Reacting to a failure to reach agreement with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, Canadian National has announced it will unilaterally increase wage rates and apply a change to the mileage caps for the company's locomotive engineers the union represents in Canada on CN. CN said its response comes after its collective bargaining with TCRC ended Nov. 20 without a settlement. The contract changes are to take effect beginning early Saturday morning, November 28. TCRC's current labor agreement with CN expired Dec. 31, 2008.
CN says it had informed the union last weekend of its intention to increase the engineers' wages by 1.5% and implement only one work rule change. At present, TCRC-represented conductors have a 4,300-mileage cap limitation, and TCRC-represented engineers have a 3,800-mile cap. With the work rule change, both groups of employees working in the locomotive cab will be working under one consistent rule, and the engineers will see an overall increase in their compensation. On average, CN says, its locomotive engineers presently work between 15 and 17 days per month.
CN says it has made several different offers to resolve these collective agreements, but claims all have been rejected by the TCRC. “CN also offered to refer the matters in dispute to binding arbitration, but the TCRC rejected this option as well,” the Class I railroad said in a statement. Under terms of the Canada Labour Code, the TCRC and CN are entitled to engage in a strike or lockout upon 72 hours' notice to the other party.
Germany's Rhein Main Services (RMS) has selected Cubic technology for the country's first large-scale electronic ticketing system. The system will serve a region with a population of more that five million where an estimated 650 million journeys are taken annually on public transport.
RMV ordered the system on behalf of the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV). The RMV and its partners operate trains serving 600 stations, along with 3,300 buses.
The work will be performed through Cubic Deutschland, part of the transportation segment of San Diego-based Cubic Corp. a global provider of fare collection systems and ticketing services.
Steve Shewmaker, president of Cubic Transportation Systems worldwide, said: "While this contract is our largest in Germany, we also have contracts with RMV and other German cities to extend the use of mobile phones for electronic ticketing. We expect to merge these efforts in the future and provide Germany with some of the most modern and efficient electronic ticketing in the world."
The Federal Railroad Administration has refused to issue an emergency order banning the use of one-person crews in conventional and remote control yard switching operations, but it pledged to monitor them "very closely." The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers-Teamsters and the United Transportation Union filed a petition in June seeking the prohibition.
“Because of the advances in technology, we are seeing significant changes in operations–many that never existed before. FRA will continue to look very closely at these changes," the agency said ina letter to the two unions.
FRA said it has"no factual evidence" to support a ban on one-person crew operations. "Switchmen, trainmen, and RCOs routinely perform tasks alone, even when on a two-person or three-person crew," noted the agency.
FRA acknowledged that "since these particular one-person operations are new, we have no prior data with which to compare conventional operations and have little prior experience with these operations. Accordingly, we intend to monitor these operations very closely. While there may be operations where a one-person crew can function safely, there may be other operations that are unsuitable for such operations."
"As technology advances," said the letter, “FRA is also aware that the transfer of certain additional tasks and responsibilities to a single individual may result in 'information overload' and/or diminished 'situational awareness.' We believe these conditions should be considered when changing work assignments or adding new technology. Inthis vein, FRA recommends that safety impact studies be conducted prior to implementing such changes.
"FRA understands that fatigue may play a role in human-factor caused accidents. As the duty tour unfolds, employees tire and may become less coherent. As a consequence, FRA has encouraged the development of fatigue mitigation programs."
UTU International President Mike Futhey said the fight against one-person crews “will remain the UTU's top priority–before the FRA and before Congress. We know, and the BLET agrees, having stated jointly with us in the petition for the emergency order, that no conditions exist where one-person operations are safe.”
Canadian Pacific is readying a pilot test of Positive Train Control on its right-of-way linking Calgary and Red Deer, in Alberta, next year to test its efficiency in reducing human error as a potential cause of accidents. CP is preparing to comply with a mandate passedby the U.S. Congress in late 2008 requiring PTC across most of the U.S. rail freight network, prompted by the collision of a freight train and passenger train in Chatsworth, Calif., on Sept, 12, 2008, which killed 25.
"Human factor causes for accidents is a very small number, industry-wide," said Chris Carroll, CP director of operations, positive train control. "But they are also the accidents that can have grave consequences ... We are doing a pilot project of the technology thatwill be used in the U.S.” CP’s U.S. subsidiaries include Soo Line Railroad and the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad.
CP recently completed a GPS survey of the Calgary to Red Deer track last week. "We will develop a database over the nextmonth," said Carroll. "We are spending quite some time in the lab. We will put this technology into work next summer and test trains."
Dallas Area Rapid Transit's continued, aggressive expansion of light rail transit has been recognized as one of the year's Top 100 Global Infrastructure Projects, compiled by the Washington, D.C., consulting firm CG/LA Infrastructure LLC.
Projects included on the 2009 list were chosen for their vision and the competitive boost they add to the communities they serve. DART's activities were cited by the firm for its commitment to continued growth in the face of economic recession, marked in 2009 by the opening of the first sectionof the Green Line during September. DART says it is on schedule to nearly double its light rail network to 90 miles by 2013.
According to Norman F. Anderson, president and CEO of CG/LAInfrastructure, "The aim of the Global Forum is to fix a spotlight on the most important infrastructure projects in the world--and to give the men andwomen who lead those projects an opportunity to build long-term assets criticalto their country's future, at world-class levels of quality and velocity."
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey announced that PATH ridership declined 4% during the first nine months of 2009. Ridership went from 56.4 million in January-September 2008 to 54.1 million during the same period in 2009.
At the Port Authority’s six vehicular bistate crossings, traffic dropped 2.1%. Truck traffic declined by 10.45%, costing the Port Authority about $20 million in tolls.
At the Port Authority's major airports, traffic is down 6.4%.
Cost-cutting measures taken by the agency include a zero-growth operating budget, no staff increases, and "prioritization of long-term capital programs in the context of the new economic and fiscal realities."
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a study Thursday showing an improvement of around 22% between 1990 and 2006 in freight rail fuel efficiency.
“While all types of transportation are vital to the distribution of goods across the country, this study shows that utilizing America’s freight rail system can lead to significant fuel savings,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo (pictured at left). “The environmental benefits of these positive changes over the last two decades are enormous. We look forward to working with the freight rail industry to make sure these gains continue.”
As reasons for the increase in fuel efficiency, Szabo cited improvement in diesel-electric locomotives, increased use of double stack trains, track and signal improvements, and longer trains.
The Association of American Railroads Friday commended FRA for its report. "Railroads are continuously improving fuel efficiency--through new technologies, locomotive improvements, enhanced employee training, and other initiatives," said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. "The environmental benefits of freight rail--such as our ability to take trucks off the road and lower greenhouse gas emissions--are made possible by our fuel efficiency."
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. said in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday that it has arranged an $8 billion loan to help pay for its acquisition of BNSF Railway. Berkshire is paying $26.3 billion, or $100 per share, for the 73% of BNSF that it does not already own. It signed the financing deal with JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo on Wednesday.
Buffett has announced that Berkshire to borrow half of the $16 billion cash needed for the transaction. The loan is to be repaid over a three-year period.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's new chairman, Jay Walder, warned at an MTA board meeting Wednesday that the agency's worsening fiscal crisis "demands that we permanently overhaul the way the MTA does business."
"The bottom line is that there is no more money for us in Albany, and we will learn to do more with the funding we have," he said.
New fare increases and work force reductions are coming, he said—it's only a question of size and timing.
MTA operates one of the world's biggest urban/suburban passenger rail systems; each day its trains move more than four million riders on New York City subways and hundreds of thousand more on the Long Island and Metro-North railroads.
Although MTA is a state agency and its chairman is appointed by the governor, the state legislature earlier this year balked at committing substantial long-term help.
At Wednesday's board meeting, which was Webcast, it was indicated that fares will rise by 7.5% in 2011 and 2013 and possibly earlier to help narrow rising budget gaps. Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson said MTA would nave have to tap $150 million of reserves because the recession has caused revenue from an urban real-estate tax to fall far more steeply than anticipated.
Despite a sizeable fare increase and service cuts imposed earlier this year, MTA's farebox recovery ratios remain too low for comfort, especially in view of the vast new debt MTA is assuming as it presses ahead with such multibillion-dollar projects as the Second Avenue Subway on Manhattan's East Side, and also LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal.
MTA last week released figures showing that in this year's first eight months, subway riders paid only 34.4% of the total cost of their rides (including debt as well as operating expenses); Metro-Morth riders paid 39.2%; and LIRR riders, 28.9%.