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FRA Announces 2015 Right-of-Way Fatality & Trespass Prevention Workshop

March 27th, 2015

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will be holding its 2015 Right-of-Way Fatality & Trespass Prevention Workshop on August 4-6, 2015, in Charlotte, N.C.

The workshop will help identify and share existing industry best practices and explore strategies for trespass abatement and mitigation that the rail industry can adopt to reduce the number of right-of-way and trespasser incidents and fatalities.

Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg stated, “Trespassing is a leading cause of rail-related deaths. Trespassing and highway-rail grade crossing accidents account for 94 percent of all railroad fatalities.”

Trespassing on railroad property is illegal. Most trespassers are pedestrians walking across or along railroad tracks as a shortcut, while others are engaged in recreational activities. Each year, more than 400 trespasser fatalities and 500 related injuries occur across America. The leading cause of these rail-related deaths is trespassing along railroad rights-of-way.

“This conference will attract a diversity of stakeholders together to explore ways to tackle one of the most difficult safety challenges facing the rail industry,” said Feinberg. “Working together with industry, law enforcement, first responders, state and local officials, and the public are the only way we will continue to drive continuous safety improvement and save lives.”

The workshop will cover the five areas of community outreach and education; enforcement; design, technology, and infrastructure; intentional acts/deaths; and pedestrian safety. The conference agenda is currently being developed by a team of industry experts.

Nearly 200 participants representing law enforcement and first responders from across the nation attended the last conference held in St. Louis in 2012, along with Operation Life Saver, and industry experts.

This year’s free workshop will be held at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel. The FRA is currently holding registration for the 2015 workshop.

NJ TRANSIT Newark Penn Station Turns 80

March 27th, 2015

NJ TRANSIT, the transportation agency for the State of New Jersey, recently held a community celebration to mark 80 years for the historic Newark Penn Station. NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, NJ TRANSIT representatives, elected officials, customers and community members participated in the event.

“This is a welcomed opportunity to celebrate all that rail service has meant to this busy travel corridor which serves as the gateway into the City of Newark and its vibrant business district,” said Hakim. “Newark Penn Station represents a rich history of transportation innovation over the last 80 years building upon its roots as an intermodal hub and evolving to embrace the advent of modern technology in order to best serve the needs of our customers.”

Several events were held in the main waiting room, including tours of the station, and giveaways and sweepstakes from NJ TRANSIT partners including New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Ironbound IBID, the Newark Museum and the Greater Newark Convention and Visitor Bureau. Music was provided by the Newark Arts High School Jazz Ensemble as well as participants in the NJ TRANSIT Music in Motion program.

The New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center displayed two historic buses outside of the station on Plaza West for the event.

NJ Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman Jamie Fox stated, “Newark Penn Station has played a vital role in New Jersey’s public transportation and mass transit system since its doors first opened. It is as important to our state’s commuters today as it was eighty years ago.”

“We will continue to invest in public transportation and ensure that Newark Penn Station remains a prominent part of the tri-states’ transportation network for another eighty years,” added Commissioner Fox.

Newark Penn Station opened on March 23, 1935. The first regularly scheduled train to use the station was a New York to Philadelphia express train that did not pick up passengers until the next morning. The bus lanes and taxi area were opened March 24, 1935. The final phase of the station opened in 1937 when extensions were completed for the Newark City Subway (now Newark Light Rail) and Hudson & Manhattan Railroad (now PATH) to Newark Penn Station.

The station was originally designed and still operates as an intermodal facility serving more than 50,000 transit customers each day. Newark Penn Station is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Alstom Providing Zero Emission Train for German Rail Line

March 27th, 2015

Representatives of Alstom and Helmut Riegger, District Administrator of Calw, Germany, signed a letter of intent for the planned use of new emission-free fuel cell drive trains on the Hermann-Hesse railway line. The rail line provides access to the Black Forest region of Germany.

Administrator Riegger stated, “Emission-free trains simply fit in better in the natural environment of the Black Forest.”

“The new trains for Hermann-Hesse railway line will be completely emission-free,” said Dr. Martin Lange, managing director of Alstom Transport in Germany. “In times of increasing energy costs and higher level of pollution, the development of this technology is essential. Alstom is proud that the district of Calw is supporting and sharing the company’s vision of the railway transportation of the future.”

The new trains will be completely emission-free and will be based on the Alstom Coradia platform. The trains will feature an energy management system that consumes less energy and a fuel cell drive, which converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction. This fuel cell drive technology is already in use in the automotive industry.

The trains are developed and will be manufactured in Alstom’s competence center for regional trains (EMU & DMU) in Salzgitter, Germany.

Alstom signed four letters of intent in September of 2014 with the German Landers of Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg, for the use of this new generation of emission-free train.

CN Invests in Rehabilitation Work on Quebec Bridge

March 26th, 2015

Canadian National Railway (CN)  will invest an estimated C$7 million in 2015 on infrastructure work for the Quebec Bridge, which serves both rail and road traffic. With the announcement of the work for the current year, CN has invested a total of C$17 million in the bridge since 2013. The company plans to invest up to C$95 million over 10 years to ensure the safety and long-term viability of the bridge.

The work is part of a 2013 program between CN and the Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ), which followed a bridge inspection by the engineering firm Roche. The agreement outlines up-to-date road surface design and management best practices in addition to providing for work investments.

“CN has been investing heavily in the Quebec Bridge for over a century to extend its life even though it has been used less and less for rail traffic,” said Claude Mongeau, CN president and CEO. “The major rehabilitation program, which covers the 2015 program announced today, confirms CN’s ongoing commitment to preserve a strategic piece of infrastructure for Quebec City.”

Over the next several years, the MTQ plans to replace the entire roadway deck with improvements mandated under the agreement, including a drainage system that will allow de-icing salt-contaminated water to drain off, extending the life of the bridge. The cost is expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars. MTQ’s investments are in addition to those made under the major rehabilitation program in partnership with CN.

KCS Revises 2015 Guidance

March 26th, 2015
Photo: courtesy of KCS.

Photo: courtesy of KCS.

Kansas City Southern (KCS) has revised the company’s Full-Year 2015 Guidance, with expected revenue growth dropping to low single-digit growth from the mid single-digit growth in the Full-Year 2015 Guidance that was reported on January 2015.

The company decreased expected revenue growth due to several factors, including slower year-to-date carload growth primarily from the energy sector, a continued decline in value of the Mexican peso against the U.S. dollar, and lower fuel surcharge revenues driven by lower crude oil (WTI) prices. With the recent decline in crude prices to six-year lows, the company believes crude oil growth for 2015 will be lower than expected.

Compared to the prior Full-Year 2015 Guidance, lower carload volumes are expected to result in an approximate 2 percent lower revenue growth for the year, and an additional approximate 2 percent drop is expected due to further foreign exchange rate deterioration and lower fuel surcharge revenues. KCS expects the foreign exchange and fuel surcharges impacts will be largely offset with lower expenses; however, lower carload volumes are expected to reduce operating income.

The company has also revised its 2015 guidance for linehaul revenue growth in the energy commodity group from double-digit growth to single-digit growth. Linehaul revenue growth for all other commodity groups, overall carload growth and capital expenditures are expected to be in line with the January 2015 guidance.

For the first quarter of 2015, an approximate 10 percent decrease is expected in energy revenues due to lower crude oil and natural gas prices. Coal revenues for the first quarter are expected to decline approximately 20 percent, due to impacts from lower natural gas prices. Frac sand and metals revenues have also dropped due to a significant decline in new drilling operations in the United States.

As a result of the slower than expected carload growth, KCS revenue in the 2015 first quarter to date is approximately flat compared to the same time period in 2014. First quarter 2015 adjusted diluted earnings per share is expected to be flat to slightly higher than the first quarter of 2014. Foreign exchange and fuel surcharge revenues are expected to have a 4 percent negative impact for 2015 first quarter revenues compared to the 2014 first quarter.

RailPros Names Matthews VP, Irvine Headquarters Office Manager

March 26th, 2015

RailPros, Inc., a transportation consulting services firm, has announced the appointment of Bob Matthews, PE, SE, as vice president, Irvine Headquarters office manager. In his new position, he will lead the engineering team and grow the company’s structural division.

“RailPros has grown over 30 percent per year over the last five years hiring 60 new staff members in 2014,” said RailPros President Eric Hankinson, PE. “Bob’s strong background in engineering management, structural design, and quality assurance fills multiple key roles, which will enable our firm to continue to grow rapidly taking on larger projects and clients. We are thrilled to have him on our team.”

Matthews has worked in the civil engineering industry for 30 years. He has experience in civil/structural engineering that includes planning, design and construction support of railways, roadways and buildings, as well as expertise in organizational management.

He spent most of his career working for a large international engineering firm, gaining extensive experience in engineering management. Prior to joining RailPros, he served as the international firm’s engineering director, coordinating production activities for civil, structural, rail and electrical disciplines throughout four Southern California offices.

He was also Structural Department manager for Southern California and project director overseeing project managers on multiple projects. As structural manager, he worked most recently on the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority’s Nogales Street Grade Separation project. He has also worked on rail projects with Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Sound Transit.

Matthews earned a bachelor of science in civil engineering from Michigan State University. He holds professional engineer and/or structural engineer licenses in eight states, including California.

Matthews is the chairman of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) Committee 9 – Seismic Design for Railway Structures. He is a member of several industry associations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC).

Short Line Industry Connects in Orlando

March 25th, 2015

More than 1,600 railroad and supplier representatives are expected this weekend at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association annual convention in sunny Orlando.

The event will mark the first annual convention for the association under its new president, Linda Bauer Darr. She succeeded Rich Timmons, who retired last year after about a dozen years leading the short line group. She will preside over the convention’s official grand opening and deliver a state of the industry presentation during the event.

The ASLRRA 2015 Connections convention will feature the organization’s largest number of exhibitors. Rail industry suppliers and contractors will take up more than 235 booths in the sold-out exhibit hall at the Hilton Orlando, displaying some of the latest technology products and services.

ASLRRA 2015 Connections features numerous educational sessions addressing railroading’s hottest topics, including short line PTC implementation, bridge management plans, Hurricane Sandy’s impact on railroad rates and coverage, and natural gas technology for locomotives. Other highlights include updates on the Short Line Safety Institute, a panel discussion with top executives from short line holding companies and the presentation of prestigious safety, marketing and distinguished service awards.

The event officially opens March 28 with various committee meetings and a service project and ends April 1.

German Transit Authorities Award Bombardier LRV Contracts

March 25th, 2015
BOMBARDIER FLEXITY light rail vehicle. Photo: courtesy of Bombardier.

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

Bombardier Transportation has been awarded two contracts for the delivery of 62 FLEXITY light rail vehicles to the German cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf.

Cologne transport authorities (KVB) will receive 20 FLEXITY vehicles, valued at approximately US$68 million. The cars are scheduled for delivery between 2020 to 2021. Düsseldorf (Rheinbahn AG) will be supplied with 42 FLEXITY light rail vehicles, with an option for 16 additional vehicles, valued at approximately US$135 million. Delivery is scheduled between 2017 and 2020.

“We are delighted that we have managed to carry out this tender in cooperation with the Cologne Transport Authority,” said Dirk Biesenbach, CEO of Rheinbahn AG. “Together we are acquiring modern and attractive vehicles for Düsseldorf and Cologne.”

“The contract has been awarded based on the most economical offer. Particularly worth mentioning are the low life cycle costs and easy maintainability. We are convinced to have chosen the most cost efficient and cost effective solution,” remarked KVB CTO Jörn Schwarze.

The FLEXITY vehicles are 28 meters long and feature wide aisles and expanded multi-purpose areas. The cars will be manufactured at Bombardier sites in Germany.

Work Progressing on Seattle’s Northgate Link Light Rail Extension

March 25th, 2015

Sound Transit, the transportation authority for the Seattle area, announced that a 1.5-mile segment of a 3.4-mile tunnel between Northgate and Roosevelt has been completed for the Northgate Link light rail expansion project. The completed tunnel will be part of the 4.3-mile extension from Northgate that serve light rail trains from Northgate Mall to the University of Washington.

Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine stated, “This machine churned through hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of earth to reach Roosevelt Station. Now on to the U-District Station, and then to Husky Stadium.”

The boring machine, nicknamed “Brenda”, was launched last July in Northgate. It will undergo maintenance before continuing south to connect with the completed University of Washington Station, which opens with University Link early next year.

The second tunnel boring machine “Pamela” launched from the Maple Leaf Portal last November and is expected to arrive at the Roosevelt site this summer. Both tunnels are expected to be complete by mid-2016.

Cross-passages and tunnel finishes are scheduled for completion in early 2018 and service is expected to start in 2021. All light rail trains will enter and exit the tunnels at the Maple Leaf Portal.

Each tunnel boring machine weighs 600 tons and is more than 300 feet long. The cutterheads are 21 ½ feet in diameter. By the time tunneling is finished, a total of more than 500,000 cubic yards of soil will have been excavated and over 7,200 concrete rings used to line the tunnels.

The $2.1 billion Northgate Link Extension will connect the University of Washington Station at Husky Stadium to underground stations in the U District and Roosevelt neighborhood, and to an elevated station at Northgate.

Proposed Bill to Promote Rail Infrastructure

March 25th, 2015

Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have cosponsored the Track, Railroad, and Infrastructure Network (TRAIN) Act that will reform the federal environmental permitting process for rail infrastructure projects.

The rail industry has encountered burdensome administrative delays in the environmental permitting process, resulting in cost increases that reduce the amount of capital available to invest in projects. The proposed legislation will ensure the system is more efficient and less time consuming without compromising environmental quality.

“Freight rail traffic is growing, which means we need more infrastructure to move goods and services and ensure that rail remains a major component in our economic future,” Senator Blunt stated. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure that burdensome federal regulations do not hamper investment and innovation in our nation’s freight and passenger rail industry.”

“Our nation’s railroads move 29 million carloads every year and take millions of trucks off the road, but critical investments are needed to remove bottlenecks and improve the efficiency of the system,” explained Senator Manchin. “Unfortunately, these important projects languish on the vine year after year due to a relentlessly bureaucratic federal permitting process.”

Duplicate and burdensome permitting requirements on other modes of transportation were revised by Congress in 2012 as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. The TRAIN Act would expand these reforms to railroad infrastructure.

“In 2012, we streamlined this process for federal highway and road projects to get them off the drawing board, and, just last year, we did the same thing for major projects along our nation’s waterways,” continued Senator Manchin. “It’s time that we extend these commonsense reforms to our nation’s railroads to ensure that we can efficiently move goods throughout the nation and keep our economy moving.”

U.S. Senator John Thune (SD), Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, is an original co-sponsor of the proposed act.

“This legislation adds some common sense to a regulatory framework that is too often inflexible even when there are pressing needs to improve the network bringing safe and on-time delivery of freight to consumers and businesses,” Senator Thune remarked. “I appreciate Senator Blunt’s leadership on this initiative and look forward to bringing this bill before the Commerce Committee for consideration.”

The bipartisan TRAIN Act has been endorsed by the Missouri Railroad Association.