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.
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.
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.
The Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission (APMC) has signed contracts with CN and Canadian Pacific to utilize 4,400 DOT117 tank cars to transport oilsands crude (bitumen) to U.S. and international markets. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced the plan, which also includes locomotive leases, on Feb. 19.
The viability of one of Canada’s largest rail engineering companies is in question as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struggles against accusations of obstruction of justice in allegedly attempting to spare the company from a corruption trial.
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.
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.”
Hoping to improve safety and efficiency in the construction industry, New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering has created the Institute of Design and Construction (IDC) Innovations Hub and selected railroad construction veteran Dr. Michael Horodniceanu as Chairman.
U.S. rail freight traffic rose a negligible one-tenth of 1% in the first week of February 2019, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Feb. 13. An intermodal gain was almost completely negated by a drop in carload traffic.
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.
Not that long ago, E. Hunter Harrison’s methods and strategy for CSX were subject to close scrutiny, tough questioning, much doubt, some head scratching (close 8 of 12 hump yards, anyone?), customers complaining, labor opposition and STB inquiries. All of that and more was in response to Hunter’s trademarked program of “Precision Scheduled Railroading.”
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.
“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.”
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.
Financial Edge, February 2019: One danger of writing for a monthly periodical is that high-profile situations (say the shutdown of the federal government) might begin and end between two issue publication dates. In a word, to tackle the risk of balancing remaining contemporary without becoming dated, one must be “fearless.”