TRANSPLAN 21 conference and rally for rail
June 14, 15 on Capitol Hill Washington, D.C.

Vol. 6 No. 22
May 30, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Leo King
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

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IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items… 
Mineta tries to pin Amtrak to the mat; carrier counters
   with its own holds
Schweitzer to ride Empire Builder: ‘Whistle stop’ tour
   is not a reelection campaign
‘Okies’ OK $2 million in Heartland Flyer funding
Michigan looks to boost tourism
Food service cut from Albany trains
AutoTrain station briefly closed after gas leak
  Labor lines… 
Union approaches elections; internal conflicts peak
Unionist blasts rails over safety
  Builders lines… 
A Green Goat travels to NS territory
Super Steel gets detailing job
Alaska gets Colorado Railcars
  Commuter lines… 
Metra sells old coaches for $1 each
APTA readies for conference, rodeo
Crime rides DART rails in Dallas
MTA changes employee ethics rules
Hub commuters want promised refunds
Sound Transit invites public to hearings
  APTA Highlights… 
Miami-Dade Opens Busway Extension
Dickerson Named Permanent Head of Md. MTA
Steel Valley Voters Approve Tax Levy
  Freight lines… 
NS changes its switch reporting rules
BNSF wants 368 miles of track
G&W buys RMC rail properties
FEC renumbers some mileposts
Three RailAmerica directors re-elected
Weyandt gets post at KCS
MacSwain retires from FEC
Carloads down 3.5 percent; coal is off by 18,000 cars
  Selected Friday closing quotes… 
  Across the pond… 
Americans look ahead to Palestine 2015
DB posts profits, but…
Moscow transport problems cleared up
Japanese engineer was between a rock and a hard place
Pottsdam to lose ICE trains
DB, SNCF to create rail links
  Endnotes… 


Mineta tries to pin Amtrak to the mat;
carrier counters with its own holds

By Leo King
Editor

USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta continued to play hardball with Amtrak last week when the DOT man in charge sent a letter on Thursday to railroad president and CEO David Gunn urging “immediate cost-cutting measures.”

Mineta sent the letter “to address the company’s declining cash position.”

Amtrak fired off a press release Friday morning arguing the money was part of its fiscal plans.

Mineta wrote, “In view of Amtrak’s declining cash position as we approach the last quarter of fiscal year 2005, I am writing to strongly recommend that you immediately begin to implement cost-cutting measures with the purpose of reducing expenses and conserving cash in a manner that does not jeopardize safety.”

Mineta continued, “I noted with concern your May 12 testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies regarding fiscal 2006 appropriations. When responding to a question about whether Amtrak will end fiscal 2005 with a positive cash balance, you said, ‘…we’ll have like $20 million left in the bank, something in that neighborhood.’”

Mineta said to Gunn, “I am concerned that your projection assumes the release of $60 million set aside by law to pay for directed service in the event Amtrak ceases operations. My review of your cash projections indicates you are counting on that money even though the law clearly requires the DOT to hold those funds in reserve until we are certain they will not be needed to maintain commuter operations at year’s end. Given your recent Senate testimony, it is irresponsible to project a positive cash balance based on an assumption about reserve funds, when without those dollars, Amtrak’s cash position before September 30thcould be as much as $40 million in the red.”

Amtrak’s unsigned statement responded, “As originally approved by its board of directors, Amtrak’s budget projected ending fiscal 2005 with $75 million in working capital. This budget clearly included the $60 million currently held in reserve by the USDOT. Despite the Acela problem, Amtrak today projects ending the year with $30 to $40 million in working capital.”

Mineta wrote, “You cannot continue to spend at current levels when, according to your own estimates, the recent interruption of Acela Express service due to cracks in the brake systems, is itself costing the company roughly $1.25 million per week. Management of Amtrak’s fiscal 2005 budget must be based on existing revenue streams and not on hopes for yet another taxpayer bailout. It is imperative that you take meaningful steps to reduce costs as soon as possible.”

Speaking directly to Gunn, Mineta wrote, “As the president of the corporation, you have a responsibility to identify and implement all available operating expense reduction options necessary to ensure that Amtrak’s cash position does not deteriorate to the dangerously low level you predicted before the Senate Subcommittee.”

Mineta added he directed his proxy to the Amtrak Board, Jeffrey A. Rosen, “to raise this issue at Thursday’s board meeting and I look forward to hearing from you about your specific plans to reduce operating expenses in order to protect Amtrak’s cash position and viability through the end of this fiscal year.”

The Amtrak statement noted, “Amtrak’s budget always assumed receipt of the full $1.2 billion (which included the $60 million) in appropriations. While Secretary Mineta’s letter suggests an intention to withhold the $60 million, today his proxy to the board indicated that Amtrak should, in fact, receive the $60 million by the end of the fiscal year so long as it could otherwise end the year with cash.”

Gunn told the directors on Thursday that if Amtrak receives the $60 million, it should end the year with a positive cash balance.


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Schweitzer to ride Empire Builder

‘Whistle stop’ tour is not a reelection campaign

Usually when a politician rides a train for a “whistle stop” tour, it’s usually a campaign to be elected.

Not this time.

This time, it’s to help keep Amtrak running in the northwest.

In a show of strong support for Amtrak’s Empire Builder, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer is asking Montanans to join him on a “whistle stop” tour by attending town hall meetings to be held across the Hi-Line on June 1 and 2. The stops will include town hall meetings in Glasgow, Havre and Whitefish, a rally with an Amtrak crew and their families in Shelby as well as stops in Malta and East Glacier Park.

“I’ve put this together to bring attention to the importance of Amtrak on our economy, not just of the Hi-Line, but the economy of the entire state of Montana” said Schweitzer.

“This service is important to the families of our state, and we’ve invited some of the decision makers to come along and see first hand the support Amtrak has in the communities of Montana,” he continued.

Participants will include David Laney, Amtrak’s board chairman, George Chilson, President of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, and Joe McHugh, Amtrak vice-president of government affairs.

Elected officials from all levels of government will also be attending town meetings following invitations from Schweitzer, including Sen. Max Baucus, Rep. Denny Rehberg, and several mayors.

Amtrak will be coupling its Beech Grove executive car at the end of the train to accommodate the dignitaries and press.

Last week, according to the Great Falls Tribune, Montana’s other senator, Conrad Burns, stopped in his home state on May 21 for a rail and airplane tour of Montana‘s northern tier. Joining Burns was Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri, who got a first-hand look at three of the major challenges facing the state.

The senators, both senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, first rode Amtrak’s Empire Builder from Whitefish to Cut Bank.

Burns’ spokesman James Pendleton said transcontinental rail service is vital to America and should be protected. He said a federal appropriation might be needed to solve Amtrak’s short-term needs.

Bond, who also serves as chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a news release that he won’t allow the Bush administration to “bankrupt Amtrak.”


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‘Okies’ OK $2 million in Heartland Flyer funding

Thursday the Oklahoma House and Senate approved the final version of House Bill 1078 which appropriates $2 million in general funds for the Heartland Flyer. Together with funds from a gasoline tax earmark, the state will be able to negotiate another year’s contract with Amtrak for service. The Oklahoma Legislature adjourned Friday until February.


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Michigan looks to boost tourism

Amtrak, Michigan DOT, and Travel Michigan say they are partnering with communities along the Pere Marquette and Blue Water passenger rail routes to boost travel to Michigan-area scenic, dining, shopping and special event destinations by Chicago-area residents.

On May 25, tourist bureaus, downtown development associations and chambers of commerce distributed free snacks and informational packets to commuters who pass through the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station. Amtrak provided exhibit space at Chicago Union Station, which serves more than 100,000 travelers daily.

Amtrak reported an increased ridership of 11.9 percent in 2004 on the Pere Marquette Grand Rapids-Chicago line, and 20.9 percent in 2004 on the Blue Water Port Huron, Lapeer, Flint, Durand, East Lansing, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac and Niles-Chicago route.


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Food service cut from Albany trains

Starting July 1, Empire Service trains that travel solely between New York and Albany will no longer provide cafe car service, affecting about half the trains that travel on the corridor.

“Because of the low demand for food and beverage service on these trains, often grossing less than $100 in sales a trip, the decision was made to eliminate the café cars and close the Albany commissary,” said a company message.

“As a result, a total of 16 positions will be eliminated, resulting in an estimated $1 million annual savings for the company.”

A spokesman added trains that operate between Niagara Falls and New York City will continue to provide food service, as well as the Maple Leaf to Toronto, the Ethan Allen to Rutland, the Adirondack to Montreal and the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago.

Amtrak operates a number of other short-distance routes, such as the Clocker and Keystone services, that also do not provide food service, the spokesman added.


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AutoTrain station briefly closed after gas leak

A gas leak at an Amtrak station caused some problems May. 23 near Lorton, Va. where the southbound AutoTrain originates. The AP reported Dan Schmidt of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue said crews discovered a backhoe had hit an eight-inch gas line right below an overpass carrying the tracks. The gas leak was fixed and no one was hurt. The incident forced authorities to stop all rail service, affecting Amtrak, VRE and CSX. Schmidt said the tracks reopened shortly after 1:00 p.m.


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

Union approaches elections;
internal conflicts peak

As the once-powerful union federation, the AFL-CIO, approaches elections in July, it finds itself torn by internal power struggles, top-level resignations, litigation threats from the federal government and a conflict about the union's role in national politics.

According to some sources, Fox News reported last week, the longstanding disputes are about to explode and the labor movement itself is in danger of coming apart at the seams.

“Sisters and brothers, it is time, it is so long overdue that we join with our union allies and either change the AFL-CIO or build something stronger that can really change workers' lives,” said Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, the nation’s largest.

Stern said the movement isn’t organized labor at the moment, its disorganized labor. SEIU and several other unions have been pushing for major reforms that they say officials at AFL-CIO headquarters have resisted.

They include reforms such as more money for organizing and a fundamental change in the way unions approach politics.

“I think over the last several years we've gotten more and more focused on politics and particularly on Democratic politics, and I don't think that’s what will grow our labor movement stronger. I don’t think it’s the kind of strategy that can win,” Stern said.

Several union leaders have said that they think the critics may have a point when they argue that labor looks like “a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.”

International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger said, “I think that can be a fair observation, and I think that's one of the reasons that many of us, and I'll speak for myself, have voiced a concern that we not be the appendage, if you will, of the Democratic Party, nor be their ATM machine,.” He campaigned with and for 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry.

Schaitberger said Democrats have long been supportive on labor issues but that does not mean a union should sell its soul to one party.

IAFF’s political action committee, for instance, spends a third of its money to support Republicans, in part, Schaitberger argued, because it is the only way to get anything done in Congress.

“It would be, probably, 10 to 20 years before a Democratic Party would have what I would call an effective majority,” he said.

Top officials at the AFL-CIO say they support some Republicans, but that Democrats have earned their allegiance.

“I think more often that not, Democrats support working people. So we support those politicians that support working people,” said Rich Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer.

Trumka does acknowledge that the labor movement is engaged in a serious round of soul-searching, but he argues the AFL-CIO is already reforming.

“We know that we have to make major changes, and that’s why we have gone through the biggest reorganization and made the greatest changes in the history of the AFL-CIO,” he said.

Some 25,000 railroad workers are AFL-CIO members through the union’s Transportation Trades department. TTD’s unions include the American Train Dispatchers Assn., Amalgamated Transit Union, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineer and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen, and the Transportation-Communications International Union

The unions pushing reform want to spend three or four times more on organizing than AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney. Their goal is to outlay $60 million, about half of the federation’s overall budget.

Under pressure, Sweeney has offered more money, though not enough to satisfy critics. Some union leaders have given up on Sweeney. Others say they are skeptical but want to give him one more chance – but Trumka says threatening to break away will only make things worse.

“We’ll never get there by dividing up and getting smaller, we'll only get there by coming together and being stronger through our solidarity,” he said.

In any case, Sweeney’s allies claim he has the votes to be re-elected, but without more reform, it may not be enough to avoid a nasty split in the labor movement.


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Unionist blasts rails over safety

AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) last week blasted the railroad industry over its claims of safety.

“The freight railroad industry paints a highly selective and distorted picture of its own safety record,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Dept.

Wytkind’s remarks came on the heels of a gala ceremony in Washington held by the Association of American Railroads to honor the winners of the industry’s self-awarded Harriman prizes for safety. Rail workers and their unions, who cite management pressure to under-report accidents and injuries, have fought unsuccessfully to change the Harriman methodology to ensure the award truly recognizes safe rail operations.

“This ‘every day is a sunny day’ self-portrait masks what the industry doesn’t want the public and our elected officials to know. It does a shameful disservice to the pain and suffering of those who work for or live near freight railroads,” Wytkind said.

Wytkind said 896 people were killed in railroad accidents in 2004; 10 people died and 5,400 residents of Graniteville, S.C. were forced to evacuate a January 2005 crash of Norfolk Southern chlorine tanker cars (fortunately for the railroad, which won the Harriman Gold Medal, the accident took place six days after the cut-off for this year’s prize); and bronze-medal winning Union Pacific tried to outsource its train inspections to Mexico at a time when the railroad was mired in a series of deadly chemical accidents near San Antonio.

The unionist also cited a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigation by The New York Times that documented how the major railroads lose or destroy evidence from accidents and use powerful political connections to shirk their responsibility. Rail workers are routinely harassed and intimidated to not report safety risks, and major railroad corporations have been able to stonewall Congress for over a decade from adopting rail safety legislation and, since September 11, 2001, security reforms.

“Our nation’s giant railroads are incapable of policing themselves,” Wytkind said, adding, “Congress and the White House must step in and hold the railroad industry to a higher standard of safety.”

TTD, he said, “has endorsed a doubling of federal rail inspectors, stronger whistle-blower protections for workers, limits on use of remote control technologies, initiatives to address a chronic worker fatigue crisis, stronger employee training mandates, and an end to ‘dark territories’” in which there are no signals.


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BUILDERS LINES...  Builders lines...

The Greet Goat Hybrid Engine

RailPower Technologies Corp.

The Green Goat diesel / electric hybrid is capable of 2000 HP.

 

A Green Goat travels to NS territory

RailPower Technologies Corp. said last week that Norfolk Southern will begin a 30-day trial with a Green Goat hybrid locomotive at the beginning of August.

RailPower president and CEO, Jim Maier, said, “What is significant about this event is the fact that with Norfolk Southern demonstrating the Green Goat locomotive, all of North America’s Class Is will have tried our technology.”

Maier said, “It has taken over three years to trial all the Class I railroads. The industry has always been very enthusiastic to conduct trials, but with only one trial unit in the early days, it was a question of one trial at a time. Now we have five demonstration locomotives, which include two currently being extensively tried with CSX Transportation, and we have made initial commercial deliveries to several customers.”

Maier said RailPower’s demonstration program for its yard locomotives will continue with regional and short-line railroads as well as with industrial operators.

“When our pre-production branch line and road switcher locomotives are available later this year, we will embark on a new program of demonstrations with key railroad customers to show-case this new product range.”

There are seven Class I railroads, Maier said, ranging in size from just over 3,000 to over 33,000 miles – including BNSF, CSX, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific.

RailPower is headquartered in North Vancouver, B.C., and its subsidiary, RailPower Hybrid Technologies Corp., is located in Erie, Pa.


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Super Steel gets detailing job

Super Steel Products Corp. has won another piece of railroad business, a contract that could bring $10 million in new sales to the Milwaukee company. Super Steel will do final assembly of passenger cars being sold by two Japanese firms to Virginia Railway Express, a commuter line in the Washington, D.C., area.

Sumitomo Corp. of America stated that in conjunction with its car builder partner, Nippon Sharyo, Ltd., it was awarded a contract on May 20 to supply 11 bi-level passenger rail cars to Virginia Railway Express – including an option to buy 50 additional cars.

The cars for the contract will be similar to the 300 gallery-type bi-level passenger cars that are currently being delivered to Metra in Chicago. Due to the expanding VRE system and increased ridership, these bi-level cars will have a much larger capacity for seating accommodating up to 144 passengers per car. These cars will replace the older and less spacious single-level passenger cars that are currently in the VRE fleet.

“We are very excited about this new purchase,” said VRE operations support manager Dennis Larson.

“Over the years, we have listened closely to a variety of concerns that people have voiced about the Bombardier, Kawasaki, and gallery cars and have kept them in mind as we designed the specifications for new cars. With this new procurement we will bring safety and style to our riders,” he said.

The contract price will be $109 million including options. Delivery is scheduled from the end of 2006 through the beginning of 2007. Car body shells will be manufactured in Nippon Sharyo’s Toyokawa plant in Japan and the final assembly will be done at Super Steel’s plant in Milwaukee using various components procured in the US.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on May 25 Super Steel will get about $2 million for its work on the first 11 cars, and $8 million more if the commuter line orders the additional cars, sales and marketing director Paul Stack said.

He said the work, which will begin in about a year, could require as many as 50 additional employees.

Nippon Sharyo will build the car shells in Japan. Super Steel will finish the cars in Milwaukee, adding such things as wheels, wiring, controls and all interior parts, Stack said.

The cars, which can seat up to 144 passengers each, are similar to 300 cars the Japanese firms and Super Steel are now building for Chicago’s Metra. Super Steel will work on the Metra cars through August, company chairman Fred Luber said.


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Alaska gets Colorado Railcars

Visitors taking the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park and Preserve will now have the option of traveling in style. Two new custom-designed bi-level luxury passenger cars are being used on its Denali Star train, which runs daily from Anchorage to Denali and Fairbanks, beginning this summer.

Colorado Railcar built the cars at a cost of about $3.4 million each, and each can seat up to 72 passengers. The lower level is a diner with a full kitchen. The upper offers seating under glass domes and allows sightseers to eye Alaska from an outdoor viewing platform.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported on May 22 as of May 11, service on the new cars were booked solid for 27 days of the season – and that was without any advertising, said railroad spokesman Tim Thompson.

The railroad’s passenger traffic has increased in numbers over the last few summer seasons, and bookings are on track to break records this summer, Thompson added. About 30 percent of visitors booking travel on the Denali Star Train have upgraded to the bi-level cars.

Pat Gamble, the railroad’s president, has said that the corporation expects to buy several more luxury cars over the next few years.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Metra sells old coaches for $1 each

Step right up, ladies and gents. You, too, can own your very own 161-seat coach – in running condition – from Chicago’s Metra. They’re only about 50 years old, too – a real steal, a bargain, a deal you won’t find anywhere else on Planet Earth.

Look at it this way: commuter rail systems in Nashville, Tenn., and suburban Virginia got dozens of ex-Metra, bi-level cars for one dollar each, according to the Chicago Daily Herald of May 22.

Compared to the Utah Transit Authority, which is building a new commuter rail line in Salt Lake City, they overpaid. The UTA got 30 Metra cars free.

“My boss often says it’s the deal of the century,” said Mark Roeber, public affairs manager for Virginia Rail Express, which operates suburban commuter trains from Fredericksburg and Manassas to Washington, D.C.

The bargain-basement sale opened in 2000, when Metra began taking delivery of 300 new, stainless steel bi-level cars. That project cost $400 million or about $1.3 million per car.

Two years later, Metra began phasing out 219 of its oldest cars, some of which dated from the 1950s and ’60s, but found no takers. The alternative, officials said, was either to scrap them or to give them away.

While the idea of paying the same price for a 20-ounce bottle of water as for a coach might give one pause, Metra officials said they’re required to give fellow transit agencies used cars because federal funds were used over the years to keep them in service.

“What’s no longer useful to Metra is certainly useful to a smaller organization,” spokesman Dan Schnolis said.

“These cars did have some serviceable, usable life left, and our agreement with the FTA is that if they have some life left in them, then the cars can be given to another railroad.”

FTA spokesman Paul Griffo said even though that’s true, Metra could have disposed of the cars as it saw fit – but when a transit agency agrees to transfer cars to another agency, and those cars were either bought or refurbished with federal funds, then the transfer price must be free, Griffo added.

Metra officials said the sale let them avoid an estimated $25,000-per-car scrapping cost.

Because the cars were built from older carbon steel alloys that no longer have much market value, “we would have had to pay a scrapper to take them,” Schnolis said.

That’s when folks at newer commuter rail systems like the 13-year-old Virginia Rail Express, or Nashville’s 32-mile Music City Star line which begins service this fall between Nashville and Lebanon, Tenn., realized they could upgrade or get a starter fleet at an unbeatable price.

“Had we known sooner, we probably would have jumped on more of the Chicago cars,” said VRE’s Roeber, who added that Metra has a stellar reputation among transit agencies nationwide for its maintenance and upkeep.

That said, why did Metra get rid of still-serviceable cars?

Spokesman Tom Miller said the cars’ ages and remaining life expectancies made it no longer cost-efficient to keep them, especially with brand new cars in hand.

“We had rebuilt them as many times as we felt we could,” Miller said.

Even so, Hanne Flippen, spokeswoman for the Nashville Regional Transportation Authority, said the cars are a good first step in building a commuter rail system that will eventually stretch across nine counties.

Roeber said the cars carry an additional 2,400 to 2,500 Virginia commuters daily, above the 15,000 or so the agency was carrying last year when they arrived.

“That’s a lot of people off the streets,” he added.


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APTA readies for conference, rodeo

More than 800 members of the American Public Transportation Assn. (APTA) will meet in Pittsburgh at the APTA Rail Transit Conference June 6-8. This annual conference will focus on all aspects of the North American rail industry including technology applications; rail standards, safety and security practices; the comeback of vintage trolleys; station designs; signal systems; and operation control centers.

The conference, at the Hilton, also features four technical tours on June 7 that will go behind the scenes at the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s rail maintenance facility, rail operations control center, the Monongahela Incline, and the new Overbrook Line.

Dignitaries expected to address the conference include Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy and Port Authority Board Member Dr. Charles Martoni, and Port Authority of Allegheny County CEO Paul P. Skoutelas.

Two days earlier on June 4, the 13th Annual APTA International Rail Rodeo will take place for the honor of the best Rail Operator and Maintenance Teams in North America. The awards ceremony for the Rail Rodeo will be held at the end of the General Session of the Rail Transit Conference on Monday, June 7.

The 13th annual International Rail Rodeo will be conducted at the South Hills Village Rail Center, 1000 Village Drive, Pittsburgh on June 4. Operators’ competition begins at 7:00 a.m. and maintainers competition at 9:00 a.m.

Topics over the three days will include, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” explaining how transit is moving Steelers and Pirates fans to the games and to the new, mixed use areas in the North Shore area. Kevin McClatchy, CEO and managing general partner, Pittsburgh Pirates; and Arthur J. Rooney II, president, Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc.

Paul P. Skoutelas, APTA’s secretary and reasurer as well as CEO at the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh.


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Crime rides DART rails in Dallas

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit system has worked to cultivate a polished, corporate image of an expanding light rail network that is safe, secure and clean, but a three-month investigation of crime on DART’s rails by CBS 11, Dallas, shows a gritty reality at sharp variance with that public image.

An examination of public records and interviews with 19 police officers show that DART has become a battle ground for roving gangs of youths who intimidate and assault passengers, disturb the peace and sometimes commit heinous crimes. Gangs of kids take over coaches and savage them with rocks and fists. Alternative school children, whose passes are paid for by the Dallas Independent School District, fight turf wars on moving trains and at stations. Youths have terrorized the elderly, sick and weak, according to records backed by interviews with passengers and police.

“These kids are drug smokin’, cursin’, foulin’, half-dressin’, talking bad, getting put off the bus. You name it you just about see it all here,” said Lester Fowler, a 74-year-old retiree who rides the rails daily.

Almost everyone the TV reporters interviewed, they said, including juveniles and random passengers, acknowledge that youth-generated crime and disturbances throughout the DART rail system is a major problem.

Reporters said they witnessed two incidents involving young people that drew a police response. One 19-year-old suspected of dealing drugs to alternative school kids at the Dallas Zoo station led police on a lengthy foot chase before he was arrested at gunpoint.

Presented with the station’s findings about youth, DART Police Chief Juan Rodriguez denied that youth crime, or crime in general, has been a problem.

“We don’t have a crime problem,” Rodriguez said. “We have a safe system.”

Rodriguez’s perception apparently is not shared by many of his subordinates on the streets, nor by some DART board members. Two DART board members, responding to citizen complaints, grew so concerned they recently met with Dallas school officials to explore whether the district could help with the problem. The DART board members were told DISD could not help, one DISD official said.

All 19 police officers interviewed by the TV station enthusiastically volunteered, according to TV 11, with little or no prompting, that youth-generated crime is a top problem on the rails and that that they can’t contain it because they are short-staffed.

“They curse. They talk loud. They fight... every day. This is every day,” DART Police officer Norma Gonzalez emphasized.

One sweating, out-of-breath officer who helped arrest the suspected drug dealer spontaneously commented, “This is DART, every day. We don’t have enough officers.”

Currently, 146 DART officers cover 45 miles of rail, 130 bus routes, and all high-occupancy vehicle lanes in 13 cities spread over 700 square miles. Of the 146 officers, about 70 are assigned to patrol the rails.

Officer Chris Hunt, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 80, said DART has not filled more 30 vacant positions left open from high rates of turnover caused by low pay and bad morale. He said at least 70 more officers are needed to control crime rates that have risen steadily every year since DART opened in 1996. Between January 2004 and February of this year, more than 3,700 crimes were reported at DART rail stations alone. Another 1,142 crimes were reported on moving trains, records show.


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MTA changes employee ethics rules

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority adopted a code of ethics on May 25 for its 65,000 employees, establishing a “zero-tolerance policy” toward employees who receive gifts from companies and individuals that do business with the authority.

The 44-page ethics code, which described itself as “a comprehensive guide” to matters like conflicts of interest, travel reimbursement, nepotism, financial disclosures and whistle-blowing, will be distributed in June to all employees, from contracting officers to bus drivers, reported The New York Times last week.

Authority chairman Peter S. Kalikow said the code would take the “transparency and openness of our agency one more step” forward.

Before the authority’s board unanimously voted to approve the policy, he told its members, jokingly, “I was going to make everybody take a test on this.”

Underlying the humor, however, was the fact that several top officials of the authority have been cited for ethical lapses in recent years.

In December 2003, the authority’s inspector general found that the former president of the Long Island Rail Road and five managers had received thousands of dollars in meals and entertainment from businesses that did work with the railroad. The former president, Kenneth J. Bauer, had resigned months earlier and was not fined or charged.

In January 2005, the State Ethics Commission charged 14 employees of the authority with accepting industry-subsidized meals, gifts and free tickets to galas at the New York Transit Museum, in violation of the state’s Public Officers Law.

The highest-ranking employee, Joseph N. Siano, an engineer who oversaw a continuing project to connect the Long Island Rail Road with Grand Central Terminal, agreed to pay a $10,000 fine. In April, he resigned from his job as a senior vice president at MTA Capital Construction, a subsidiary that manages major building projects.

The authority’s chief compliance officer, Lamond W. Kearse, and its general counsel, Catherine A. Rinaldi, drafted the new ethics policy, which covers a wide range of situations. The policy specifies very limited exceptions to the general rules.

For example, while employees may not receive gifts worth more than $10 from contractors, they may accept gifts that reflect solely “a personal relationship independent of the relationship” between the contractor and the authority. A “modest, reasonable and customary offering on an extraordinary occasion, such as a wedding, retirement or serious illness” is also allowed.


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Hub commuters want promised refunds

A Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority customer said he is still waiting for fare refunds after his trains were late this winter. The MBTA still offers refunds if the train is more than 30 minutes late.

Boston TV station NewsCenter 5 reported on May 23 that commuter Doug McMahon spends a lot of time traveling into Boston, sometimes called “the Hub,” on the MBTA. If he’s more than 30 minutes late, he puts in for a refund. At $5.50 each trip, it can add up.

“For the most part, there was a lot of snowy weather around that time, some of it was that there was an occasional breakdown or two. It comes in bunches, though – it’s Murphy’s Law,” McMahon said.

McMahon submitted refunds for four trips dating back to January 2005, but he said he is still waiting for his money—as are thousands of other commuters.

MBTA officials confirmed that the weather was so bad this winter, that the T received an unprecedented number of refund requests, nearly 57,000. That is more than double the previous winter and will cost the MBTA more than $500,000.

“We wish we could do it faster, but with the blizzard of snow came a blizzard of refund requests,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said, who added, “It takes time to research each request to confirm they’re legitimate. We’ve seen requests from the same household, for the same trip, for the same day, seven or eight requests. Obviously, there is something wrong there. We can’t just rubber-stamp these.”

Said McMahon, “I can understand the weather thing and being tied up, but they are in the service industry, and that is not what I call good service.”

Pesaturo said the MBTA has mailed McMahon’s refund check.

“It was sent in the mail Friday, so if he hasn’t gotten it in the mail today, he should get it tomorrow,” Pesaturo said.

Some wonder if the MBTA should be responsible for Mother Nature’s whims.

“It’s no secret that the T has financial concerns right now. If we have to revisit the policy we will, but for now, the policy will stand as it is,” Pesaturo said. Pesaturo said the MBTA should be caught up on issuing refunds by next month.


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Sound Transit invites public to hearings

Transit ideas are moving quickly in Washington State. In Seattle, the Sound Transit directors last week called on residents of the Puget Sound region’s fast-growing communities to help guide expansion of the regional mass transit system.

“We know more growth is on the way. If we don’t act now, rush hour will last most of the day and people will have no alternatives,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg on May 20.

“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and look at what types of transportation choices we should present to voters in the years ahead.”

A series of open houses started May 23 and will provide a chance for community members to continue shaping the Regional Transit Long Range Plan.

“Sound Transit has looked at all kinds of options for expanding the system,” Ladenburg said. “The next step is deciding which transit modes make sense for which corridors.”

The community meetings will provide an opportunity for people to discuss and comment on a draft Long Range Plan that the Sound Transit Board released for public review in April. The meetings will provide information on estimated costs, travel times and rider volumes for transit expansion options.

The draft plan updates a plan that was originally adopted in 1996, reflecting extensive analysis of the region’s growth in the coming decades. After finalizing the Long-Range Plan in June, Sound Transit will work with the public to identify the highest priority projects for inclusion in Sound Transit 2, a subset of the Long-Range Plan. Sound Transit 2 projects will be constructed if they are approved by the region’s voters.

Sound Transit is successfully delivering the first wave of projects. Sounder trains are running daily between Tacoma and Seattle and Everett and Seattle, and the service is expanding. Sound Transit’s extensive ST Express bus network includes 19 routes, more than 10,000 new Park-and-Ride slots, and new infrastructure such as direct access freeway ramps allowing buses to avoid congestion. Tacoma Link light rail is attracting more riders than expected, and Sound Transit remains on track to deliver Central Link light rail on time, on budget, and all the way to the airport.

Rail and/or bus rapid transit service on I-90 is in the offing. Meanwhile, “The board is continuing to evaluate options for high capacity transit service on the I-90 corridor,” according to a Sound Transit press release.

Light rail running all the way from Everett to Tacoma, as well as a westward extension of the existing Tacoma Link light rail system is also being considered.

Other ideas include potential light rail service on Interstate 405 and a potential extension to Burien, high-capacity transit service on State Route 522 and across Lake Washington on State Route 520, and a bus rapid transit system running on State Route 99 from Seattle to Everett.

Other bus projects include additional ST express bus service around the region.

Some public meetings have already been held – at Puyallup, Everett, Issaquah, downtown Seattle, and Northgate.

The rest of the meetings will be conducted tomorrow in Bellevue in the Key Center Building from noon to 3:00 p.m.; June 1 in Tukwila from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Tukwila Community Center; on June 2 in Factoria between 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Newport Way Library, Bellevue; June 7 in Redmond from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center; on June 8 in Kirkland from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Kirkland Performance Center; June 9 on Mercer Island from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Mercer Island High School Commons.

The Long-Range Plan process details are online at http://www.soundtransit.org/projects/longrange/.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.


Miami-Dade Opens Busway Extension

The Miami-Dade Transit Agency marked the opening April 23 of a five-mile extension to the South Miami-Dade Busway, which runs parallel to and separate from U.S. 1. The busway is a project of Florida DOT that entered operation in 1997.

The opening of the extension means that the busway now runs south for 13.5 miles, connecting the southern terminus of Miami-Dade Transit’s Metrorail system with the Naranja neighborhood. The system expects to begin construction this summer on the third and final segment of the busway, which will cover 6.5 miles and end at Florida City when it is completed in May 2007.

The busway consists of two 12-foot travel lanes with a four-foot-wide median and one lane of flow in each direction, for exclusive use by buses and emergency vehicles. Twenty-five buses per hour use the Busway during the morning and evening rush, providing service approximately every 10 minutes and allowing passengers to zip quickly past cars on the often clogged roadway.


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Dickerson Named Permanent Head of Md. MTA

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has appointed Lisa L. Dickerson as administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration. She has served in this position on an acting basis since October 2004.

As administrator, Dickerson will serve as the agency’ chief executive officer, responsible for the overall vision and direction of the 3,000-employee transit agency. The MTA operates bus, light rail, subway, MARC commuter rail, commuter bus, and paratransit service in the Baltimore metropolitan region.


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Steel Valley Voters Approve Tax Levy

By a preliminary margin of 60.5 percent in favor and 39.5 percent opposed, voters in Steubenville and Mingo Junction, Ohio, approved a 1.5-mill, 10-year tax levy to support the Steel Valley Regional Transit Authority in a May 3 vote. The levy will replace an existing 1-mill levy approved by voters in 1994, which expired at the end of 2004.

Frank Bovina, transit manager with SVRTA, explained that the authority would not be able to maintain its existing service at the 1-mill level. “Even with reserve funds, we would not get sufficient funds to allow us to operate for 10 years. The most we could do on a renewed 1-mill renewed levy, at 1995 tax value, would be about three years,” he noted.

The May ballot was the second attempt to pass the SVRTA millage, which will generate $491,000 annually. The levy previously failed in November 2004.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

NS changes its switch reporting rules

Norfolk Southern railroad changed its safety procedures for lining hand-operated switches eight days after the January crash that killed nine in Graniteville, the freight carrier said last week. Railroad spokesman Robin Chapman said it was in response to an FRA safety advisory issued to all railroads a short time after the wreck, The State reported.

The new procedures require crews to give train dispatchers specifics when reporting that main lines with manual switches are “clear” for traffic. In the old procedure, crews only had to notify dispatchers about switch changes, Chapman said.

“We adopted the rule because it was reasonable,” Chapman said. He added, “It added another layer of safety procedures.”

Chapman would not say if the rules change could have prevented the Graniteville crash. He said the rule is in effect for all NS operations systemwide.

Attorneys involved in lawsuits stemming from the Graniteville crash say if the rule “had it been in effect then” it could have prevented a 42-car freight train from entering a side track at Avondale Mills on January 6 and slamming into a parked train.

The wreck occurred because a hand-operated switch was left lined for the parked freight train by the crew from the parked train, lawsuits claim.

“You would think that the rule would have been in place a long time before this,” said Hampton attorney Johnny Parker, who is involved in one of the Graniteville cases.

“It’s elementary, but railroads are very hard to change.”

The Graniteville collision resulted in the release of tons of chlorine from one of the derailed tank cars on the moving train. Nine people died, hundreds were injured and more than 5,400 residents were forced to evacuate their homes. It was the nation’s worst chemical accident involving a train since 1978.

The new safety procedure was issued January 14 by Stephen C. Tobias, NS vice-chairman and chief operating officer.

The rule revision applies only to dark territory track. Of 16,630 miles of main line track NS owns, 5,578 miles, or about 34 percent, are in unsignaled areas, the railroad said.

In court papers, the parked train’s crew, conductor Jimmy Thornton, engineer Benjamin Aiken and brakeman Mike Ford, said they thought the switch had been returned to the main track, but they didn’t give details about their actions before leaving Graniteville around 7:00 p.m. on January 5, about eight hours before the crash.

In a deposition last week, the Greenville dispatcher testified that after the crew had returned to Aiken to complete paperwork, Ford notified the dispatcher that the main line was clear for traffic, said Barnwell lawyer Terry Richardson, who is representing several plaintiffs.

The Virginia-based railroad fired the three men in early February. At the time, Chapman said only that they were terminated because they “failed to perform their duties properly.”

Chapman on Monday declined comment on the crew; the railroad in recent court papers said it would not comment on their actions because it was conducting an internal investigation.

The parked train crewmembers are all Columbia-area residents; each has at least 25 years of railroad experience, according to railroad labor unions.


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BNSF wants 368 miles of track

BNSF Ry. Co. wants to take some 368 miles of track off South Dakota’s hands – but a pesky obstruction is stopping them from doing so. They told the STB that back in February.

The routes is called the “Core Lines,” according to the Surface Transportation Board, and the routes are now owned by South Dakota.

The Core Lines, in detail, extend principally between milepost (MP) 777.0 near Aberdeen, S.D., and MP 650.6 near Mitchell; between MP 518.9 near Sioux City, Iowa and MP 649.7 near Mitchell; between MP 293.1 near Canton, S.D. and MP 650.6 near Mitchell; between MPs 74.1 and 68.8 in Sioux Falls; between MP 68.8 near Sioux Falls and MP 49.4 near Canton, and between MPs 511.9 and 518.9 in Sioux City.

South Dakota liked the idea and so did a labor union.

The state asked that approval of the BNSF application be made subject to four conditions; and John D. Fitzgerald, of the United Transportation Union and its General Committee of Adjustment (UTU/GO-386), asked that the BNSF application be approved without conditions.

Then came the fly in the ointment.

On May 19, BNSF and the state ask that the proceeding be stayed pending the implementation of the terms and conditions of an agreement reached between BNSF and the South Dakota, dated as of April 25, “to resolve the state’s concerns in this proceeding and to settle and resolve related litigation pending between BNSF and the state.”

The agreement provides, among other things, for the grant to the state or third parties of certain trackage, haulage, or access rights over rail lines owned or to be acquired by BNSF in South Dakota.

“The agreement contemplates the execution of a number of implementing agreements with third parties, after which BNSF and the state would request immediate resumption of this proceeding, the state would withdraw its comments and request for conditions, and BNSF and the state would seek unconditional and expedited approval of BNSF’s proposed acquisition of the Core Lines.”

The agreement also contemplates that “all conditions of settlement (including execution of required third party implementing agreements, Board approval of BNSF’s acquisition of the Core Lines, closing on the Core Lines acquisition, and dismissal of the related litigation) must occur prior to October 25, 2005, or the terms of the settlement will be null and void.”

So, BNSF and the state requested a delay – in legal language – “to allow completion of certain terms of settlement until such time as BNSF and the state may jointly request that the stay be lifted, provided that in no event shall the stay extend beyond October 25, 2005, unless BNSF and the state mutually agree and jointly request otherwise.

The STB agreed it was a good idea, so is delaying its final decision until October 25. Meanwhile, BNSF or South Dakota “will submit, on or before August 22, a report on the implementation of the agreement.”


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G&W buys RMC rail properties

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. is buying essentially all of Rail Management Corp. rail assets. G&W reported on May 26 it will pay “$243 million in cash and the assumption of $1.7 million of non-interest bearing debt.”

G&W stated “acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and the expiration of the seven-day notice period required by the Surface Transportation Board for GWI to obtain authority to control the railroads owned by RMC.”

G&W expects to close the acquisition and start operations on June 1.

Mortimer B. Fuller III, G&W’s chairman and CEO, said, “The timing and fit of the Rail Management acquisition is exceptional. First, the rail properties are an excellent geographic fit with our Rail Link Region thereby enabling us to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Second, our ability to write-up the tax basis of the acquired entities helps to support a substantial increase in our free cash flow.”

Fuller said the corporation is buying the assets “at a time when we are able to benefit from highly favorable debt market conditions.” He added, “While we are taking on a modest increase in our debt profile, the cash flow from the combined businesses will allow GWI to ‘de-lever’ rapidly. The business is well run, management is strong, the employees are dedicated, the markets served are growing and the assets are in good condition.”

Founded in 1980, RMC is headquartered in Panama City Beach, Fla., and operates short line railroads. The business being acquired is composed of fourteen principal rail operations with locations throughout the South and Southeast U.S., including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. There is also one rail property located in Wisconsin. The main operations are composed of five former industrial railroads serving the paper and forest products industry, seven short line railroads, and two port railroads. RMC operates more than 928 miles of track, with 88 locomotives and 1,751 freight cars.

The railroads handle approximately 170,000 annual carloads, with approximately half of its customers being in the paper and forest products industry.

The new G&W business, the firm stated, “will be operated as part of GWI’s Jacksonville-based Rail Link subsidiary, under the leadership of Billy C. Eason.”

Acquiring the five former industrial railroads complements Rail Link’s current paper and forest products business which includes three railroads formerly owned by Georgia-Pacific Corp. (acquired in 2003) and industrial switching operations at eight paper mills throughout the Southeast.

The two port railroad operations are in Galveston, Texas and Wilmington, N.C. Two ports served by two of the other rail lines are in Panama City, Fla., and Port St. Joe, Fla.

G&W said it is financing the $243 million cash purchase price by expanding the size of its senior revolving credit facility from $150 million to $225 million and by completing a private placement of $125 million 10-year senior floating rate notes. The company said it “plans to draw down $118 million under the senior revolving credit facility at an initial borrowing rate of LIBOR plus 1.375 percent.”

The initial borrowing rate on the $125 million of senior notes will be LIBOR plus 0.85 percent. The carrier said it “expects to enter into a multi-year interest rate swap of approximately $125 million, and expects the blended borrowing rate of the financing associated with this acquisition to be approximately 5.2 percent.”


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FEC renumbers some mileposts

On June 1, new Florida East Coast Ry. timetable No. 37 will show some new, renumbered mileposts. The carrier’s Maintenance-of-Way Dept. will start putting up new milepost signs to be completed by May 31, 2006.

The milepost changes will be between St. Augustine and Bunnell on the “MJ” section along with the old Palatka branch, the Little River branch, and the downtown Miami branch – FEC’s original main line to Key West.

The MJ section will be eliminated. The former Palatka branch from St. Augustine will become the Wilbur Wright Industrial lead, named after MW track supervisor Wilbur Wright, who recently passed away in St. Augustine. The mileposts will be numbered as WW-1 thru WW 5.64 to just west of I-95.

At MP 37 – where current MJ MP 0.0 is located – it will just remain as MP 37.

MJ 1.0 will become MP 38 and will continue until reaching Bunnell at MJ 30, which will now be known as MP 67. At the south end of Bunnell, the original MP 87 will remain and the milepost numbers stay the same until reaching Miami (Little River, mp. 361).

The LR section from Little River to Hialeah yard will be eliminated. It, too, will be renumbered. LR-1 will be MP 362, LR-2 will be MP 363 until reaching LR-8 in Hialeah yard, which will become MP 369.

The old downtown Miami main will now be called the “Port Lead” and will be renumbered from Little River as PL 1 thru Dodge Island cutoff at PL 7.1 at the end of track.


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Three RailAmerica directors re-elected

Shareholders of RailAmerica, Inc. (RRA) re-elected three directors at its annual meeting on May 26 in Boca Raton, Fla. Elected to three-year terms were Charles Swinburn, CEO of RailAmerica, Inc. since August 2004 and a RailAmerica director since 1995.

Donald D. Redfearn, president, chief administrative officer and Secretary of they railroad. Redfearn has been RailAmerica president since June 2004, was chief administrative officer since January 2000, as Secretary since December 1994, and as a director since 1992.

Ferd C. Meyer, Jr., retired executive vice-president and general counsel of Central and South West Corp., Meyer has been a director since February 2000.

In other business, shareholders approved the firm’s 2005 employee stock purchase plan, and approved its second amendment to the 1998 executive incentive compensation plan. The carrier did not explain what those amendments were in its press release.


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Weyandt gets post at KCS

Paul J. Weyandt was elected senior vice-president for finance and treasurer at Kansas City Southern Railroad last week. In addition to providing oversight of KCS’s treasury, insurance, taxes, credit and collections functions, he is serving as interim CFO of Mexico’s TFM, S.A. de C.V. until a permanent CFO is named later this year, KCS said in a statement May 5.


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MacSwain retires from FEC

Florida East Coast Ry. vice-chairman Robert F. MacSwain, 62, said last week he will be stepping down on June 15, according to an FEC Spokesman. MacSwain’s responsibilities will be transitioned to other executives in the organization.


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Carloads down 3.5 percent;
coal is off by 18,000 cars

Largely because of an accident that disrupted coal traffic out of the Powder River Basin, rail freight traffic on U.S. railroads was down during the week ended May 21 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the AAR reported Thursday.

Carload freight was down more than 12,000 (3.5 percent) units from last year, totaling 331,604 cars, down 3.5 percent from last year. Coal volume alone was off more than 18,000 cars. Carload traffic was up 2.0 percent in the East, but down 8.1 percent in the West.

Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 224,906 trailers or containers, up 3.1 percent from last year, with containers up 5.3 percent and trailers down 3.3 percent.

Total volume was estimated at 30.7 billion ton-miles, down 3.5 percent from last year.

Eleven of 19 carload commodities were up from last year, with metallic ores up 16.2 percent; crushed stone, gravel and sand up 12.8 percent; and stone, clay and glass products up 7.7 percent. Coal traffic was off 13.6 percent, and coke was down 10.3 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first 20 weeks of 2005 totaled 6,823,380 carloads, up 2.1 percent from 2004; 4,337,700 trailers or containers, up 6.9 percent; and total volume of an estimated 634.8 billion ton-miles, up 2.9 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended May 21 carload traffic totaled 71,035 cars, down 3.1 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 45,096 trailers or containers, up 1.5 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 20 weeks of 2005 on the Canadian railroads totaled 1,406,082 carloads, up 0.3 percent from last year, and 845,867 trailers and containers, up 3.2 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 20 weeks of 2005 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 8,229,462 carloads, up 1.7 percent from last year and 5,183,567 trailers and containers, up 6.3 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended May 21 totaled 8,877 cars, down 0.1 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 4,514 originated trailers or containers, up 13.1 percent from the20th week of 2004. For the first 20 weeks of 2005, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 173,104 cars, up 2.3 percent from last year, and 76,723 trailers or containers, up 9.6 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 90 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)49.6550.60
Canadian National (CNI)60.5659.57
Canadian Pacific (CP) 37.0336.15
CSX (CSX)41.5642.08
Florida East Coast (FLA)42.1042.10
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)27.7124.86
Kansas City Southern (KSU)19.9719.26
Norfolk Southern (NSC)31.9332.05
Providence & Worcester (PWX)13.0313.06
Union Pacific (UNP)66.5266.70


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Americans look ahead to Palestine 2015

The U.K’s Independent News & Media reported last week, “This is a vision of the future Arab state as set out by a $2 million study by one of America’s most prestigious think-tanks. What’s more, the Palestinians love it,” reports Donald Macintyre.

 

It’s a futuristic concept as stunning as it is implausible, under present conditions. A Palestinian businessman on the way to a meeting in Cairo steps on to a train at a clean, modern rail station in the northern West Bank city of Jenin – no longer ravaged by bloody conflict, but peacefully booming with private-sector office and apartment construction.

The businessman is whisked by fast train to the busy Gaza airport, the latest Middle Eastern hub, in less than 90 minutes. On the way, he savors the changing landscape through the train window – the mountains of Jordan to his left, the Israeli Highway 6 and the Mediterranean to his right. He notes with satisfaction the aqueduct which follows the path of the railway line and whose construction solved at a stroke the desperate water shortages that had been faced by his people. He watches the Western backpackers hiking through an olive grove on one of the new national park trails that wind through the West Bank farmland and forest in sight of the track.

Glancing at his watch he chuckles at the 10 minutes it takes to get from Nablus to Ramallah... a journey, he remembers, that in 2005 could have taken, thanks to Israeli checkpoints and road closures, half a day, supposing he had the papers to allow him to make it at all.

On his return journey he will stop off at East Jerusalem, now universally acknowledged as the Palestinian state capital, for one of his frequent visits to his aging mother, a simple trip that was virtually impossible a decade earlier, made all the easier by the California-style urban rapid bus system that runs from every station on the line.

As the train pulls into Hebron, the last stop before it reaches southern Gaza, he casts an expert eye at the imaginatively planned new neighborhoods, each with their own recreation spaces, many housing refugees who have returned from Jordan or Syria, clustered along the tree-lined boulevards which link the station with the city’s ancient center. With all this building, he thinks, no wonder it is difficult to hire skilled construction workers in a labor market that saw Palestinian unemployment soaring over the 60 per cent mark back in 2005.

It’s an idea about as far away from present day reality as it is possible to be, but it is no bedtime story – because it is almost exactly the vision which informs a new $2 million study produced by one of America’s most prestigious think-tanks, the Rand Corp. The two complementary reports are, in Rand’s own words, the “most comprehensive recommendations ever made for the success of an independent Palestinian state.”

Last week, Mahmoud Abbas flew into Washington for what would be President George Bush’s first meeting with a Palestinian Authority president. He does so at a time when, for all the dramatic, if far from entrenched, decline in violence since the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February, the possibility of a negotiated peace deal to end the conflict and the occupation once and for all seem almost as far away as ever.

The Rand Corp. study cannot in itself bring that still painfully distant-seeming goal any nearer, but it can at least, and as never before, draw some of the contours of what such a state might look like.

At the core of the Rand proposals is the Arc, a 130-mile corridor running south through the West Bank, looping into southern Gaza – where the disused airport is – and then back up to Gaza City and the north of the strip.

It would, however, include not only the fast rail link, but also a water conduit, fiber-optic cable, power lines, and in recognition that not all freight and passenger journeys will be made by rail, a toll road and a linear national park. According to Rand, its construction would provide between 100,000 and 160,000 desperately needed jobs over five years.


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DB posts profits, but…

Deutsche Bahn is on a profit track, but some analysts warn that the railroad’s good news is based on one-time gains.

Germany’s Faz Weekly reported on Friday Deutsche Bahn normally sells about 1 million train tickets in five days. Last week, it sold that number of tickets within about five hours.

In a unique marketing campaign, the German railroad operator allowed the discount supermarket chain Lidl to sell tickets for Germany-wide travel at € 49.90 ($62.64) for a pair – and it was a real bargain: a regular one-way trip from, say, Rosenheim in the south to Flensburg in the north costs € 111. Germans jammed the Lidl stores and stood in line for hours, but many left empty-handed and frustrated. Overwhelmed by the success of its coup, the railroad is now pondering the possibility of regularly selling tickets via supermarkets.

Last week, Deutsche Bahn had to turn its focus from marketing gimmicks to analysts. The company wanted to show them that its ambitious medium-range forecasts were realistic when it published its results for the past business year. On Wednesday, the company posted its first profit in four years, although operative earnings before interest were somewhat lower than hoped at € 253 million ($319 million), up from a loss of € 172 million in 2003. The first quarter brought further improvements, but Deutsche Bahn still posted a net operating loss of € 38 million.

Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn emphasized the significance of last year’s turnaround in operating earnings before interest for the company’s ambitious plans. Mehdorn wants to turn Deutsche Bahn into a globally leading mobility provider – from rail through road to waterways. Profits are supposed to grow almost tenfold in the next five years, and the railroad operator aims to be listed on the stock exchange no later than 2008.

Some analysts warn that the forecasts are built on a shaky foundation because the turnaround, too, is based mostly on one-time positive effects. Some of Deutsche Bahn’s divisions are still deep in the red, particularly its freight and long-distance passenger businesses as well as the rail network operation. The future of the strong local transportation segment also is far from secure, experts say.

The long-distance railway business suffered a loss of about € 260 million in 2004. Although this could drop to below € 100 million this year, Deutsche Bahn has a long way to go to reach the targeted capital return of 10 percent in this segment. The key problem here is insufficient capacity usage, which currently stands at 43 percent, a marginal 2 percentage points more than two years ago. A minimum capacity usage of 50 percent is the goal for all IC and ICE high-speed connections.

The freight business posted a loss of € 15 million for 2004, although a profit of € 120 million had been budgeted. Sales fell dramatically in the first quarter of this year. Competing rail freight operators have snatched a combined 12 percent market share from Deutsche Bahn.

The languishing economy and the EU’s market opening in road transportation are adding to this competitive pressure. Indeed, freight hauler Schenker, which posted a profit of € 193 million in 2004, has high hopes for other means of transportation.

Deutsche Bahn’s key cash producer last year was local transportation, which added nearly € 500 million in profits and is expected to raise this contribution to € 800 million by 2009. However, market opening is foreseeable and private competitors operate considerably more efficiently.

In new tenders for local transportation contracts, private operators outbid Deutsche Bahn in more than half of all cases. In addition, a decision by the European Union that might speed up the liberalization of this segment is pending. Until these questions have been answered and Deutsche Bahn’s forecasts become more reliable than in the past, it will be difficult to convince politicians that the state operator is fit to be listed on the stock exchange.


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Moscow transport problems cleared up

The after-effects of an energy crisis in Moscow were eliminated Thursday, after a power outage stranded subways, trolley and electric trains in the Russian capital, the emergency headquarters of the Transport Ministry reported on Thursday, according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

All the airports in Moscow were normal again, and only one water supply station had not been reconnected to the city power grid. It operated using power from a reserve source.

All electric power sub-stations were “re-connected on railroads, and railway traffic continues in a normal regime” Tass stated.

Field reports stated, “145 out of 700 regular el-trains were cancelled on Wednesday because of power cut off. The other el-trains were connected to diesel locomotive engines, which in many cases carried two trains at once. The worse situation was reported on the Gorkovskaya, Paveletskaya and Kursk railroads, where 114 el-trains were stranded all- in all.”

Moscow metro was back to normal after the Lyublino metro line was re-connected by 5:26 a.m. Thursday. Electric-powered transport vehicles serviced passengers after 136 buses were added to service streetcar routes.

No word where the buses came from.


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Japanese engineer was between a rock and a hard place

The engineer of the train that derailed on the JR Fukuchiyama Line in April, killing 107 people, was forced to write 19 essays expressing his regret for overshooting a stop line last June, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported in May 21 from Osaka.

Ryujiro Takami, 23, who was killed in the derailment on April 25, underwent the program known as “day shift” immediately after the June incident.

During the program given at West Japan Railway Co.’s Kyobashi train office in Osaka, Takami also was severely reprimanded by three superiors for failing to make up the 10-second delay.

The police and the Construction and Transport Ministry’s Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission will investigate the firm’s re-education program.

According to sources, the office has recorded and kept details of re-education programs for employees, including essays of regret.

It is believed such records have been voluntarily submitted by the office to the police.

The record of Takami’s re-education program was written by his superiors and comprises 10 pages, the sources said.

On June 8, Takami overshot a stop line by 100 meters at Shimokoma Station on the Katamachi Line in Seikacho, Kyoto Prefecture, when he was operating a rapid train bound for Kizu Station from Sasayamaguchi Station.

Due to this mistake, he was suspended from regular duty and ordered by the head office to undergo the program starting the next day. The program was held at the office from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily.

Three instructors, a deputy stationmaster-level official and two subsection chiefs, repeatedly asked him why he had overshot the stop line and what he would do in the future to prevent a recurrence. Takami answered that his behavior lacked proper regard for safety and he had not fulfilled his responsibilities as an engineer, called “drivers” in Japan.

Takami also was asked why his train was late by 10 seconds when it arrived at Shimokoma Station.

He answered that a large group of primary school children on a school trip had boarded the train at Miyamaki Station, the station before Shimokoma Station, and had been slow in boarding, causing a delay of more than 10 seconds.

In response, the superiors criticized him for failing to make up for the delay.

In the essays, he simply admitted that he was at fault, saying, “I’ll try to improve my driving.” He did not attempt to defend his actions.

Takami, who became a driver one month before the re-education program was ordered, had his year-end bonus cut.

Takami told friends that as the firm just ordered drivers to keep their schedules, his only option was to speed up if a delay occurred.

“I was ordered to write many essays. If I make a big mistake again, I might be removed from my post,” he said.

JR West has begun re-examining the re-education program since the derailment occurred, but it still maintains that Takami’s reeducation had been conducted properly.

The police are questioning the train office head and other employees on suspicion that Takami’s reckless driving to make up for a 90-second delay resulted in the fatal derailment.


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Pottsdam to lose ICE trains

The historic city of Pottsdam will lose its two remaining ICE trains with the nationwide change to a new summer schedule on June 12. If that happens as currently planned, the capital city of the state of Brandenburg will be the only German state capital in the nation without ICE train services.

The state’s transport minister, Frank Szymanski, wrote in an open letter to Deutsche Bahn chief Helmut Mehdorn about his disgust in hearing of the schedule change via TV and newspaper reports instead of being approached by DB officials in advance about the change.

Other Brandenburg politicians voiced similar opinions, calling DB’s actions insulting and unjustified, especially in light of the recent restoration of the famous but long idle “Kaiser Bahnhof” royal train station in Pottsdam into a management training academy for DBAG, made possible in part due to financial support from the Brandenburg state government.


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DB, SNCF to create rail links

Germany’s Deutsche Bahn (DB) railway company signed an agreement in Strasbourg, Germany on May 23 with France’s government-owned railroad company, Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer – SNCF – to create two high-speed routes linking Paris with two German cities, Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

Under the agreement, China’s official news agency, Xinhua reported, high-speed trains between the two countries would not need to change locomotives at the French-German border, reducing the travel time between Paris and Frankfurt from six-and-a-half hours to four, an SNCF spokesman said.

The parties are expecting 1.5 million travelers to use each year the two lines, which are scheduled for completion in June 2007, doubling the current rate. Some 100 million Euros ($126 million U.S. dollars) in revenues is expected be produced.

DB’s CEO Hartmut Mehdorn and SNCF President Louis Gallois also signed an agreement to develop RailEuroConcept, a joint venture, which will manage the planning, and procedures in international freight handling starting in 2006.


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End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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