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Twin Eagle Breaks Ground on Permian Basin Rail Park

September 4th, 2015

Twin Eagle Sand Logistics, LLC, a subsidiary of Twin Eagle Resource Management, LLC, has broken ground on its Permian Rail Park outside Big Spring, Texas. The future 530-acre facility is located on the Union Pacific Railway and will serve the Eastern side of the Permian Basin.

“The Permian Basin has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of a challenging price environment and will likely perform well into a recovery cycle” said Griff Jones, Twin Eagle’s chief executive officer. “We believe the industry will continue to demand unit train terminaling infrastructure that demonstrate size and scope as they efficiently manage their supply chain.”

The Permian Rail Park will have more than 33,000 feet of track and initially be used for rail-to-truck sand trans-loading services. It is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2016.

“Permian Rail Park, which is supported by a sand trans-loading contract with a major E&P anchor tenant, is another terminal in our growing portfolio that serves our customers’ needs,” added Jones.

Twin Eagle also has plans to develop a loop track at the facility that will be capable of supporting crude-by-rail market activity as well as infrastructure to handle trucking solutions for both crude and sand.

Metrolink Appoints Konove Deputy CEO

September 4th, 2015

The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) has announced the appointment of Elissa Konove as deputy chief executive officer effective September 14. Konove is the current chief financial officer at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

In her new position, Konove will be responsible for leadership and support on budget, finance, and other Metrolink policies, while focusing on improving the system for riders. She will also work with external audiences and stakeholders to continue Metrolink’s path in becoming the safest railroad in the nation.

“We had some of the most talented people in the nation apply for this position and Elissa was the clear choice,” said Metrolink CEO Art Leahy. “Elissa’s experience at the FHWA, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and with Congressional leaders in Washington D.C. will be invaluable as Metrolink continues to be a national leader in rail safety and passenger service.”

Konove served as FHWA chief financial officer since 2008, where she was responsible for Federal highway budget, financial, and acquisition matters, including a $40 billion annual budget and $27.5 billion appropriated to the FHWA in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. She joined the FHWA in 2006 as the director of its Office of Budget.

Prior to joining the FHWA, Konove served as a program examiner and budget preparation specialist for the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where she oversaw the formulation and execution of U.S. DOT agency budgets and coordinated surface transportation bill reauthorization and appropriation activities. In 2005, Konove served on an assignment to the Senate Budget Committee, where she was responsible for the transportation function during development of and negotiations on the Congressional budget resolution.

Konove earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree in public policy from the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

VIA Rail Reports Increased Second Quarter Revenues

September 4th, 2015

The Canadian intercity passenger rail provider VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) has reported a 5.2 percent increase in its revenues for the 2015 second quarter, the fourth quarter in a row to see an increase in revenue, when compared with the second quarter of 2014.

Other results included a 3.3 percent drop in VIA Rail’s operating expenses for the quarter and a 0.1 percent increase in ridership numbers with a total of 912,900 passengers.

“Our revenues increased compared to last year, showing that our efforts are yielding results,” said VIA Rail’s President and CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. “Despite our success in this area, On Time Performance (OTP) continues to deteriorate due to increased freight traffic on third-party owned railways. We continue to look for creative ways to improve services within these limitations, in cooperation with our infrastructure partners.”

“In order to address the challenges associated with sharing the railway with freight trains, we have been working on a plan for dedicated passenger rail for the busiest Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal routes,” continued Desjardins-Siciliano. ”It would allow for a greater number of frequencies, shorter trip times and ultimately a safer and more reliable service.”

Highlights from the second quarter also included significant progress in updating the Safety Management System (SMS) to comply with new Transport Canada regulations that must be implemented by October 1, 2015. VIA Rail also debuted a new seat configuration in one Business class railcar and introduced one Economy railcar.

“This quarter, we also focused on reaching out to many different communities, listening to the needs of these various groups, and taking these needs into account,” concluded Desjardins-Siciliano.

In an effort to expand both its service and customer base, VIA Rail has added more train departures to the summer schedule between Montréal-Toronto and Montréal-Ottawa, and additional stops at key stations in the Corridor.

AAR Reports U.S. Rail Traffic for August

September 3rd, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the month of August 2015 when compared with August of 2014 was down 0.8 percent or 17,487 carloads and intermodal units. Total U.S. rail traffic for the month was 2,270,327 carloads and intermodal units.

August 2015 U.S. carload originations totaled 1,155,957, a drop of 4.6 percent, or 56,104 carloads, compared to August of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 3 percent or 22,240 carloads compared to August 2014.

Intermodal traffic for August reached a total of 1,114,370 containers and trailers, up 38,617 units, or 3.6 percent, compared to last August.

Six of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared to August of 2014. Commodities showing the largest increases included miscellaneous carloads, up 28 percent, or 5,870 carloads; grain mill products, up 6.5 percent, or 2,322 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 5.1 percent, or 3,460 carloads.

Metallic ores and metals showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 24.7 percent to 7,946 carloads, and petroleum and petroleum products were down 13.9 percent to 9,078 carloads. Coal declined by 7.3 percent to 33,624 carloads.

“August had essentially the same rail traffic pattern as the previous few months: a healthy increase for intermodal, a big decline for coal, continued weakness in a variety of energy-related commodities, and strength in some other carload segments,” said John T. Gray, AAR’s senior vice president policy and economics. “Railroads are a derived-demand industry, meaning that demand for rail service is a function of demand downstream for the products railroads haul. We’re optimistic that the economy will continue to grow. Demand for rail service should continue to grow with it.”

For the week ending August 29, 2015, a decrease of 0.8 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2014. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 575,323.

U.S. carloads, with a total of 290,792 for the week, dropped by 5 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume was up 4 percent for the week, with a total of 284,531 units reported, the highest number of intermodal units ever recorded.

Three of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2014. Motor vehicles and parts had the highest increase, up 11.9 percent, with a total 18,308 carloads; followed by miscellaneous carloads, up 10.1 percent, with a total of 10,711 carloads; and farm products, up 0.2 percent with a total of 16,127 carloads.

Metallic ores and metals reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2014, with a total of 23,370 carloads, a drop of 22.7 percent. Petroleum and petroleum products were down by 15.3 percent to 13,896 carloads, and grain decreased by 5.9 percent to 18,259 carloads.

For the first eight months of 2015, U.S. rail volume totaled 18,514,223 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1 percent, or 189,633 carloads and units, compared to the first eight months of 2014. Carloads, with a total of 9,462,936, were down by 4.3 percent, or 423,230 carloads, and intermodal was up 2.6 percent, or 233,597 containers and trailers, to 9,051,287 units.

Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America, was 743,291 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.8 percent. North American rail volume for the first 34 weeks of 2015 was 24,134,296 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.5 percent compared with 2014.

VTA Reopens Montague Light Rail Station

September 3rd, 2015
VTA's Montague Light Rail Station reopens. Photo: courtesy of VTA.

VTA's Montague Light Rail Station reopens. Photo: courtesy of VTA.

California’s Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has reopened the Montague Light Rail Station in Milpitas after a five-month closure while modifications were made for a new pedestrian overcrossing to the future Milpitas BART Station.

The station’s main stairs were reconstructed to make space for the overcrossing and escalator, and it’s emergency exit stairs were rebuilt to allow room for an anticipated increase in riders transferring from VTA’s BART Berryessa Extension.

The new station stairs and existing elevator can be used now, but the escalator and the pedestrian overcrossing to the Milpitas BART station will be installed in a later construction phase of VTA’s BART Silicon Valley Extension Project, a 16-mile extension of the existing BART system to San Jose, Milpitas and Santa Clara.

Sound Transit Sets Ridership Records

September 3rd, 2015

Sound Transit, Washington State’s Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, announced that ridership in the 2015 second quarter reached 8.8 million, the busiest second quarter in the agency’s history. Average weekday boardings on Sound Transit buses and trains increased by 6 percent with 118,000 trips for the quarter when compared to the same time period in 2014.

“Once again, Sound Transit’s strong ridership growth shows no slowdown in the demand for more transit throughout our region,” said Dow Constantine, Sound Transit chair and King County executive.

The agency’s Sounder commuter rail logged 913,299 boardings for the second quarter, up by 12 percent compared to last year. Weekday trips averaged 13,929 for the quarter. Seattle’s Link light rail saw 2.9 million boardings and average weekday boardings of 35,989, a 7 percent increase over last year’s second quarter. The Tacoma Link light rail reported a total of 253,497 boardings and 3,405 average weekday boardings for the 2015 second quarter, up by 1 percent over last year.

FRA Announces Grants to Improve Track, Highway-Rail Crossings on Energy Routes

September 2nd, 2015

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is soliciting applications from states for $10 million in competitive grants to improve track and highway-rail grade crossings along routes that transport energy products like crude oil and ethanol.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation has made increasing safety at highway-rail grade crossings, especially along routes transporting energy products, one of its top priorities,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This money allows the Department to support innovative ideas and solutions developed at the local level, and I encourage states to apply for this funding.”

Last year there were 269 deaths due to highway-rail grade crossing collisions, the first increase in fatalities in a decade. Collisions at highway-rail grade crossings are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities. FRA ramped up its campaign earlier this year to prevent these collisions through greater education, stronger enforcement and smarter engineering.

“Most of these deaths are completely preventable, and that is why the Federal Railroad Administration has redoubled its efforts to reverse last year’s upward trend,” said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “These funds will allow states to take innovative ideas and make them a reality to increase safety and decrease fatalities.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has taken more than 24 actions in the last two years to increase the safety of transporting hazardous materials by rail. The funding for track improvements on energy routes will increase safety on these rail lines.

The FRA guidelines for the grant applications encourage states to include innovative solutions to improve safety, especially at highway-rail grade crossings. The funding is part of the Railroad Safety grants for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP) by Rail Program.

Bombardier Delivers 100th FLEXITY Tram To Berlin

September 2nd, 2015
 Bombardier FLEXITY trams to operating in Berlin. Photo: courtesy of Bombardier.

Bombardier FLEXITY trams operating in Berlin. Photo: courtesy of Bombardier.

President and COO of Bombardier Transportation Dr. Lutz Bertling has symbolically handed over the keys to of the 100th FLEXITY tram to Dr. Sigrid Evelyn Nikutta, Berlin Transport Authority (BVG) board chairwoman and senior executive of operations.  A commemoration board with date and logo was also unveiled at the ceremony, which was held at Berlin’s Nordbahnhoff station in the presence of political, business and media representatives.

“The tram – along with underground trams and modern buses – is the guarantor for a contemporary, environmentally friendly mobility in the growing metropolis of Berlin. This applies today, but will especially apply in the future. With the FLEXITY Berlin, we have a vehicle that simply suits Berlin and the BVG,” said Nikutta. “State-of-the-art technology, ecological, fast, comfortable, barrier-free and with a highly acclaimed design. The FLEXITY is valued by our passengers just as much as it is by our drivers – and rightly so,” added Nikutta.

In September 2011, the first FLEXITY series production vehicle started passenger service in Berlin. The trams were specially designed for Berlin, with comfortable entry and alighting, low noise and energy efficiency. Currently, there are 142 of the trams on order, with full delivery expected by the end of 2017.

“The 100th FLEXITY for Berlin – what a fleet” is the slogan on the tram delivered at the ceremony.

NS Unveils New Eco Locomotives

September 2nd, 2015
Eco locomotive dedication at NS Inman Yard. Photo: courtesy of NS.

Eco locomotive dedication at NS Inman Yard. Photo: courtesy of NS.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Norfolk Southern’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Manion dedicated five new Eco locomotives at a ceremony held at Norfolk Southern’s Inman Yard in Atlanta this week.

The new class of rail yard locomotives, branded Eco locomotives for their operating efficiencies in reducing emissions and fuel consumption, were developed with federal funding assistance to reduce emissions in urban areas.

“Norfolk Southern has been a valued partner for economic growth in Georgia for many years,” said Governor Deal. “I applaud the company’s environmental consciousness and its work to achieve public benefits through cooperative efforts with municipalities and government agencies like the one we celebrate here today.”

The locomotives feature 3,000-horsepower engines that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier-3 emissions standards for locomotives. A green paint scheme with a Georgia-shaped icon and the slogan “Working Together for a Cleaner State” are also featured.

“In addition to lower emissions and fuel savings, benefits include operating efficiencies, as each Eco unit can replace two older, less-efficient locomotives,” Manion said.

Norfolk Southern will use 10 of the low-emissions Eco locomotives this year in its Atlanta yard where the units will account for 6.6 fewer tons of particulate matter and 155 fewer tons of nitrogen oxides pollutants annually. More Eco units will be delivered to Atlanta in 2016, achieving even greater clean-air benefits.

Manion stated, “Over the last five years, we have significantly lowered greenhouse gas emissions of our locomotive fleet, achieving an 8.5 percent reduction per revenue ton-mile. Rollout of the Eco units demonstrates Norfolk Southern’s continuing commitment to industry leadership in sustainability best practices and environmental partnerships.”

The Eco units were designed and built by Norfolk Southern at its Juniata, Pa., locomotive shops. The units use components from locomotive builder Electro-Motive Diesel, a division of Progress Rail Services, a Caterpillar company.

The project was funded in part by grants from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), with additional CMAQ grants leading to placement of Eco locomotives at Norfolk Southern rail yards in Chicago and in Macon and Rome, Ga.

Beverly Banister, division director of EPA’s Region 4 based at Atlanta, commented, “Through a phased implementation of lower emissions standards for locomotives, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has worked with the rail industry to bring about cleaner air for communities. The Eco units supported by grants from CMAQ will help ensure that yard switcher locomotives adhere to cleaner, healthier air quality standards.”

“Our transportation operations at Atlanta are central to serving customers throughout our network and beyond,” concluded Manion. “We consider it a corporate responsibility to mitigate the environmental impacts of our rail operations, and we thank the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Division, the city of Atlanta, and other cities and customers all along our lines that partner with us to achieve this goal.”

Oregon Updates Rules, Adds Staff to Prevent Rail Incidents

September 2nd, 2015

The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) has approved a proposed updated set of rules for transporting hazardous materials by rail and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has added four rail inspectors in an effort to improve Oregon’s ability to prevent and respond to incidents.

ODOT Director Matthew Garrett stated, “These rules will help ensure that first responders get the information they need, when they need it, and agencies that need the information for planning purposes can also get it. The rules also provide a means for the public to get information they may need to be prepared in case of an incident.”

The rules include the following:

  • Emergency responders will get immediate notification from railroads for incidents involving hazardous material, including the type, quantity and placement of any materials on the train;
  • Railroads must file quarterly reports with ODOT detailing shipments of hazardous materials, which will be shared with emergency responders. New rules specify the information is to be released under the state’s public records law, but allow some exemptions for trade secrets; and
  • ODOT can now assess penalties of up to $1,000 for each day railroads don’t comply with the rules.

The new rules will be posted on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website and updated on the fifteenth of every month.

ODOT has also announced that it will add four new railroad inspectors who will partner with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in overseeing the safety of Oregon’s rail operations. When the new employees are certified by FRA, ODOT will have two inspectors in four of the five FRA disciplines, including operating practices, signal and train control, hazardous materials, and motive power and equipment. It will have three inspectors in the fifth discipline, which is track inspection.

“We increased staffing in part because of national concerns about the increase in crude-by-rail shipments,” said Garrett. “With our new staff members, we will have specific discipline-trained inspectors on duty to cover the state even if an inspector is out sick or on vacation.”