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UP Improves Public Safety Rate, Sets Employee Safety Records

July 31st, 2015

Union Pacific (UP) has announced that the year-to-date public safety rate, which measures Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reportable grade crossing accidents per million train miles, improved 11 percent to 1.97 compared to the same time period in 2014.

UP said the improvement in the public safety rate is due to the company’s safety outreach efforts that are driving down incidents at grade crossings in communities across its rail network.

The company hosts hundreds of UP CARES events annually and conducts radio and billboard rail safety reminders. UP also launched its first social media-based campaign in June urging photographers taking high school senior photos to stay off the tracks. In its first month, more than half a million Facebook and Twitter users were reached through the campaign.

The company has also announced that its employees set second-quarter and year-to-date safety performance records, achieving a 0.81 reportable injury rate for the second-quarter, a 19 percent improvement over the same period last year, and a year-to-date 0.82 reportable injury rate, compared to last year’s rate of 1.06. A railroad’s reportable injury rate is the total number of injuries reported to the FRA per 200,000 employee hours, which is equivalent to 100 employees working a full year.

UP’s employee program “Courage to Care”, which is a personal commitment to provide feedback to fellow employees to mitigate unsafe situations and to accept feedback from co-workers, is a contributing factor in the safety rate. Thousands of employees system wide have also participated in a Safety Stand Down in April, stopping work to assess risk and opportunities for improvement in individual work areas. A second stand down is being planned for October.

AAR Reports Another Week of Decreased Carloads, Increased Intermodal Volume

July 31st, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending July 25, 2015, totaled 557,612 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 2.5 percent compared to the same week in 2014.

U.S. carloads, with a total of 286,660 carloads for the week, were down by 6.7 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 270,952 units, up by 2.3 percent compared to 2014.

One of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending July 25, 2015, when compared with the same week in 2014. Grain increased 10.9 percent to 22,091 carloads.

Metallic ores and metals showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 14.9 percent to 24,609 carloads, and miscellaneous carloads were down 13.9 percent to 8,512 carloads. Coal declined by 10.9 percent to 103,588 carloads.

For the first 29 weeks of 2015, U.S. rail volume totaled 15,684,771 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 8,017,322, were down by 4.2 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 7,667,449, was up by 2.6 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending July 25, 2015, was 726,994 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.1 percent.

For the first 29 weeks of 2015, North American rail volume was down 0.3 percent, with a total of 20,476,086 carloads and intermodal units.

Bombardier to Provide Vehicle Maintenance for Toronto’s Light Rail Line

July 31st, 2015
BOMBARDIER FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicle. Photo: courtesy of Bombardier.

BOMBARDIER FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicle. Photo: courtesy of Bombardier.

Bombardier Transportation was awarded a contract worth approximately $308 million to provide 30-years of maintenance on the BOMBARDIER FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicles it will provide for the new Toronto Eglinton Crosstown line. The new line is a 19-kilometer project for Toronto’s Metrolinx light rail network.

“This is another expression of our commitment to Ontario,” said Raymond Bachant, president, Bombardier Transportation, Americas Division. “This new agreement strengthens Bombardier’s leadership position as a provider of passenger rail services in North America and worldwide.”

According to the contract, Bombardier will deliver its Automated Vehicle Inspection System (AVI System) and its BOMBARDIER ORBIFLO monitoring system in order to automatically inspect the vehicles and provide predictive maintenance capabilities.

Bombardier Transportation was subcontracted for the vehicle maintenance by the Crosslinx Transit Solutions Maintenance General Partnership, which is acting as the maintainer of the system on behalf of the consortium designing, financing, building and maintaining the transit line.

“Our strong services portfolio complements our innovative products and technologies, allowing us to form a true partnership with our customers throughout the entire product life cycle and to ensure the highest levels of safety, customer service, on-time performance, fleet availability and reliability,” Bachant added.

Bombardier will deliver the BOMBARDIER FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicles to Metrolinx through a separate manufacturing contract signed with the transit agency.

The project is under the authority of Metrolinx, the Government of Ontario agency responsible for transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and it is part of an investment of C$5.3 billion in construction costs for the Crosstown light rail transit line.

Ontario’s Brockville Station Renovated

July 30th, 2015

Member of Parliament for Leeds-Grenville Gord Brown, Brockville Mayor David Henderson, and Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, president and CEO of VIA Rail Canada, attended a recent inauguration ceremony to celebrate the completed renovation of Brockville Station in Ontario.

“VIA Rail is proud to offer more modern facilities to the 53,000 passengers who travel from and to Brockville each year,” said Desjardins-Siciliano. “This investment, made possible through funding from the government of Canada, will help ensure that travelers enjoy the best possible service as traffic continues to grow in the Ontario-Quebec corridor.”

The C$1 million renovation modernized the building, which dates to 1872, while highlighting its historical character with a new brick finish and bull’s-eye–style windows at each end of the building replicating the original structure’s look. The renovation included a new display system for train schedules, an historical interpretation site, a new passenger shelter and relocation of an outdoor mural.

As part of the project, the Brockville station also received a new roof, new building envelope, a new lighting system, new finishes, and doors and windows were replaced. An automatic door was installed and other improvements were made to support building accessibility for mobility impaired passengers.

The work was part of a larger project to modernize the national carrier’s facilities and infrastructure. Since 2007, the Government of Canada has invested C$370 million in the Brockville to Oshawa region in order to improve passenger services.

Wabtec Posts Strong Second Quarter

July 30th, 2015

Wabtec Corporation has reported several records for the 2015 second quarter, including record sales of $847 million, an increase of 16 percent over the 2014 second quarter, due to strong growth in the Freight segment.

Income from operations reached a record $156 million, or 18.4 percent of sales, compared to 18.1 percent in the second quarter of 2014. Earnings per diluted share were a record $1.04, 14 percent higher than the quarter last year.

“We had another strong operating quarter, with record sales, earnings and margins, driven by the performance of our Freight Group,” said Raymond T. Betler, president and chief executive officer of Wabtec.

“We continue to execute our growth strategies and internal improvement initiatives, and we’re optimistic about our future growth prospects, thanks to the diversity of our business model, continued global investment in transportation projects, and the power of our Wabtec Performance System,” continued Betler.

Based on the first half results and expected outlook for the rest of 2015, Wabtec has affirmed its 2015 guidance for earnings per diluted share of about $4.10, and expects revenues to be up approximately 10 percent for the year.

RailComm to Supply Dispatch System to IPH

July 30th, 2015

Iowa Pacific Holdings (IPH) has chosen RailComm’s computer-aided dispatch system to operate over 400 miles of non-signaled mainline track on six railroads located in U.S. territory. The railroads run under the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) and the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee (NORAC) rulesets.

The new dispatching service features a computer-aided dispatch system that removes the risk of human error by strictly enforcing rulesets while issuing train movement authorities, and an active log of all actions performed by dispatcher for reporting and investigation purposes. The new system will allow trains to increase speed through the network.

Dispatching operations will be performed using RailComm’s Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) platform, which is hosted on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model by RailComm. The DOC’s Graphical User Interface includes conflict checking, automatic completion and validation of track warrants, electronic train sheets, track bulletins, temporary speed restrictions, and Track Out Of Service alert capabilities. The DOC’s Graphical User Interface is integrated with DOC’s Railroad Manager that provides management and tracking of the train resources.

RailComm is a provider of software-based solutions that are focused on train control and railroad management.

Seattle Area’s Light Rail Extension Project Moves Forward

July 29th, 2015

The Board of Directors of Sound Transit, Washington State’s Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, has chosen the preferred alternative for a light rail extension to Kent/Des Moines and Federal Way. The extension to Federal Way will take place when funding is available. Project staff will now advance design, complete environmental review and evaluate potential modifications to alignment and station options.

“Identifying a preferred route gives us a clear path forward for bringing light rail to Federal Way,” said Dow Constantine, Sound Transit board chair and King County executive. “Now we can plan how to support jobs and housing near stations along the corridor through transit-oriented development.”

The route will extend along the west side of Interstate 5 and includes stations in Kent/Des Moines on the east side of SR 99, another in Federal Way at the Star Lake park-and-ride at South 272nd Street, and a third at the Federal Way Transit Center.

“This is a great day for South King County,” said Dave Upthegrove, Sound Transit board member and King County council member. “The more affordable option lets us bring more transit to more people – something badly needed in our diverse and low-income community.”

Project staff will study ways to optimize the Kent/Des Moines preferred station option between Highline College and 30th Avenue South to facilitate access to Highline College and will also evaluate re-aligning the preferred station option at the Federal Way Transit Center along 23rd Avenue South. This potential change would facilitate multimodal connections to the existing transit center, accommodate a future light rail extension south along I-5 or SR 99, and support the potential for future transit-oriented development downtown.

“We are making steady progress on getting light rail to Federal Way,” stated Sound Transit Board Member and King County Council Member Pete von Reichbauer. “Next steps in planning include optimizing design of the Federal Way Transit Center Station to enhance train and bus connections and encourage future transit-oriented development downtown.”

The agency plans to publish a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in the fall of 2016, with the project selected by the end of next year. Final design is scheduled to begin in 2017 and construction in 2019, with service to Kent/Des Moines beginning in 2023. Sound transit’s Link Light Rail is expected to have an annual ridership of 80 million by 2030.

NS Second Quarter Net Income Decreases

July 29th, 2015

Norfolk Southern Corporation has reported $433 million in net income for the second quarter of 2015, down 23 percent compared to last year’s second quarter net income of $562 million. Diluted earnings per share decreased to $1.41 compared with $1.79 reported in the same quarter last year.

Norfolk Southern CEO James A. Squires said, “While we face short-term pressure, particularly as we clear fuel surcharge revenue and coal headwinds, Norfolk Southern is well positioned to continue improving service, which will reduce costs and add value to our customers.”

“Growth within the intermodal franchise, consumer spending, housing-related momentum and improved manufacturing activity all support an optimistic longer-term outlook,” continued Squires. “We have a strong legacy of success, and we are taking the right steps to continue value creation for our customers, the communities we serve, our employees, and our shareholders.”

Railway operating revenues for the second quarter were $2.7 billion, an 11 percent decrease compared with the 2014 second quarter, due to lower fuel surcharge revenue and coal volumes. Total volume dropped by 2 percent, or approximately 46,000 units, with gains in intermodal and merchandise traffic offset by losses in coal.

Railway operating expenses dropped 6 percent to $1.9 billion, primarily due to lower fuel costs. Income from railway operations was $814 million, a 20 percent decline compared with the second quarter of 2014. The operating ratio was 70 percent, compared with 66.5 percent for the 2014 second quarter.

General merchandise revenues totaled $1.6 billion, 5 percent lower than the same period last year. Volume grew by 1 percent, with strong growth in chemicals offsetting declines in steel. Increases were also seen in automotive and paper volume.

Intermodal revenues declined by 3 percent to $633 million for the quarter. Traffic volume was up by 2 percent due to growth in international business. Coal revenues were $453 million, 33 percent lower in the quarter compared to last year, and coal volumes decreased by 21 percent.

SEPTA Sees Record Ridership

July 29th, 2015

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has reported a record 37.4 million trips on Regional Rail in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, an increase of more than 2 percent compared to FY 2014. Total annual trips on the system have increased by approximately 40 million since 2006. Regional Rail ridership has increased by more than 50 percent over the last 17 years, from 24.8 million in 1998 to 37.4 million last year.

“SEPTA is thrilled to continue to welcome new riders to the system,” stated Joseph M. Casey, SEPTA general manager. “We look forward to delivering further enhancements for our customers with long-needed capital improvements that are now underway.”

Overall, the Authority’s ridership of 330 million trips was approximately the same as the previous year, and is the fifth highest total in the last 25 years.

For FY 2015, SEPTA has also recorded its 16th consecutive year of operating with a balanced budget. The authority controlled costs by continuing its aggressive efforts to combat fraudulent lawsuits and other initiatives, such as a wayside storage program that utilizes regenerative braking on rail cars.

SEPTA also continues its “Rebuilding for the Future” program that is tackling a $5 billion backlog of state of good repair projects.

SEPTA’s FY 2015 ran from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

GATX Reports Second Quarter Results

July 28th, 2015

GATX Corporation has reported a net income of $45.4 million, or $1.03 per diluted share, for the 2015 second quarter, compared to last year’s second quarter net income of $53.1 million or $1.15 per diluted share.

For the first six months of 2015, net income was $107.6 million, or $2.42 per diluted share, compared to the same time period in 2014 that had a net income of $95.2 million, or $2.05 per diluted share.

“We continue to see strong demand for most railcar types in our fleet,” said GATX President and CEO Brian A. Kenney. “Utilization was 99.3 percent at the end of the quarter, excluding our boxcar fleet. The renewal rate change of our Lease Price Index was a positive 36.3 percent and our renewal success rate remained very high at 84 percent.”

“While renewal terms for many car types remained longer than historical averages, specific weakness in coal, coupled with regulatory uncertainty impacting cars in flammable service, resulted in shorter lease terms for these car types,” continued Kenney.  “As a result, the average renewal term for cars in our Lease Price Index was 54 months in the quarter. Remarketing income was lower versus prior quarters due to the timing of planned asset sales. We expect full year remarketing income to be in line with 2014.”

The Rail North America segment of GATX reported a profit of $84.9 million for the 2015 second quarter, compared to $91.7 million in 2014. The decrease in quarterly segment profit was primarily due to the timing of remarketing income.

For the first six months of 2015, Rail North America had a segment profit of $190.7 million, compared to $166.7 million for the first six months of 2014. The improvement in year-to-date segment profit was driven by increased lease revenue from higher lease rates as well as a six-month contribution from the acquired boxcar fleet compared to three months in the prior year.

Rail North America’s wholly owned fleet was approximately 125,600 cars as of June 30, 2015, including approximately 18,600 boxcars. Excluding the boxcar fleet, fleet utilization was 99.3 percent at the end of the second quarter, compared to 99.3 percent at the end of the prior quarter and 98.6 percent at the end of the second quarter 2014.

“The boxcar fleet, acquired in March 2014, is performing extremely well. Utilization on this fleet increased from 78.8 percent at acquisition to 97.3 percent at the end of the second quarter,” said Kenney. “The effects of the recently enacted flammable tank car regulatory changes on the industry will take some time to fully develop. However, with fewer than 1,400 tank cars requiring modification or retirement by 2023, we are well positioned to address these changes. Providing our customers with the safest railcars and service continues to be our highest priority, and we will diligently work with customers to comply with the new rule.”

Rail International’s second quarter segment profit was $19.1 million, compared to $19.4 million in 2014 second quarter. Segment profit has remained stable with higher lease revenue and lower maintenance activity at GATX Rail Europe (“GRE”) offset by the effects of a weaker Euro.