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BNSF Plans $6 Billion 2015 Capital Expenditure Program

November 26th, 2014

BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) has announced that its planned 2015 capital expenditures will be $6 billion, marking the third year in a row that BNSF has committed a record amount for capital investments. The company has also updated its 2014 capital expenditures to $5.5 billion.

The 2015 planned capital expenditures will go toward maintenance and expansion of the railroad in order to meet the expected demand for freight rail service.

“BNSF’s capital investment program since the beginning of 2013 through the end of 2015 is unprecedented and is clear evidence of our confidence in a growing economy and our intention to meet the demand for service that comes from all our customers,” said Carl Ice, BNSF president and chief executive officer. “We have made great progress in expanding the segments of our railroad that have been most constrained by rapidly increasing demand.”

“Once these new capital programs are completed, we expect to further restore the capacity flexibility we have historically enjoyed to manage the periodic demand surges that come from a dynamic and fast-paced economic environment,” concluded Ice.

The renewal of assets and maintenance is the highest expenditure in the plan, with an expected cost of $2.9 billion. Included in this is replacing and upgrading rails, ties and ballast that are due for updating. Track replacement projects typically make up the largest percentage of BNSF’s annual capital projects.

Approximately $1.5 billion will be used for expansion projects, with nearly $500 million to be invested in the fast growing Northern Region. The region primarily serves agriculture, coal, crude oil and materials related to crude oil exploration and production.

The railway also plans to acquire 330 new energy and fuel efficient locomotives that will to add to its fleet of 7,500 and replace older locomotives that are reaching the end of their useful life.

BNSF will announce early next year the details for the line capacity and maintenance projects it plans to make, particularly those along the Northern Region.

From 2000 through to the end of 2015, BNSF will have reinvested more than $50 billion into its equipment and its network and infrastructure for maintenance work. The investment allows train traffic to maintain its fluidity and helps in the company’s ability to handle expansion projects.

FTA Conducting Voluntary Safety Exam of Chicago Transit Operations

November 26th, 2014

In response to the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) formal request for safety collaboration earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will be conducting a voluntary safety examination of the CTA’s rail and bus transit system. The purpose of the examination is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of CTA safety operations and identify areas where the agency can further reduce risks and make other safety improvements.

“Safety is our highest priority and we are committed to working with our transportation partners nationwide to ensure that safety operations receive the attention they require,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to work closely with the CTA to make sure that they receive the greatest benefits from this assessment.”

This is the first safety examination FTA has undertaken in keeping with its new safety regulatory authority under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).

The FTA has formally adopted the Safety Management System (SMS) to support comprehensive programs and performance as a means of implementing its new safety regulatory provisions. SMS focuses on organization-wide safety policy, proactive hazard management, strong safety communication between workers and management, targeted safety training, and clear responsibilities for critical safety activities.

The safety examination is an opportunity for CTA to test the effectiveness off the SMS approach and gather critical data to establish the agency’s safety risk profile.

“In light of two high-profile collisions that occurred on CTA property within the past year, we believe this is an appropriate time to work with CTA to conduct a comprehensive safety examination of its transit system,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “As the FTA implements our new safety authority, we remain committed to fostering sound policy and a strong safety culture at every transit system.”

The examination includes three major activities to develop an SMS approach. The first of these requires an SMS gap analysis, including SMS training across several levels of CTA and a safety culture assessment survey for front-line personnel and supervisors.

FTA will do a rail safety assessment, in which it will conduct an evaluation of CTA’s rail operations and maintenance programs to acquire the safety information and data needed to support meaningful analysis of safety risks. A bus safety assessment will also be conducted in the same manner as the rail safety assessment.

The safety examination is scheduled to begin December 1 in Chicago. FTA and CTA will summarize the results of this assessment early next year, and develop a roadmap to help CTA build a mature and effective SMS process.

Vancouver’s Canada Line Celebrates 200 Millionth Passenger

November 26th, 2014

TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority, celebrated the Canada Line’s 200 millionth passenger. The line has been in service for five years and provides a link between downtown Vancouver to the City of Richmond and Vancouver International Airport (YVR). Translink executives were joined at the celebration by government representatives and key stakeholders, among them representatives from YVR and the Vancouver Board of Trade.

“Opening the Canada Line in August 2009 was a defining moment for Metro Vancouver. Since that opening, the line has surpassed our original expectations, now carrying more than 122,000 people on any given weekday, which is the equivalent to more than ten lanes of highway,” said John Yap, Member of the Legislature from Richmond-Steveston. “The BC government will continue to work together with our partners to build innovative transportation systems that help get people out of their vehicles and onto transit.”

The Canada Line is integrated into the existing transit and SkyTrain network. It transports passengers along a 19-kilometre route in 26 minutes or less. It has an approximate weekday ridership of more than 120,000, exceeding the orginal forecast of 100,000 by fall 2010.

“Commuters and airport travelers have embraced Canada Line by using this high-speed train well beyond original expectations of its launch in 2009,” said Marcella Szel, chair of the TransLink Board of Directors. “Developers have since contributed millions in private funds towards stations and nearby residential properties, ensuring a truly transit-oriented community.”

Craig Richmond, president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, added, “Ridership has greatly exceeded our highest forecast and we’re delighted that so many people use this sustainable transportation method and that the Canada Line has become one of the significant features that contributes to our world-class reputation.”

The Canada Line is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever completed in British Columbia and one of the largest public-private partnerships in Canadian history. The $2.1 billion project was funded by the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink), the Vancouver Airport Authority, the City of Vancouver and the City of Richmond, and was partially financed by the private sector partner InTransitBC.

“Our Government is proud to invest in infrastructure projects like the Canada Line that create jobs and economic growth, and improve public transit for Canadians,” said Wai Young, Member of Parliament for Vancouver South. “The Canada Line is connecting communities, reducing commute times and providing a more efficient, environmentally friendly transit option for residents and visitors to this region.”

New Rail Cars Delivered for Denver’s Future Electric Line

November 25th, 2014
New rail cars arrive for RTD line. Photo: courtesy of RTD.

New rail cars arrive for RTD line. Photo: courtesy of RTD.

Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) recently received the first rail cars that will run on the new electric commuter rail lines, which begin service in 2016. The cars were assembled at a plant in Philadelphia and shipped by freight rail.

RTD purchased 66 vehicles to use on the FasTracks lines that will run on the East Rail Line to Denver International Airport, the Northwest Rail Line to Westminster, the Gold Line to Arvada/Wheat Ridge and the North Metro Rail Line to Thornton.

The new 85-foot long rail cars feature level boarding, overhead storage, luggage and bicycle racks and capacity for 232 seated and standing passengers. The trains will travel up to 79 miles per hour.

Hyundai Rotem manufactured the steel car shells at its plant in South Korea, and then shipped them to the company’s plant in Philadelphia for fitting and assembly of various components, including wheel trucks, brakes, seats, propulsion system, flooring, doors and windows.

The vehicles will be maintained, serviced and cleaned at RTD’s Denver commuter rail maintenance facility.

St. Petersburg Orders Three Additional Trams from Alstom Joint Venture

November 25th, 2014
Low-floor tram. Photo:courtesy of Alstom.

Low-floor tram. Photo:courtesy of Alstom.

TramRus LLC, a joint venture between Alstom and Transmashholding, was awarded a contract to deliver 3 additional low-floor trams to St. Petersburg, Russia. The city recently ordered one low-floor tram from TramRus that has an expected delivery date of December 1, 2014. The three just ordered will be delivered by December 20, 2014.

The 4 trams, which cope with the cold climate, complex ground profile and heavy passenger flows of St. Petersburg, have been specifically designed for Russia’s infrastructure and climate. The vehicles are 25m long with a capacity to hold more than 200 passengers, nearly double the capacity of the older trams. They offer spacious interiors and spaces dedicated to luggage, wheelchairs and prams, and include air-conditioning, ergonomic seats and reduced noise levels.

The tram has a 30-year lifespan, greater than that of existing ones, which have a lifecycle of 18 years. The composite materials, innovative bogies and modular structures will ensure reduced operation and maintenance costs. The tram is equipped with a modern traction system, reducing energy consumption by more than 10 percent.

MBTA Opens New Intermodal Center in Salem

November 25th, 2014
Ribbon cutting at the new Salem Intermodal Facility. Photo: courtesy of MBTA.

Ribbon cutting at the new Salem Intermodal Facility garage. Photo: courtesy of MBTA.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott recently was joined by Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll, Congressman John Tierney and other local officials to celebrate the opening of the new Salem Intermodal Facility.

The facility is located on the commuter rail system’s Salem Station, the third busiest stop on the line, with an average of 1,065 boardings per day. It offers a 700-car parking garage, bus, bike and Zipcar facilities, a new pedestrian walkway and direct access to the commuter rail platform, which has capacity for a nine-car train.

The center also features snow melting equipment on the roof, energy efficient lighting and electric car parking with charging stations. The historic signal tower was stabilized and a waterfront park is on-site.

Work is currently in progress on certain features, with completion expected by the end of November. The second phase of the raised platform work started October 27 and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The landscaping of the waterfront park will be completed in the spring.

The City of Salem owns a site adjacent to the MBTA site, which allows for future Transit Oriented Development.

The project, expected to cost approximately $44.5 million, is funded through a combination of federal, state, city and MBTA funds.

Watco Names Martin & Smith to New Safety Roles

November 24th, 2014

Watco Companies has named Ron Martin vice president of transportation safety and training and Michael Smith director of engineering safety and training. Martin will manage regional safety managers and safety QA managers while Smith will manage track training coordinators, conduct training and handle training documents for the engineering department.

Martin, who joined Watco 15 years ago, will provide assistance and guidance with regulatory record keeping requirements for each location. In addition, he will work with railroads to manage FRA certification programs and other required programs to ensure Watco’s workforce is well-trained and qualified.

After joining Watco in 1999, Martin served in various roles, including track foreman, conductor, engineer, switching location manager, trainmaster, general manager, regional safety manager and director of transportation safety and training.

Smith, who joined Watco in 2012, will work closely with the engineering team to develop and produce their training materials and be responsible for ensuring all required track/engineering training is completed across the Watco system and meets FRA requirements.

Smith began his career at Watco as assistant roadmaster for the Birmingham Terminal Railway and was promoted to track training specialist before assuming the role of director. He earned a bachelor’s degree in leadership science from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

New Bombardier People Movers Start Service on Singapore Line

November 24th, 2014
BOMBARDIER INNOVIA APM 100 people mover in Singapore. Photo: courtesy of Bombardier.

BOMBARDIER INNOVIA APM 100 people mover in Singapore. Photo: courtesy of Bombardier.

Two new BOMBARDIER INNOVIA APM 100 people mover vehicles have entered into service on the Bukit Panjang Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system in Singapore.

The Singapore Land Transit Authority (LTA) ordered 13 additional INNOVIA APM 100 vehicles from Bombardier in 2012, with eight of the vehicles to be delivered this year and the remaining five to be delivered in 2015.

Bombardier is also upgrading the LRT signaling and communications sub-systems to enhance system capacity and to integrate new platforms at the Choa Chu Kang LRT station into the system.

“Since services began on the Bukit Panjang LRT system, the Singapore Land Transit Authority has consistently seen passenger numbers rise every year,” said Benoit Cattin-Martel, Bombardier Transportation’s vice president Asia Pacific, Systems Division. “The new fleet of INNOVIA APM 100 vehicles will enable the LTA to run more trains in two-car configurations thereby increasing capacity and improving services for commuters, proving that this transit technology is an ideal choice for urban operators.”

The Bukit Panjang LRT system started service in 1999 with 19 INNOVIA APM 100 vehicles with the BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 550 fixed block train control solution for unattended driverless operation on a guideway.

With all of the new vehicles in service, peak-hour capacity is expected to grow by approximately 50 percent.

AAR Reports Increased Carloads for North American Rail Traffic

November 24th, 2014

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported a 1.4 percent increase in total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending November 15, 2014, when compared to the same week in 2013, with 570,350 carloads and intermodal units reported.

U.S. carloads, with a reported total of 296,655 for the week, increased 0.3 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume increased 2.6 percent for the week, with a total of 273,695 units reported.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2013. Nonmetallic minerals had the highest increase at 9.6 percent, with 37,297 carloads. Grain had the largest decrease in the commodity groups with 23,313 carloads, down 3.9 percent.

U.S. railroads reported a 4.3 percent increase in total combined traffic for the first 46 weeks of 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013, with a total volume of 25,428,976 carloads and intermodal units. U.S. carloads increased 3.4 percent, with a reported total of 13,425,089 carloads. U.S. intermodal volume, with a total of 12,003,887 units, increased 5.3 percent.

Canadian railroads reported an increase of 0.2 percent in carloads and a decrease of 0.6 percent in intermodal units for the week ending November 15, 2014, when compared to the same week in 2013. Weekly 2014 totals were 82,869 carloads and 56,282 intermodal units.

For the first 46 weeks of 2014, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,711,685 carloads, up 1.8 percent from the same point last year, and 2,636,537 intermodal units, up 6.3 percent from last year.

For the week ending November 15, 2014, Mexican railroads reported 26,429 carloads, a 68.4 percent increase when compared to the same week last year. Intermodal units saw a 56.9 percent increase, with 16,198 units reported.

For the first 46 weeks of 2014, cumulative volume on Mexican railroads increased 4.5 percent when compared to the same time period in 2013, with a reported 736,233 carloads. Intermodal units increased 6.4 percent, with 497,647 units reported.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the first 46 weeks of 2014 was 17,873,007 carloads, an increase of 3.1 percent compared with the same time period last year. Intermodal trailers and containers totaled 15,138,071, up 5.5 percent.

AAR President Hamberger Remarks on Changing Freight Rail Industry

November 21st, 2014

During a presentation at the annual RailTrends Conference held this week in New York City, Edward R. Hamberger, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) president and CEO, addressed the need for a strong and robust freight rail network to meet the changing demands on the nation’s rail industry.

“A healthy and efficient freight rail network is vital to delivering America’s changing economy. America’s railroads are moving more traffic since the recession. Business production and consumer demand are increasing, and rail is playing a bigger part in getting American goods to market,” said Hamberger.

Hamberger pointed out that several factors are resulting in the rail industry working hard to meet immediate shipping demands and considering longer-term adjustments to their networks. Some of the factors include rail traffic that has increased from comparatively light to heavy traffic in a short period of time and the demand to transport a mix of more commodities.

“Railroads cannot simply pick-up track and move it from one location to another due to shifting shipping patterns,” said Hamberger. “It takes time and careful network planning. To accommodate the shipping needs of customers, the rail industry has to be flexible, efficient and responsive. This includes railroads spending about $1 billion every two weeks on operational enhancements and hiring thousands of Americans for new jobs.”

Hamberger said while the U.S. rail industry is well-positioned to drive the nation’s economy, the potential of any new government regulation would undercut industry efforts to manage the rail network.

“In order for the freight rail industry to meet demands of our nation’s growing and changing economy, we need to ease regulatory roadblocks that curtail the industry’s ability to address service pressures,” Hamberger added. “New restrictive regulation would be imposed on the nation’s railroads at exactly the wrong time, when investments in capacity, new equipment and new hires are needed.”

The AAR has reported strong growth in rail traffic, with total U.S. carload and intermodal volume for the first 10 months of 2014 reaching 24.3 million units, up 4.5 percent over the same period last year. It was the highest year-to-date total since 2007. October 2014 was the best month in history for U.S. rail intermodal traffic and was up 5.5 percent over 2013. The month of October also saw year-over-year carload increases for 15 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month.