Hermon, Maine-based Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway said Thursday it has asked the state to consider purchasing and maintaining its track and right-of-way. The property is worth about $17 million, according to President and COO Robert C. Grindrod, who estimates upgrades of $6 million are required, followed by an annual maintenance cost of $2.5 million.
The railroad seeks the state’s interest as it announced it would sell or abandon approximately 241 miles of track linking Millinocket and Madawaska, citing fiscal woes. Operations will continue during the abandonment process, Grindrod said.
“The reason for this action is purely economic,” said Chairman Edward A. Burkhardt. “For some time, MMA has faced weak lumber, paper, and other forest products markets, and the economic downturn has greatly affected traffic on these lines. This portion of MMA’s network is heavily loss-making, and as such does not generate sufficient cash flow to provide for necessary capital expenditures to ensure sustainability.”
“One solution would be for the state to acquire this segment of our network and to assume the future capital investment requirements,” Burkhardt said. “This would, of course, require funding, which would have to come from federal stimulus monies or would have to be addressed by the legislature. MMA considers this the best possible solution as it would result in rail service being maintained at all stations.”
Both officials said that they have discussed the situation with Gov. John Baldacci and officials at Maine’s Department of Transportation.
The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, born in 2003 from the bankrupt Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, serves customers in Maine and Vermont, as well as the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, operating over roughly 745 miles of track.
The Association of American Railroads reported Thursday that for the week ended Aug. 8, U.S. railroads originated 274,633 carloads of traffic, down 16% from the comparable week in 2008. Carloadings declined 14.1% in the West and 18.8% in the East.
Intermodal volume totaled 195,014 trailers or containers, down 16.6%. Container volume fell 10.8% and trailer volume was down 38.1%. Total volume was an estimated at 29.3 billion ton-miles, down 14.8% from last year.
All 19 carload groups experienced declines ranging from 6.1% for chemicals to 48.3% for metals and metal products.
For this year's first 31 weeks, U.S. railroads reported total volume of 8,159,672 carloads, down 18.9 % from 2008; 5,764,816 trailers or containers, down 17.1%; and total volume of 868.3 billion ton-miles, off 18%.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 55,404 carloads for the week, down 27.2% from last year, and 38,135 trailers or containers, down 20.1%. For the first 31 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads had cumulative volume of 1,846,410 carloads, down 23.9 %, and 1,243,289 trailers or containers, a decline of 16.3%.
Mexican railroads originated 11,533 carloads, down 12.7%, and 6,005 trailers or containers, down 10.5%. Volume for the first 31 weeks of 2009 was 351,153 carloads, down 15.3% , and 150,740 trailers or containers, down 21.4%.
The Norfolk Southern Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to Penn State Altoona to help create a four-year Rail and Transit Engineering program. The program will lead to a Bachelor of Science degree and program will include existing civil engineering courses, as well as customized courses in rail business, mechanical systems, track, operations, communications, and regulation.
In announcing the program Thursday, the Foundation said the goal is “to produce graduates who will quickly acclimate to the rail industry and its suppliers.”
Cindy Earhart, Norfolk Southern’s vice president human resources, said: “While the rail industry is operating in challenging economic times, the fact remains that our workforce is maturing. In order for Norfolk Southern to remain successful, we need to develop a talent pool that understands the railroad work environment. Penn State Altoona’s Rail and Transit Engineering program will provide the industry with skilled and motivated graduates who want to become the next generation of railroaders.” “I want to congratulate Norfolk Southern and Penn State University for coming together to create this fantastic baccalaureate program in railroad engineering,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (Pa.), ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Railroads in the House of Representatives. “Pennsylvania played an important role in building America’s railroads, and our state continues its proud heritage to this day. The transportation of goods and services over railis critical to our economic growth and educational programs like this at Penn State will help improve its role across the country. I want to recognize Norfolk Southern for its commitment to improving the communities it works with and I congratulate Penn State and its students on this exciting new educational opportunity.”
China will invest more than $100 billion per year in rail construction on average during the next three years, an increase from a previously announced increase to roughly $88 billion this year, Vice Railway Minister Wang Zhiguo said in published remarks.
Wang also said the ministry would seek approval for 20,000 kilometers (12,400 miles) of additional rail construction, requiring a total investment of more than 2 trillion yuan, or roughly $280 billion, by the end of next year.
China has said it seeks to expand its rail network to promote economic growth and ease transport bottlenecks. It hopes to have upgraded or put in place 86,000 kilometers (53,320 miles) of rail by year’s end, expanding to 110,000 kilometers (68,200 miles) by 2012.
The Association of American Railroads Thursday urged the Federal Railroad Administration to “faithfully follow the Congressional statutory mandate requiring railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) technologies across certain portions of the national freight rail network.”
Congress in 2008 passed legislation requiring U.S. freight railroads to implement PTC on certain main line tracks used for transporting passengers or toxic chemicals (TIH) by Dec. 31, 2015. But, AAR says, FRA's proposed rule would impose a financial burden above and beyond what Congress intended, potentially adding hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cost to the railroads as they face using private capital to pay for the federal PTC mandate.
"The railroad industry provides efficient, safe, and environmentally beneficial transportation services," said AAR Senior Vice President Safety and Operations Robert VanderClute. "By proposing substantial expenditures beyond what Congress is requiring, the proposed regulations would undermine the ability of the railroads to continue to provide the public benefits of rail."
VanderClute testified that several elements of the FRA proposed rule pose significant technical, operational, and financial challenges to the industry. Specifically, AAR objected to FRA's proposal to: (a) base PTC implementation on 2008 traffic patterns; (b) require dual displays in locomotives; and (c) allow Class II and Class III railroads to operate locomotives unequipped with PTC technology over PTC equipped tracks.
"It does not make any sense that Congress would mandate PTC for TIH routes that existed in 2008, knowing that those routes would besubject to change in the years to come," VanderClute said. He noted FRA is aware these routes would change after 2008 due to implementation of other federal rules requiring risk assessment of the routes used for TIH.
"Given FRA's cost-benefit analysis, and the adverse consequences of extending the mandate beyond what Congress required, FRA should use Dec. 31, 2015 as the date governing the extent of the railroads' mandatory PTC obligation," he said.
AAR also said FRA's proposed requirement for dual-displays in the locomotive could cost the industry as much as $200 million for equipmentthat would serve no additional safety purpose.
"Simply put, the engineer operates the locomotive, and the presence or absence of a second display will have no effect on how the engineer carries out his or her responsibilities," VanderClute said. "All a second display would accomplish is to require the industry to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a screen serving no useful purpose."
AAR also questions FRA's logic surrounding its proposal to allow Class II and Class III railroads to use locomotives not equipped with PTC technology on PTC-equipped routes. FRA was basing this proposed part ofthe rule on the assertion that the financial burden on Class II and III railroads outweighs the safety benefits.
"Surely Congress did not require Class I railroads to spend billions of dollars on PTC systems only to allow Class II and III railroads to operate trains without the technology on our tracks equipped with PTC," VanderClute said.
Officials from Morris County, N.J., have reached agreement with Roxbury Township counterparts on a $6 million planned reconstruction of four miles of rail line within the municipality.
The Chester Branch line, linking Wharton to Randolph, was one of the $9 million in projects Morris County submitted for payment through the federal stimulus bill. The reconstruction effort will permit Morristown & Erie Railway, Inc. to serve a lumber dealer in Roxbury.
Roxbury originally objected to the plan, claiming the rail line activity would decrease safety on a recreation path near Horseshoe Lake, a popular park. Township officials said the rebuilt rail line would operate within three feet of the recreation path. County officials retorted that the township path had been built in part within the railroad right-of-way—private property.
Morris County and Roxbury, located in north-central New Jersey, have signed a 22-point agreement covering various aspects of the rehabilitation effort.
Among other items in the agreement: A new bicycle and pedestrian trail will be built, parallel to and a few feet west of the existing access road; new pavement will be added to the access road to maintain a 20-foot width for vehicles; the county will install a gate near state highway Route 10 to keep vehicles from exiting Route 10 onto the railroad right-of-way; trains operations will occur at between 5 mph and 10 mph on the tracks that front Horseshoe Lake Park; and hours of operation will be restricted to daylight hours, between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., on weekdays.
Pandrol says its fastenings are in use on two of China’s recently completed high speed dedicated passenger links. The two lines have commenced operations with top speeds of 155 mph; increases to 185 miles per hour are planned.
The first line is now in operation between Shijiazhuang and Taiyuan, a distance of 118 miles. This line is comprised of 47.2 miles of track, 24.23 miles of bridges, and 46.6 miles of tunnels. The ballasted tracks are equipped with Pandrol Fastclip rail fastenings.
The second line is 222 miles in length and in operation between Hefei and Wuhan. There are four main tunnels on this line, Dabieshan Tunnel (8.24 miles); Jinzhai Tunnel (6.65 miles); Hongshiyan Tunnel (4.88 miles); and Hongshigen Tunnel (3.17 miles). Pandrol In-line SFC fastenings were selected to be installed in the tunnels in this project, once again selected for the lateral (up to ±12mm) and vertical (+30/-0mm) adjustment they offered.
Pandrol’s Offset SFC (Single Fastclip) baseplate system is used throughout the tunnel sections. These baseplates, incorporating the Fastclip fastening, feature lateral adjustment of up to ±12mm, and vertical adjustment of +30/-2mm, which makes it appropriate for slab track where the speed and ease of installation and alignment, both in the initial construction and subsequent realignment, is critical.
Pakistan will mark its independence day August 14 with the launch of through freight rail service, including container traffic, linking its capital, Islamabad, with Istanbul, Turkey, via Tehran, Iran’s capital. The route spans 6,506 kilometers, or 4,036 miles, including 1,900 kilometers (1,178 miles) in Pakistan, 2,570 kilometers (1,593 miles) in Iran, and 2,036 kilometers (1,262 miles) in Turkey.
Pakistan Federal Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said that if the freight service succeeded, a passenger train would also be introduced on the route. He also expressed hope that Pakistan Railways would eventually launch train service to and from Europe through Turkey.
Bilour said trade volume among Pakistan, Iran and Turkey was roughly $15 billion and increasing, and the three nations concur that the best way to reduce the cost of goods was to link the three countries of the Economic Coordination Organization with rail service.
Track gauge remains a problem; Pakistan’s rail lines are mostly broad gauge, while Iran’s railroads are standard gauge. Iran will provide transhipment facilities at Zahedan station until a standard gauge line is laid between Zahedan-Mirjaveh and Quetta.
Pakistan also has agreed to form a consortium with China on various projects, including the laying of railway track up to Iran and Afghanistan and construction of passenger railcars in Pakistan. A six-member committee would oversee the projects, with three members appointed by China and three by Pakistan.
Bilour said Pakistan has placed an order to China for 200 passenger coaches, of which 150 would be built in Pakistan.
Kansas City Southern announced Wednesday that it has assigned broadened responsibilities to David R. Elbrecht, former vice president transportation of the Kansas City Southern Railway Co. (KCSR), who on July 24 was appointed senior vice president operations of Kansas City Southern de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (KCSM).
"Mr. Ebbrecht will remain in the United States as senior vice president operations and continue to direct KCSR's rail operations as a result of the departure of Scott E. Arvidson, KCSR's former executive vice president and chief operating officer," said Wednesday's announcement. "Mr. Ebbrecht will report to David L. Starling, president and chief executive officer of KCSR and president and chief operating officer of KCS." No reason was given for Arvidson's departure.
William H. Nolen, senior vice president operations of KCSM, will remain in this role and direct the operations of KCSM. He will continue to report to Jose G. Zozaya, president and executive representative of KCSM.
Norfolk Southern announced Wednesday that it plans to build a $95 million intermodal terminal in Greencastle, Pa., as part of the railroad's Crescent Corridor initiative to establish a high speed intermodal freight rail route between the Gulf Coast and the Northeast.
The new facility, serving the Mid-Atlantic region of the corridor, will be constructed on 200 acres next to the planned Antrim Commons Business Park. It's scheduled to go into operation in late 2011.
"Because of its strategic location to key markets in the Mid-Atlantic region, the new Franklin County terminal is vital to the success of our Crescent Corridor," said Wick Moorman, Norfolk Southern's chief executive officer (pictured at left). "We commend Gov. Ed Rendell for his efforts to provide state funding for our intermodal terminal initiatives in Greencastle and Philadelphia. We also want to thank Senators Robert Casey and Arlen Specter, and Rep. Bill Shuster, for their support of a public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation so that Pennsylvania will benefit from the economic development opportunities and job growth potential of integrated logistics hubs."
"Rail freight is an important component of any transportation infrastructure discussion," Gov. Rendell said. "Pennsylvania has invested heavily in rail freight because it is a smart, environmentally friendly, cost-effective infrastructure investment. I will continue to advocate for rail freight investments at the state and national level."
NS said $2.5 billion in Crescent Corridor projects have been identified, and "based on the public benefits that stand to be derived in the form of highway congestion relief, NS plans to implement the Crescent Corridor initiative through a series of public-private partnerships. When the Crescent Corridor initiative is fully implemented, it is anticipated that more than one million truckloads of freight will be absorbed from the highways to the rails annually, saving the U.S. more than 170 million gallons of fuel per year."