Breaking News

U.S. carloads, intermodal experience weekly decline

U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Feb. 9, 2019, was relatively flat, with carload declines cancelling out intermodal gains. For the week ending Feb. 16, carloads and intermodal both took hits, according to figures released by Association of American Railroads (AAR). Total carloads were 250,236, down 3.9% compared with the same week in 2018, while intermodal volume was 273,679 containers and trailers, down 2.1% compared to 2018. Combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 523,915 carloads and intermodal units, down 3% compared with the same week last year.

NPRS expanding to Grand Forks

Northern Plains Rail Services (NPRS) is set to begin construction later this year on the Grand Plains Rail Center, a new railcar servicing and repair facility at Grand Forks, N. Dak. The facility will complement NPRS’s existing repair facility at Erskine, Minn., as well as its mobile car repair operations in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Saskatchewan and Alberta provinces in Canada.

Keasling joins RGCX

Rail industry veteran Mike Keasling has joined Marietta, Ga.-based railcar leasing company RGCX as Vice Presiden, Sales & Marketing. Based in Chicago, he will take on a national role “focused on deepening existing and developing new client relationships across the industry,” the company said in announcing his appointment.

Tunnel life cycle design and cost analysis

Tunnels in general represent a significant financial investment with challenging design, construction, and operational issues. Tunnels that are not adequately planned, designed, and constructed usually require more costly and extensive repairs. Tunnel Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) is a data-driven tool that provides a detailed account of the total costs of the project over its expected life.

45-G permanence inches closer

On Feb. 11, HR 510, which calls for permanence of the 45-G short line tax credit, formally received its 100th co-sponsor. The bill, introduced Jan. 11 by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), “has rapidly garnered significant bi-partisan support, as it has every Congress since the credit was introduced in 2004,” said the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA). “House support for this legislation is growing at a record pace, with 106 co-sponsors in just four weeks.”

Virgin Trains USA scuttles IPO

Miami-based Virgin Trains USA LLC, previously known as Brightline before it rebranded itself following a 2018 partnership forged with Virgin Enterprises Ltd. and founder Richard Branson, has canceled issuing the IPO scheduled for the week of Feb. 11, saying it will pursue other fundraising options. No indication was given whether it will reconsider an IPO in the near future.

Opinion

America without Greyhound—and no replacement passenger trains

We are not usually concerned with buses at Railway Age, but what would happen if Greyhound buses suddenly disappeared from American roads, and Amtrak became the only provider of passenger transportation with a nationwide reach? That speculation is not as far-fetched as it would appear at first blush, as a similar scenario is being played out at this writing in much of Canada.

California HSR: Seven Deadly Mistakes

“Real high-speed rail might still make sense in the U.S. in the densely populated Northeast Corridor and among certain high-population city-pairs elsewhere in the U.S. in the ‘sweet spot’ of 250-500 miles apart (too far to drive easily, too short to fly conveniently), if costs can be kept under control,” writes Eno Center for Transportation Senior Fellow and Eno Transportation Weekly Editor Jeff Davis. “But future high-speed rail projects would do well to avoid seven mistakes that have caused the California system to be indefinitely delayed.”

Push the envelope with autonomous freight trains?

According to the most recent earnings reports, North American Class I railroads are producing record-low operating ratios and posting record-setting earnings. These results strongly suggest that the current operating format of two-person train crews utilizing innovative safety and fuel conservation technologies is helping achieve these desired, value-added financial results. In short, it is possible for innovative technology and human-operated freight trains to exist in a complimentary fashion. The combination is currently working quite well.