontracting issues. The last strike suffered by SEPTA occurred in 2005. The TWU seeks an annual wage increase of 6% and a $25-per-month increase in pension payments for each year of service. SEPTA has not made public its counteroffer.
“We think we can get a deal; there's no need for a strike," said a SEPTA spokesman.
Portland, Ore.’s plans to extend its Portland Streetcar line eastward has been reinforced by approval of federal matching funds, courtesy of the Federal Transit Administration. FTA has cleared $75 million in transit funding for the $128.2 million streetcar extension, which cross the Willamette River and serve the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, among other locations.
Roughly $45 million of the federal package comes from the federal "Small Starts" program directed at smaller-scale urban transit systems; Small Starts itself received a funding boost through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Another $30 million comes from the Department of Transportation.
House Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore., pictured at left), a longstanding advocate of light rail and streetcar development and a primary sponsor of federal “Small Starts” legislation, made the announcement along with FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff.
Most of the extension’s funding will come from the Portland Development Commission, state and regional sources, and Portland system development charges. The broad and relatively deep range of non-federal sources allowed city officials to proceed with streetcar planning in recent years even when federal sources and support appeared uncertain at best. The Obama Administration, however, has shown more support for the project.
Six additional streetcars for the system will be provided by United Streetcar LLC, a subsidiary of Clackamas, Ore.-based Oregon Iron Works, Inc. Czech-built Skoda/Inekon cars operate over the current four-mile line.
BNSF Corp. Thursday reported third-quarter operating income of $901 million, down roughly 26% from $1.21 billion in the comparable quarter of 2008. Third-quarter revenue of $3.49 billion was down a similar 27% from the $4.77 billion in the third quarter of 2008. Quarterly earnings were $1.42 perdiluted share, which included a $0.06 per share impact related to a favorable coal rate case adjustment; that was still down from third-quarter earnings of $1.99 per diluted share in 2008.
The company was able to lower its operating expenses during the quarter to $2.6 billion, down about $550 million, due in part to lower fuel prices, cost control measures, and decreased unit volumes.
“During the recession, BNSF has demonstrated significant operating leverage through ongoing dedication to controlling costs and productivity improvements,” said BNSF Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Matthew K. Rose in a statement. “The combination of our significant operating leverage and long-term market opportunities places BNSF in a strong position when the economy recovers.”
BNSF’s operating ratio for the quarter was 74.2%, compared with 74.7% in the comparable year-ago quarter.
The Association of American Railroads Thursday again reported a decline in weekly U.S. freight traffic, this time for the week ended Oct. 17, but AAR added that the week marked the one-year anniversary of the current traffic downturn affecting North America’s major railroads.
U.S railroad car traffic was down 15.4% for Week 41, compared with the comparable week in 2008. U.S. intermodal traffic declined 12.6%. Total volume of 31 billion ton-miles was down 13.9% from the comparable period a year ago.
At last year’s Week 41 mark, “notable declines in rail carloads (2.4%) and rail intermodal (2.8%) traffic showed the first significant signs of the nation’s economic downturn. Therefore, year-over-year comparisons for weekly rail traffic may appear to improve going forward,” AAR observed.
Canadian railroads reported carload volume of was down 10.4% from last year, and intermodal fell 11.3%. Mexico’s two major railroads reported carload volume fell 9.5% during Week 41, while intermodal retreated 11.3%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 41 week sof 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 18.6% from the comparable timespan in 2008, while intermodal fell a comparable 16.5%.