The Association of American Railroads reports that for the week ended June 12, intermodal traffic on U.S. railroads totaled 223,075 trailers and containers, up 17.7% from last year and down only 2.3% from pre-recession 2008.
U.S. carriers originated 288,973 carloads in the latest week, up 10.5% from the comparable week in 2009 but still down still down 10.3% from the same week in 2008.
Sixteen of 19 carload commodity groups were up from last year, led by an 88.9% jump in metals. Strong increases were also seen inmetallic ores, 57%; coke, 49.2%; motor vehicles and equipment, 36.5%; and waste and scrap materials, 32.4%. Groups posting decreases included pulp, paper and allied products, down 7.5%; farm products, down 5.1%; and grain mill products, down 0.7%.
Canadian railroads reported 73,703 carloads for the week, up 28%, and intermodal volume of 51,334 trailers or containers, up 31.5%. Mexican railroads reported volume of 15,108 cars, up 22.9% from the same week last year, and 6,655 trailers or containers, up 39.5%.
Total North American rail volume for the first 23 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads came to 8,463,154 carloads, up 10.2% from last year, and 5,940,938 trailers and containers, up 12%.
Austin, Tex.’s Capitol Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors Thursday unanimously named Linda S. Watson as its new CEO. Watson was one of two finalists, given the nod over Deborah Wathen Finn, president of The Wathen Group, a New York-based consultancy.
Watson currently heads the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Orlando, Fla. She and the Cap Metro board still must agree on contract specifics.
Cap Metro hired the firm Gilbert Tweed last January to conduct a national search for CEO; Gilbert Tweed received 110 applications.
After repeated delays, Cap Metro last March launched its initial 32-mile commuter rail line, using six Stadler-Bussnag diesel-multiple unit (DMU) trains.
Vancouver, Wash., across the Columbia River from larger neighbor Portland, Ore., has resisted being included in any light rail transit plans for decades. But the Washington municipality’s opposition appears to be slowly waning as it seeks a road/rail compromise plan.
The latest such measure: a new downtown park-and-ride structure across the street from the Vancouver Convention Center, which coulddouble as a light rail station and receiver for traffic near a proposed new Interstate 5 road and rail bridge.
“We believe you might even be able to make the station apart of the parking structure, so that you could literally park on the secondfloor and walk straight into the train station," said Thayer Rorabaugh, Vancouver transportation manager.
Some light rail advocates are wary of the proposal, calling it a political compromise at best that doesn’t best address growing traffic congestion in Vancouver or the region.
The project is part of an equipment refurbishing program Talgo is overseeing for equipment used on Amtrak’s Cascades service linking Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
Nomad says it will make use of the simultaneous bandwidth available on all 3G networks (including a Canadian 3G network for trains en route to Vancouver), to give passengers the best possible quality of Wi-Fi service.
The passenger information system allows passengers to view real-time information about their journey on screens in each car. Passengers will be shown the current train position on a map with updated schedule information such as the time to the next station. The system also provides text feeds, video, and GPS location-triggered content, with audio via the train’s PA system.
Nigel Wallbridge, Nomad’s executive chairman, said: “This is another significant milestone for us in the North American market. In a few short years on-train Wi-Fi has become the norm for rail operators and Nomad’s systems are proving to be the preferred solution to deliver a first class service on all types of route. We are particularly excited to be introducing our next-generation passenger information system for the first time in the North American market.’’
Ferran Canals, capital projects division manager at Talgo Inc., said: “We look at this Wi-Fi system as the way to ensure that Talgo trains running in the Northwest Cascades Corridor will set the standard for providing an exceptional passenger experience.”
Seattle-based Talgo, Inc. is the North American subsidiary of Madrid, Spain-based Patentes Talgo, S.A.
Canadian Pacific has joined the Windsor Port Authority and Borealis Infrastructure, a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, in forming the Continental Rail Gateway coalition (CRG) to promote the development, funding, and construction of a replacement rail tunnel under the Detroit River.
“The current freight tunnel, which carries approximately 350,000 rail cars each year, opened in 1909 and remains in excellent condition,” the coalition said in a statement Thursday. “However, it cannot handle double-stacked, nine-foot, six-inch containers and some new generations of multilevel rail cars used by shippers and auto manufacturers. The tunnel clearance was enlarged once in 1994 and can't be further expanded.”
The coalition said that replacing the 100-year-old tunnel “is a key step toward making the strategically located region ofWindsor/Essex County/Detroit/Wayne County more competitive as a logistics hub for manufacturers, agricultural shippers, and other importers and exporters. The high-clearance replacement rail tunnel will allow double-stacked container trains out of the Port of Montreal to use the Montreal/Windsor/Detroit/Chicago corridor. This is important to the region because the Port of Montreal plans to double its container-handling capacity over the next ten years.”
Earlier this month, a project description was submitted to Transport Canada in compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). The coalition said work with U.S. regulators will continue on environmental reviews that began in 2009 with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Bombardier Transportation has won the tender from Swiss Federal Railways (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen, or SBB) to supply 59 TWINDEXX double-deck trains for intercity rail travel. The contract, valued at $1.6 billion, makes the TWINDEXX project the largest vehicle order in the SBB’s history, Bombardier says. The contract also includes options for more than 100 additional TWINDEXX trains.
Delivery of the TWINDEXX trains will begin in 2012, and the first vehicles will appear in the standard timetables on or about December 2013. All 59 trains will be delivered by the end of 2019.
The TWINDEXX concept was developed by the Bombardier Transportation Competence Center for Double-Deck Technology in Görlitz, Germany. Features include spacious interior compartments, wide doors for entry and exit, wireless internet access, and business class compartments. The trains are fitted with electronic customer information and emergency call systems as well as CCTV.
The roll compensation provided by Bombardier’s FLEXX Tronic WAKO system compensates the natural roll movement of the carbody, thus maximizing comfort for passengers and at the same time allowing the train to take curves quickly. The TWINDEXX trains thus will be able to increase their speed on curves by 15%, thus significantly reducing travel time, Bombardier says.
Bombardier Transportation President André Navarri said, “We would like to thank the SBB for placing their trust in us and are very much looking forward to continuing this successful collaboration. Switzerland has always played an important role for Bombardier, both as a market and as a production location. The three Swiss sites with 900 employees are not only a fixture in the country’s traditional rail industry but are also important elements of our international network of innovation and production. The TWINDEXX trains open a new chapter in this success story.”
Stéphane Wettstein, chief country representative of Bombardier Transportation in Switzerland, said, “The TWINDEXX double-deck train,with its innovative roll compensation, is a future-oriented concept, yet it also employs tried and tested elements of technology. The TWINDEXX trainsare not only extremely comfortable but, thanks to their low operating costs, offer long-term added value in economic terms as well. The decision is also really good news for employees in Switzerland. Our sites in Villeneuve, Zürich, and Winterthur are going to benefit considerably from this collaboration. They share a leading role in the project together with our Competence Center for Double-Deck Technology in Görlitz, Germany.”
SBB Chief Executive Officer Andreas Meyer said, “Looked at objectively, Bombardier best fulfilled the wide-ranging criteria to win the contract. The up-to-date, customer-friendly trains and a further improved product range offer numerous, noticeable advantages for our customers. What is more, the roll compensation means that we can also save more time, improving punctuality and reducing missed connections. This is an important step towards improving our own service.”
Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin met Monday with Ukraine Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, Transport Minister Kostiantyn Yefymenko, and Ukrainian State Railways Director Mykhailo Kostyuk to advance high speed rail opportunities between the two nations. The two railways signed an agreement to pursue three HSR routes, beginning with a Moscow-to-Kiev line that, besides linking the capitals, also would serve the Russian cities of Bryansk and Suzemka.
The parties also seek to reduce travel times by canceling or substantially reducing border and customs control procedures; each side agreed to draft a request to state authorities on changing the system for all potential HSR operations.
Also, as an initial step toward providing HSR, the tworailways cited the reduction in quantity and duration of technical stops of passenger trains through the use of EP-20 dual-voltage locomotives with speeds of up to 200 kilometers per hour (125 mph), which will avoid the need to change locomotives during the journey.
Though not binding, the agreement projects that Ukrainian State Railways will strongly consider purchasing electric rail passenger equipment produced in Russia.
The Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear arguments over whether a 4% tax that Alabama collects from the railroad industry for its use of diesel fuel can be challenged as discriminatory.
Railroad companies have challenged Alabama's tax policy, including Norfolk Southern, whose challenge was rejected by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2008, allowing Alabama to continue collecting the tax. But CSX, which paid $7.1 million under the tax in 2006 and 2007 combined, has asked the Supreme Court to review the matter, and the court has now agreed.
“The railroads’ principal competitors in Alabama, motor carriers and water carriers, are expressly exempt from sales and use taxes on purchase and consumption of diesel fuel, and therefore paid no such tax,” CSX lawyers wrote in the brief to the Supreme Court. CSX also argues that the lower courts are conflicted on the legal issue, and that only the Supreme Court can settle the matter.
The tax helps fund the state’s education budget.
NS and CSX argue that the sales and use taxes on diesel fuel is unfair because trucks are exempt from comparable fees. Alabama state officials defend the measure, noting the trucking industry pays a 19 cent-per-gallon motor fuels tax that the railroads do not. “The only thing different is the label,” said Margaret Johnson McNeill, assistant counsel in the Alabama Department of Revenue.
The court agreed only to decide the narrow question of whether the tax can be challenged, not whether it is discriminatory.