Denver's Regional Transportation District and BNSF have reached agreement for RTD to acquire part of BNSF's Denver-Cheyenne, Wyo., route for regional passenger rail use. The segment stretches from Denver Union Station to 72nd Street in Westminster, Colo.
RTD will pay $93.7 million for the acquisition, plus roughly $32 million in relocation expenses; BNSF will be required to relocate a yard and some tracks.
RTD will use the route for its Northwest Rail Corridor and for the Gold Line along BNSF's Front Range Subdivision. The purchase is part of RTD's FasTracks transit expansion program implementing regional rail service, and expanding light rail operations, in the Denver area, using Denver Union Station as a hub.
RTD recently concluded a similar agreement with Union Pacific, acquiring part of a UP route to form the planned North Central Corridor line.
“This agreement represents yet another significant milestonefor FasTracks,” said RTD General Manager Cal Marsella.
“BNSF is pleased to have concluded thisMemorandum of Understanding with RTD, and we look forward to reaching a formalpurchase and related agreements with RTD as it continues to develop FasTracks,”said Jeff Wright, BNSF’s region vice president, Central Operations.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo announced Thursday proposed rules designed to prevent train collisions through the use of Positive Train Control (PTC). The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) prescribes how railroads must use PTC systems to prevent train-to-train collisions.
DOT and FRA noted that under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, major freight railroads and intercity and regional rail operators must submit their plans for PTC to FRA for approval by April, 16, 2010. PTC systems must befully in place by the end of 2015. The proposed rules will specify how the technically complex PTC systems must function and indicate how FRA will assess a railroad’s PTC plan before it can become operational.
“These proposed rules give railroads the framework to use this life-saving technology,” said LaHood (at right). “We believe this is an important step toward making freight, intercity and commuter rail lines safer for the benefit of communities across the country.”
“FRA is setting the bar high interms of design, construction, and oversight of PTC technologies among different railroads,” said FRA Administrator Szabo. “FRA will continue to advocate for ways to strengthen safety standards in the railroad industry.”
FRA is coordinating efforts with the Federal Communications Commission to make a sufficient amount of radio frequency spectrum available, which it said is essential for PTC technology to function properly. DOT and FRA said this development will allow PTC technology to send and receive a constant stream of wireless signals regarding the location and speed of passenger and freight trains moving along rail lines.
The Association of American Railroads Thursday reported that rail traffic remains down year over year for the week ended July 11, 2009. Carloadings were at their highest level in 14 weeks. U.S. railroads originated 262,210 cars, down 17.9% compared with the same week in 2008.
Intermodal volume of 176,887 trailers or containers was down 23.7% from the same week last year. Total for the week ending July 11 was estimated at 28 billion ton-miles, off 16.9% from last year.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 58,741 cars for the week, down 24.6% from last year, and 39,945 trailers or containers, down 21.4%.
Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 11,430 cars, down 12.5% from last year, and 4,725 trailers or containers, off 23.7%.
A key indictor of transit railcar reliability is Mean Distance Between Failures (MBDF), and by this measure the car fleet of MTA NewYork City Transit has made solid progress in the last decade.
In a statement Wednesday, the agency said that while spot problems continue, "it should be noted that the entire fleet's Mean Distance Between Failures (MDBF) 12-month average now stands at nearly 140,000 miles, compared to less than 90,000 miles in 1999. The improvement is due in part to the new R160 subway cars, which are now replacing the oldest cars in the fleet, and in part to enhanced maintenance of the existing fleet. Our passenger surveys show marked improvement in customer satisfaction on lines where these new cars have been deployed."
MTA was responding to a report of poor car reliability on the system's C line. Acknowledging that this line is still waiting for an older fleet of cars to be replaced, the agency cited improvement in the performance of the subway fleet as a whole, which numbers around 6,500 cars.
Russian Railways (RZD) CEO Vladimir Yakunin and Deutsche Bahn Chairman Ruediger Grube Thursday signed a general agreement on the creation of an educational and research center for international logistics andsupply chain management.
The agreement, signed in Munich, was witnessed by Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel during the current round of high-level Russian-German inter-governmental consultations.
The center will be based both at the Higher School of Management at St. Petersburg State University and the St. Petersburg State Railway University, in Russia; in Germany, the center will be located at the European School of Management’s Berlin campus. The center is scheduled to open this fall.
“Russian Railways and Deutsche Bahn have been working together on staff training for several years now. But this is the first time the two companies have signed a document on developing a joint syllabus covering both training and skills enhancement. In addition to this, we will also be working together on scientific research projects,” said RZD CEO Yakunin in a statement.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood Thursday said the Federal Railroad Administration has received 278 pre-applications for grant funding totaling $102 billion.
"The response has been tremendous and shows that the country isready for high speed rail,” Secretary LaHood said. “It’s time to look beyond our highways and invest in public transportation services like rail, which will enhance regional mobility and reduce our carbon footprint.”
The desire to invest outstrips the current fiscal ability,since the pre-applications’ fiscal requests far exceed the $8 billion coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more commonly known as the federal stimulus package, for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail competitive grant program.
Even including the pledge by the Obama Administration to back an additional $5 billion for high speed rail funding in coming years through the congressional appropriations process, bolstering the amount available to $13 billion, the current supply of funds measures only 12.7% of the submitted demand.
FRA broke down the pre-applications by region as follows:
Northeast: total number of pre-applications submitted, 79; total requested funds, $35 billion.
South/Southeast: total number of pre-applications submitted, 44; total requested funds: $16 billion
Midwest: total number of pre-applications submitted, 47; total requested funds, $13 billion.
West: total number of pre-applications submitted, 108; total requested funds: $38 billion.
DOT said 40 states and the District of Columbia filed pre-applications. While not all proposed projects can be funded, the Department will work with states and regions to identify priorities and prepare for ongoing high speed rail development. DOT expects to announce the first round of merit-based grants in the fall. The final application deadline is August 24 for funding on individual projects and planning, and October 2 for corridor programs.
More information is available at the FRA website, www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/31.
California’s Department of Transportation will officially dedicate a “green” locomotive July 22, part of the Amtrak California service fleet, that it says reduces locomotive emissions.
The locomotive is an F59PHI originally built by Electro-Motive Diesel in October 2001. EMD has installed its 710ECO™Repower upgrade package with the latest microprocessor-controlled locomotive engine technology for lower emissions, increased fuel economy, greater reliability, and predictable maintenance costs. The upgraded locomotive will now achieve EPA Tier 2 emissions performance, two levels cleaner than required for this model, Caltrans said.
The July 22 ceremony, scheduled to occur at Sacramento Valley Station, “marks the beginning of cleaner diesel technology on Californiapassenger railroads, a longtime ambition of Caltrans in its quest to go green,” Caltrans said in a statement. “The newly upgraded locomotive has recently begun operating between Sacramento and the Bay Area along the Capitol Corridor route.”
Said Caltrans Director Will Kempton, “This is really a big step for Caltrans. We took a proactive role to get a cleaner locomotive on the tracks, and we’re proud to see this project through. It aligns with Governor Schwarzenegger's objectives to clean up Caltrans’ carbon footprint, and it contributes to the bigger goal of California going green.”
“We at EMD are pleased to offer a product that can benefit Californians in many ways,” said John Hamilton, president and CEO of Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. “The 710ECO™ Repower solution allows Caltrans to achieve its aggressive emissions reduction and performance goals, while extending the locomotive service lives to leverage its fleet investment.”
Amtrak California operates 15 F59PHI locomotives; the goal is to convert the entire fleet, eventually reducing operating emissions by nearly 50%. Caltrans noted the effort was made in cooperation with numerous partners, including the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Amtrak, the California Air Resources Board, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and EMD.
Railroad shippers anticipate an average base rate increase of 3.3% during the next six-to-12 months, according to a new survey conducted by New York-based investment bank Dahlman Rose & Co.
The 2009 2Q Rail Shipper Survey finds rail companies expecting to continue to face pricing pressure in the upcoming months. The rate is below past quarterly survey results-- a 3.6% expected increase in the first quarter of 2009 and a 3.5% increase in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Survey respondents were small, mid-to-major U.S. companies that use rail to transport a range of materials, including metals, petroleum, and chemicals, as well as building, consumer, and paper products, Dahlman Rose said.
“Although the near-term outlook remains bleak for railroads, shippers expect their businesses to pick up and grow 4% on average across multiple industriesin the next year,” Dahlman Rose said. “The results show agricultural products, metals, and petroleum products are leading the way for best anticipated growth; chemicals, building products, and consumer products, on the other hand, expect lower growth. The results bode well for the rail space and the broader market in the long term.”
"It is clear from our proprietary survey that pricing pressure exists in the marketplace," said Jason H. Seidl, Dahlman Rose director of Rail, Trucking and Air Freight research and Railway Age Contributing Editor (photo, left). "However, if shipper optimism for business growth turns out to be well-founded, this could relieve the pressure."
The survey also indicates that a great majority of shippers do not plan to file any rate action against a railroad during the next 12 months. The results, compared to last quarter's, suggest that shippers believe that current pricing practices are not out of line.
J.B. Hunt, a major over-the-road carrier, issued a third-quarter earnings report Tuesday that disappointed Wall Street, with both revenue and earnings falling below expectations. But the trucking company expressed optimism over the future of its intermodal business.
"We believe that, as our rail partners continue to make multiyear investments to improve service and network efficiency and as shippers remain under economic and environmental pressure to find sustainable alternatives to truck, the long-term outlook of our intermodal business is very attractive," said the trucking company.
"As a result it is important for us to continue to make strategic investments even in the midst of harsh market conditions. In the interim, we are focused on cost reduction efforts to help mitigate competitive price pressures," said J.B. Hunt.
Lowell, Ark.-based J.B. Hunt said recent contract negotiations resulted in an overall decrease in price as well as changes in mix of freight which, along with "only modest increases in seasonal volumes, lead us to expect earnings comparisons will continue to be difficult over the short term."
Meridian Southern Railway LLC (MDS), a 55.5-mile short line, has asked the Surface Transportation Board for authority to build 1,910 feet of track in Lauderdale County, Miss., to extend existing MDS track to the Norfolk Southern yard in Meridian.
This will give MDS a connection to the NS main line in addition to its existing connection with the Kansas City Southern main line.
"MDS anticipates that the proposed connecting track will provide existing shippers and consignees with improved access to the national rail system by addition of a routing option with more efficient flow and adding pricing competition," STB said on Wednesday as it announced the application.
STB expects to grant MDS the requested authority barring a possible stay based on environmental or historic issues, on which MDS has already submitted its own review.