Breaking News

45G permanence inches closer

On Feb. 11, HR 510, which calls for permanence of the 45G 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.

Amtrak OIG: Private varnish practices “inadequate”

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General on Feb. 8 said it has “found longstanding management weaknesses in the company’s transport program for privately owned railcars, including inadequate controls for cost and revenue management, a lack of standard operating procedures, and limited safety and parking guidelines.”

Metro-North awarded federal PTC grant

The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded MTA Metro-North Railroad a grant of up to $2.3 million to support Positive Train Control (PTC) communications testing. The grant, part of the FRA’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, will help Metro-North improve the performance of PTC radio spectrum utilization required to make PTC operational on the Northeast Corridor.

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.

Beware the operating ratio trap

Watching Washington, February 2019: Sizzle sells product. No wonder the sizzle of ever-lower operating ratios is leading to remarkably higher railroad share prices. But as operating ratios—operating expenses as a percentage of operating revenue—flirt with a sub-60%, the meaning for the longer term is unclear.