U.S. domestic container traffic continued to defy overall downward intermodal volume trends in the second quarter, gaining 0.9%, compared with the comparable 2008 period, according to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA). Leading the advance was 53-ft. equipment moves, which jumped 5%; IANA says this segment now represents 95% of all domestic container loads.
Domestic container volume increased in the majority of IANA regions, with the Mountain Central region posting the largest percentage jump, up 17%. The Midwest region gained 4%.
In sharp contrast to such gains, international volume, which still accounted for more than half of all intermodal shipments despite its recent downtrend, fell for a ninth consecutive quarter, with double-digit declines in every region, IANA said. Western Canada logged the smallest decline, whilethe U.S. Northwest experienced the largest falloff.
Trailer shortfalls accelerated during the quarter as domestic freight continued its migration to containers; trailer volume has nowfallen during 16 of the last 18 quarters, interrupted only by a brief period of growth in mid-2008, IANA said. All trailer sizes, including the standard 53-ft. length, fell during the quarter, with total quarterly trailer volume falling below 400,000 loads for the first time since IANA started reporting in 1996.
Light rail riders throughout Portland’s TriMet system last weekend began boarding the agency’s new Type 4 cars, built by SiemensTransportation Systems, Inc., as the agency put the first of 22 Type 4s into revenue service.
Bombardier Transportation said Wednesday it has received a maintenance contract from the Landesnahverkehrsgesellschaft Niedersachsen mbH (LNVG) in Lower Saxony, Germany, for two Bombardier TRAXX locomotives and 34 double-deck intermediate and driving coaches. This order is worth roughly $26 million and will run until 2022.
Bombardier also said the duration of existing maintenance contracts between the two parties has been standardized. The contracts will run until 2022, increasing the value of these contracts by approximately $57million.
The LNVG fleet to be maintained by Bombardier will consistof 40 TRAXX locomotives and 220 double-deck intermediate and driving coaches.The fleet covers numerous routes throughout Lower Saxony.
"Bombardier Transportation has done a great job and itshigh levels of availability and reliability have contributed to passenger satisfaction. Passenger numbers have, as a result, also increased substantially. Our follow-up order is due to this excellent partnership," said Hans-JoachimMenn, spokesperson for LNVG management.
Said Bombardier Transportation Services Division President Lauent Troger, "This is a great achievement for us. With this order, LNVG is once again showing their trust in Bombardier as a quality manufacturer and service provider."
Jacksonville, Fla.-based RailAmerica says it has launched a new contract-switching business, RailAmerica Contract Switching Services (RACS), to serve industrial customers.
With contract switching, businesses that have a continuous need for railcar handling engage a third-party supplier to move railcars into, out of, and within a manufacturing or distribution facility, the company says. In addition to railcar switching, RACS will offer track maintenance, railcar andlocomotive repairs, and railcar cleaning.
“RailAmerica offers four key benefits to customers in need of a contract-switching provider–extensive experience in railway operations, a strong commitment to safety, rigorous employee training programs, and a presence throughout the country,” said Jeff Geary, vice president of the new rail-switching subsidiary.
RACS says it can supply on-site staff and equipment quickly and efficiently, decreasing the cost of transporting locomotives, equipment, and personnel. It also will offer easy access to mechanical facilities, which furnish equipment and make necessary repairs.
For customers already using a third-party provider, RACS says it will work to ensure a smooth transition to the RailAmerica approach.
RACS says its service and equipment offerings include: seven-day-a-week coverage; flexible range of hours; on-site managers who work closely with customers; railcar inspections to reduce loading dock car rejections; railcar and locomotive repair; track maintenance and inspection; plant personnel assistance; computerized yard inventory reports; locomotive models selected to meet customer needs; car-cleaning equipment; and maintenance-of-way equipment.
RailAmerica is owned by funds managed by affiliates of Fortress Investment Group, a global alternative asset manager.
Class I railroad employment in the U.S. dropped to 149,614 in mid-June, down 1.27% (or 2,372 jobs) from mid-May and 8.45% lower than in June 2008.
Transportation (other than train and engine) was the only group to show a year-over-year improvement. Its 6,856 workers in June represented a 3.46% increase from June 2008.
The following employment groups were still showing declines in employment in June this year compared with June a year ago: Transportation (train and engine), 55,434, down 17.45%; maintenance of way and structures, 35,382, down 0.72%; maintenance of equipment and stores, 28,619, down 5.37%; professional and administrative, 13,276, down 3.13%; and executives, officials, and staff assistants, 10,047, down 0.02%.
Ontario has moved to assist short line Huron Central Railroad in the short term, providing funding to continue operations between the railroad’s headquarters city of Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, and averting a shutdown of the short line set for August 15.
Member of Parliament David Orazietti said a letter written to Sault Ste. Marie Chief Administrative Officer Joe Fratesi noted that an applicationto the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. would be welcomed and supported if two key rail customers, Essar Steel Algoma and Domtar, also become involved in the short-term financing plan.
"NOHFC has indicated they would welcome an application and be supportive of considering short-term financing to help Huron-CentralRail," Orazietti said Monday. "I would expect an application will come forward and I know that every effort is being made to meet that Aug. 15 deadline."
Funds would address critical short-term infrastructure improvements to assure continued operation. Long-term funding for the shortline, a subsidiary of Greenwich, Conn.-based Genesee and Wyoming, Inc., remains unresolved. Huron Central has said the short line needs more than C$33 million (US$30.3 million) in upgrades to make it feasible.
July marked the ninth straight month Amtrak ridership dropped as cuts in business travel impacted ridership, attributable to the ongoing recession, the national passenger rail corporation says.
Ridership fell 8.4% to 2.5 million from the year-ago month. Short-distance route riders declined 9.6%; long-distance ridership fell 4.9%. Northeast Corridor ridership fell 6.5%, paced by a 12% decline in Acela travelers.
The decline follows six straight year of ridership records by Amtrak, and began last November. It also occurs as federal stimulus funds have allowed the carrier to begin rehabilitating sidelined passenger equipment to expand capacity.
The Montana State Land Board Monday, fearful of conflicting effort, rejected a right-of-way application from a proposed Wyoming border coal mine seeking to build a rail spur into Montana. The rail line would connect the Youngs Creek coal operation to the existing BNSF Decker spur line.
Land board members worried the Wyoming coal mine could compete with Otter Creek coal access plans that the state seeks to advance. State Gov. Brian Schweitzer said the issue would be revisited at a September meeting focused on developing the state-owned coal.
Montana’s proposed access to Otter Creek coal reserves involves plans by the Tongue River Railroad, Inc., to construct 17.3 miles of new rail line. The project is opposed by ranchers and environmentalists, but in October 2007 the Surface Transportation Board issued a decision granting final approval to the Tongue River Railroad to construct the line, known as Tongue River III or the "Western Alignment," subject to environmental mitigation.
Britain's transport Secretary, Lord Andrew Adonis, has proposed a plan to create a network of 250-mph trains that would "progressively replace" short-haul flights.
"For reasons of carbon reduction and wider environmental benefits, it is manifestly in the public interest that we systematically replace short-haul aviation with high speed rail," said Lord Adonis. A public-private partnership is envisioned.
He said a new company, High Speed Two, will plan the first phase of the network, an $11.6 billion line between London and Birmingham.
As elsewhere, funding could be a problem. According to The Guardian, Lord Adonis acknowledged doubts over the potential of a line from London to Glasgow costing $48 billion.
He also said: "Other countries which have made high speed rail a priority have found it affordable by allocating long-term infrastructure funding to it. The French have decided to allocate 16 billion euros [$22.6 billion] to high speed rail between now and 2020. It looks to me the more you build it the cheaper it becomes."
New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released a proposed new five-year capital investment program Monday. It adds up to $25.5 billion and includes, during the period 2010-2014, more than 500 new subway cars, 410 new regional railcars, 2,800 buses, signaling improvements and upgrades for the subways and regional railroads, station improvements, and improved access for the disabled.
MTA also released a draft 20-Year Capital Needs Assessment Plan. "Taken together, these documents identify the MTA's long-term infrastructure needs and a short-term plan to begin addressing them within current budget expectations," said the agency. They are available online at www.mta.info, where the public can also submit comments.
An MTA statements said: "Since 1982, the MTA has invested more than $75 billion in six successive programs that have restored the legacy of a system once on the brink of collapse. As a result, ridership levels are the highest since the 1950s, and our infrastructure is more reliable than ever: The distance subway traveled between breakdowns has increased 1800% for subway cars and 670% for buses and more than 500% for commuter rail cars.
"The proposed 2010-2029 Twenty Year Needs and Preliminary2010-2014 Capital Program are based on two guiding principles–rebuild the MTA's infrastructure and expand its system to accommodate growing demand. The $25.5 billion Proposed Draft 2010-2014 program focuses first and foremost on rebuilding the MTA's core infrastructure, which makes up 73% of the total program. Many of the proposed investments repair and replace fundamental components of the transit system," the MTA said.
In addition to rolling stock, signaling, and station improvements, the MTA contemplates such technological improvements as:
• A new contactless fare payment system to more fully integrate regional travel;
• Real timecustomer information to allow customers to optimize trip planning;
• Bus rapid transit initiatives, using low-floor buses, off-board fare collection, dedicated bus lanes, and signal prioritization to speed bus service;
• New train control systems to increase capacity and safety on subways and commuter railroads; and
• New subway transfers and strategic commuter rail investments to make the existing system work better for customers.
MTA said these " rebuilding investments are complemented by investments to expand the system to meet growing regional demand.
MTA's expansion plan includes the completion of its three ongoing projects and analysis of a number of new initiatives:
• First phase of the Second Avenue Subway, which will relieve overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue subway lines and carry more than 200,000 customers;
• East Side Access, which will save 76,000 daily customers up to 40 minutes a day by bringing LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal;
• Extension of the 7 subway line to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, which will support development of Manhattan's Far West Side;
• Study of Staten Island's North and West Shore travel corridors, which will identify ways to support faster and more reliable transit service on Staten Island;
• Queens Boulevard Corridor study, which will evaluate solutions for meeting today's high demand and serving projected population and employment growth as well;
• Regional bus analysis to learn about the opportunities and challenges of a more unified regional bus system; and
• Continued study of Tappan Zee corridor, which will evaluate alternatives for the Bridge, including transit, to reduce congestion and improve mobility.