The Surface Transportation Board announced Thursday that it has scheduled a public hearing for July 29 on a case that will decide whether a railroad may refuse service to coal shippers who do not follow the railroad's rules on coal dust dispersal.
The case, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation—Petition for Declaratory Order, Docket No. FD 35305, questions whether BNSF Railway may set rules on coal dust dispersion from trains operating over its lines and refuse to provide rail service to non-compliant shippers. The STB will decide if this is an “unreasonable” practice and whether it violates the railroad’s common carrier obligation.
The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at STB Headquarters, 395 E Street SW, Washington, D.C. It will be open to the public, but only parties of record in the case will be permitted to speak. Parties wishing to participate must file a notice of intent no later than June 18.
A video broadcast of the hearing will be available through the Board's website at www.stb.dot.gov.
Wabtec Corp. announced Thursday that its Wabtec Rail unit in Doncaster, England has won a $37 million contract to overhaul 90 transit cars for DB Regio Tyne & Wear Ltd. The project is expected to run through 2015, with the work to be performed at Wabtec Rail's facility in Doncaster.
DBTW operates trains on the Tyne & Wear Metro. The refurbishment will include improvements to both the passenger and driver areas of the cars, with the goal of extending their service life to 2025.
The project is part of a $600 million modernization of the Metro system, which is owned and managed by Nexus.
Taking advantage of "an economically favorable construction environment, BNSF Railway says it will begin work this month on replacing seven approach spans on the Mississippi River bridge at Burlington, Iowa, which it is rebuilding to "21st century engineering standards."
The work will complement a separate project that began last year to replace the bridge’s swing span with a new lift span over the navigation channel. Walsh Construction of Chicago will be the prime contractor on the approach span project, which is scheduled to be completed by December 2011.
The replacement approach spans will have new reinforced concrete foundations with 250-foot steel bridge spans.
BNSF said the bridge is used by about 30 trains a day, including two Amtrak trains linking Chicago to Denver. The bridge opens about 300 times a month to let river traffic pass. About 24 million tons of waterborne commerce passed through the bridge in 2008.
“The Burlington Bridge is a vital link in our nation’s transportation infrastructure," said David Freeman, vice president, Engineering, BNSF. "The new approaches will improve the Bridge’s overall rail capacity for freight and passenger movement. Together with the new lift span, these approaches will mean an entirely new bridge that will benefit Iowa and Illinois, as well as customers and passengers all along the BNSF Chicago to Denver corridor.”
He said is also continuing on replacement of the Bridge’s old swing span with a modern lift span, which will increase the river navigation channel width from 150 feet to 307 feet 6 inches. Ames Construction is the contractor on the lift span project, which is scheduled to be completed by March 2011. In addition to the lift span, one fixed span on the east side will be replaced with three smaller, temporary spans.
The lift span project is financed primarily through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and previous appropriations under the Truman-Hobbs Act, which provides federal funding for altering bridges found to be unreasonably obstructive to navigation. The Burlington Bridge is one of the top three U.S. bridges most frequently struck by barges or towing vessels.
At a meeting in Zaragoza, Spain, Wednesday, officials from Spain, France, and Portugal advanced a plan to coordinate high speed rail development among the three nations, using a template similar to that used by Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands overseeing Thalys HSR service.
The declaration of intent signed by the transport ministers of the three nations called for the creation of a joint cross-border passenger company, the French transport ministry said in a statement.
French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said that austerity measures adopted by the three countries in reaction to Europe’s current economic crisis would not affect the advancement of HSR ongoing within the three nations.
New York Air Brake (NYAB) and Invensys Rail Corp (IRC) said Thursday they will collaborate in offering locomotive systems that combine the fuel economy benefits of NYAB’s LEADER™ (Locomotive Engineer Assist/Display Event Recorder) and IRC’s LFO™ (Locomotive Fuel Optimizer) train control products.
Together, the systems seek to optimize fuel economy and train handling inmultiple-unit locomotive consists. The companies said LEADER prompts engineers to apply optimal throttle and brake settings for the given train consist and track profile. LFO then automatically makes individual throttle adjustments among the locomotives in the consist to optimize fuel efficiency based on total power demand.
LEADER, currently in operation on several Class I railroads, has produced fuel savings in the range of 8% to 12%, and as high as 17%, the companies said. LFO has delivered average fuel savings of 3% to 4% in tests. “These two ystems complement each other remarkably well to address different aspects of the fuel savings opportunity,” said NYAB Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Marshall Beck.
“LEADER and LFO bring a tested fuel savings solution to rail operations—LEADER providing the Driver Assist information to the engineer and LFO distributing those decisions among the locomotives,” said Invensys Vice President-Products and Innovation John Paljug. The system is compatible with all EMD and GE locomotive models, features automatic calibration, and will work seamlessly with dynamic brakes and Positive Train Control (PTC). The combined systems can be effectively installed on existing and new locomotives.
Railinc Corp. has promoted Robert Simora to Chief Information Officer with responsibility for providing “the vision and leadership for Railinc’s data, product development, and information systems platforms [and] also leading activities around company strategy and innovation.”
“Rob has transformed Railinc’s product development processand consistently demonstrated the type of executive leadership required to advance our IT processes and infrastructure to the next level,” said Allen West, president and CEO of Railinc. “His expertise has helped us create more customer-driven products and applications while lowering Railinc’s cost of operations. That’s a benefit to all our freight rail industry partners.”
Before joining Railinc in 2007 as assistant vice president, product development, Simora was director of IT for Tekelec, a telecommunications company, and also served as an IT manager for General Electric.
Axion Power International Inc. said Wednesday that it is joining Norfolk Southern—“a trail-blazer in hybrid locomotives”—in a new project to develop a battery management system that would allow rail locomotives to operate on battery power and recharge their batteries through regenerative braking.”
“Utilizing Axion's unique PbC batteries with their highlevel of charge acceptance and high cycle life will allow selected locomotives to operate free from diesel generator sets—and will help make Norfolk Southern trains the cleanest in North America,” said Axion Power Chairman & CEO Thomas Granville.
Phoenix suburb Mesa, Ariz., continues to prepare for a three-mile extension of Phoenix Valley Metro, expected to open in 2016 with four new stations. Mesa City Council now has approved the sites and street layouts of the stations, following a meeting earlier this week.
At present LRT service on the 20-mile route runs east from Phoenix andthrough Tempe, Ariz., reaching just one mile into west Mesa but falling short of Mesa’s downtown retail district by about one mile. The City Council has approved stations—all along Main Street—at the intersections of Alma School Road, Country Club Drive, Center Street, and Mesa Drive.
The plan must still be approved by Phoenix Valley Metro, but approval is expected.
San Diego-based APS Technology Group, Inc., announced Wednesday that CSX Intermodal has selected the APS Rail OCR Portal and Rail Tracking Systems for its new intermodal terminal in North Baltimore, Ohio. The rail yard automation systems automatically identify cars as they enter and exit the facility and tracks movements within the yard.
APS said the new systems will be integrated with the Tideworks terminal operating system, Kuenz wide-span gantry cranes, and Railcomm, Inc. automated switch control systems to speed up the flow of equipment and increase equipment visibility throughout the operations.
“We will be able to better utilize the capabilities ofthe cranes and terminal operating system, improving productivity and throughput overall,” said Paul Hand, general manager, CSX Intermodal, North Region.
In a call to “save a critical domestic industry,” four U.S. House representatives have introduced the Green Railcar Enhancement Act of 2010, designed to provide tax credits to bolster U.S. freight railcar repair and replacement—and save between 32,000 and 50,000 jobs.
During a media teleconference Wednesday, lead sponsors Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore., pictured at left) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) stressed the bipartisan support for the bill, H.R. 1806, which Blumenauer said now has garnered support from 50House members, “more than 20 from each party.” Blumenauer acknowledged no comparable progress yet in the Senate but expressed optimism that such progress would come.
The teleconference was cosponsored by the ARCI Committee of the Railway Supply Institute. RSI information concerning the act is available here.
“We’re very excited about a movement here; it’s bipartisan legislation that will help to save a critical domestic industry” which, Blumenauer suggested, might be on the verge of collapse. “We’re concerned that” [existing operators] may not weather the recession.”
The proposed legislation would be good for U.S. domestic manufacturing and the environment, Blumenauer and Brady asserted. Brady cited Dallas-based Trinity Industries, Inc. as one company in his congressional district that could use the assistance; for his part, Blumenauer cited The Greenbrier Cos. of Lake Oswego, Ore., as a local beneficiary. Brady, responding to a question on other potential beneficiaries, noted “1,200 companies that own railcars, [and] more than half of them own fewer than 100 railcars,” suggesting the Act would aid large and small shippers.
The Act “would provide a 25% tax credit for replacing orrebuilding old railcars,” with the cars requiring certification, during a twoyear period—cars “built this year or next,” Blumenauer said. Projected costwould be less than $1 billion, “probably $800 million,” for production of anestimated 65,000 freight cars that “would put 30,000 to 50,000 people to work.” The upgrades would have tomeet mimimal standards of an 8% increase in cargo capacity or fuel efficiency,targets the sponsors said were endorsed by the supply industry.
The two-year proposed focus of the bill (2010 and 2011) “helpsour economy when it’s needed,” Brady said.
The teleconference also included a recorded statement from James Ungar, vice chairman of St. Charles, Mo.-based American Railcar Industries. Ungar said domestic railcar building “has virtually collapsed,” costing the nation 54,000 jobs. The Act, he said, was “absolutely necessary to save our industry.” Ungar insisted the Act was “not a handout; we estimate we can put back to work 50,000 people, ”thus saving unemployment costs and other cost items, while saving fuel use and reducing CO2 emissions by 800,000 pounds per year.” Ungar also cited the benefits a strong domestic railcar supply sector offered to national security.
Other original sponsors of the bill include Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.).