Intermodal Spike Drives Traffic Gain

For U.S. railroads, it was the first gain in total traffic in a very long time: For the week ending September 5, 2020, a gain of nearly 25% in U.S. intermodal loadings, compared to the 2019 period, more than offset a decline in carload traffic, creating an overall gain approaching 10%, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Sept. 9. Canadian and Mexican intermodal volumes also rose, driving a North American gain of nearly 21%.

LA Metro’s Touchless TAP App

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) on Sept. 4 extended functionality of its regional Transit Access Pass (TAP) automatic fare collection (AFC) card to the iPhone and Apple Watch, describing it as “a new and safer way to pay transit fare that allows Metro and 25 TAP transit agencies in L.A. County to offer easy, contactless bus and rail fare payment to riders.”

Uinta Basin Railway Green-Lighted

Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners, LP (DHIP) and the State of Utah’s Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (Coalition) on Sept 8 executed an agreement to advance the Uinta Basin Railway, a new railroad to be constructed and operated by Fort Worth-Tex.-based Rio Grande Pacific Corp. to serve the mineral, agricultural, and construction industries of northeastern Utah’s Uinta Basin.

Layoffs Continue at UP

Union Pacific announced Sept. 4 that it plans to lay off an unspecified number of non-agreement and agreement employees, according to a report in the Omaha World-Herald. UP attributed “continuous efforts to streamline operations, while aligning our service product and resources to drive efficiency” as the reason. “These are difficult decisions; however, we remain committed to providing our customers safe, efficient and reliable service that ensures Union Pacific remains a strong and competitive company,” UP said.

USDOT Releases National Freight Strategic Plan

The United States Department of Transportation has released a National Freight Strategic Plan, which the agency says is the “first ever.” The NFSP, USDOT says, “lays out a vision for long-term investments in infrastructure, the workforce, and other essential parts of the freight system.”

VRE’s Dalton Named CEO

Rich Dalton, who has spent the past 11 years with the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) as Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer and Acting CEO since November 2019, has been appointed CEO. He previously served as acting CEO in 2012.

UPDATED: KCS Rejects Blackstone, GIP Takeover Bid — Report

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sept. 9 that Kansas City Southern has rejected a $20 billion bid (approximately $208 per share) from buyout investors led by private-equity firms Blackstone Group Inc. (BX) and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) , according to unidentified “people familiar with the matter.”

Robotic Brakemen (Updated)

For one reason or another, European railroads have never universally adopted semi-automatic knuckle couplers, a technology that revolutionized operations and improved safety on North America railroads generations ago. We take them for granted. But if you think about it, our system is still labor-intensive, as air brake hoses must be manually connected, and uncoupling is lever-activated, manually. Now it seems as though our European counterparts may leapfrog us, with a technology called DAC, for “Digital Automatic Coupling.”

August “Fifth Best Intermodal Month Ever”: AAR

In reporting U.S. rail traffic for the week ending August 29, 2020, as well as volumes for August 2020, Association of American Railroads Senior Vice President Policy and Economics John T. Gray emphasized the importance that railroads have in moving consumer goods, as indicated by the ongoing recovery in intermodal loadings. “Despite the pandemic and the associated economic dislocations, an enormous amount of freight continues to move on railroads and other transportation modes,” said Gray. “For U.S. railroads, August 2020 was the best month in terms of intermodal loadings since October 2018 and the fifth best intermodal month ever. Much of what’s inside the trailers and containers on an intermodal train ends up on the shelves of stores, or finds its way to consumers’ doors via e-commerce merchants. Railroads help ensure that consumers get what they want, when they want it.”

“The Subways Are Facing a Five-Alarm Fire”

“New York City cannot recover without a robust transit system, and the country cannot rebound without New York,” New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye and Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen wrote in a Sept. 1 op-ed published in the New York Times on what they say is “the MTA’s dire fiscal crisis.” The MTA released the op-ed to media outlets. We reproduce it here.