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Rail Connection, ITE Management Form JV Railcar Company

May 22nd, 2015

Earlier this month, Rail Connection, Inc. (RCI), a subsidiary of Appalachian Railcar Services, Inc. (ARS), and ITE Management, L.P. formed the joint venture of Rail Connection, L.L.C., which will acquire, lease and operate railcars. The joint venture will initially only own railcars, and is currently acquiring railcars to grow the asset base.

Kurt Higginbotham has been appointed president of Rail Connection, L.L.C., while continuing in his role as vice president of RCI. In his new position, Higginbotham will handle the day-to-day operations of the fleet with Mark Jack, who will serve as executive vice president of the joint venture.

ITE Management L.P. is an investment advisor in industrial and transportation assets/companies, related industries and services. The firm’s investment strategies focus on broad macroeconomic themes with the current fund targeting the railcar sector.

AAR Announce Recipients of 2014 Hazmat Safety Awards

May 22nd, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has announced the 2014 recipients of three awards presented to hazardous materials handlers at the 28th Annual AAR/Bureau of Explosives (BOE) Hazmat Seminar held in Addison, Texas. TRANSCAER® (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response) also presented their National Achievement Awards at the ceremony.

Romano DeSimone, a CSX Transportation employee, received the AAR’s Holden-Proefrock Award, which is given annually to a railroad industry associate who has made lifetime contributions to the field of rail hazmat safety. During his more than 30 years with CSX, DeSimone has demonstrated great leadership while contributing to numerous advances in hazmat emergency response. His accomplishments include educating first responders, developing relationships with local emergency management personnel and contributing to industry advances such as commodity specific training, tank car enhancements and response preparedness.

The Holden-Proefrock Award is named in honor of Roy Holden, a former AAR employee and a pioneer in tank car design and safety, and Art Proefrock, a former Hulcher Emergency Services employee who was a pioneer in hazardous materials transportation emergency response.

Recipients of the 2014 Non-Accident Release Grand Slam Award were Celanese Corporation, CF Industries Holdings, Inc., Keyera Corporation, Koppers Inc. and Pembina. AAR and the BOE grant the annual award to companies that are exemplary shippers of hazardous materials, that have been recognized by at least four Class I railroads and have had zero non-accident releases (NARs) involving their shipments the previous calendar year. An NAR is an unintentional release of a hazardous material while in transportation but not involving an accident.

The winners of the AAR 2014 Perfect Game Award went to Aux Sable Liquid Products LP, Canexus Corporation, Centennial Energy, LLC, Global Partners LP, Linde Group, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, NOVA Chemicals Corporation and Styrolution America, LLC. Award recipients must be shippers honored by at least four Class I North American railroads and have had zero NARs from rail shipments both to and from a consignee over a calendar year.

The 2014 TRANSCAER® National Achievement Award recognized six Class I railroads, including BNSF Railway Company, CN Dangerous Goods Team, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad for their extraordinary efforts in support of the TRANSCAER® initiative. California Traction and the Renewable Fuels Association were also winners of the award.

TRANSCAER® is a voluntary national outreach effort that assists communities to prepare for and to respond to a possible hazardous material transportation incident. Members consist of volunteer representatives from the government and from the chemical manufacturing, transportation, distributor and emergency response industries.

Balfour Beatty Lays First Section of Track for London’s Crossrail Project

May 22nd, 2015
Balfour Beatty delivers first section of Crossrail track. Photo: courtesy of Balfour Beatty.

Balfour Beatty delivers first section of Crossrail track. Photo: courtesy of Balfour Beatty.

Balfour Beatty has completed the first section of track for Britain’s Network Rail 62-mile Crossrail project that will link Reading and Heathrow with Shenfield and Abbey Wood via new tunnels under central London.

The tracks are currently being used to support the fit-out of the new tunnels. The new track is part of Balfour Beatty’s £132 million Crossrail South East Section contract that has a completion date of 2018.

“Completing this section of track on time is important because it means that Crossrail can get on with the job of fitting out the new tunnels,” said Matthew Steele, Network Rail’s Crossrail program director. “Once fully open in 2018, the new tracks will link Abbey Wood to the rest of London like never before, providing local people with a dramatically improved rail service.”

Balfour Beatty has removed 20,000 metric tons of earth, imported 10,000 tons of ballast, drove in over 1000 piles and protected a one-hundred year old brick arch culvert.

“I am incredibly proud of the Balfour Beatty team in laying the first ever Crossrail tracks,” said Jeremy Lunn, Balfour Beatty project director. “This is a culmination of a lot of hard work and determination by our Civils and Rail Systems teams who have overcome a number of complex technical challenges and delivered an impressive operation next to a live line. We now move in to deliver the next stages of the project eastwards towards Abbey Wood Station.”

UTLX Leasing Tesoro Enhanced Tank Cars

May 21st, 2015

Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company LLC (Tesoro), a subsidiary of Tesoro Corporation, will lease 210 enhanced tank cars from Union Tank Car Company (UTLX) that exceed the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulations that were announced on May 1, 2015.

“In building our crude oil rail car fleet, Tesoro has consistently chosen rail cars that are among the safest and most robust available at the time of order,” said Keith Casey, Tesoro executive vice president of operations. “Every time we’ve added to our fleet, it’s been with cars that offer additional safety enhancements.”

Starting in February of last year, Tesoro worked with UTLX to develop a rail car expected to meet or exceed forthcoming regulations, with UTLX manufacturing and leasing the tank cars to Tesoro. The new cars are a modified design of the DOT 120, which is based on pressured tank car standards, instead of the CPC 1232, which is based on general service car standards. The first group of tank cars is complete and expected to be placed in service when enough cars are delivered to form a unit train.

The new rail cars, which are classified as DOT 120s, have many of the same safety features as the new DOT 117 standard: 9/16-inch shell thickness; thermal protection; full-height head shields; high-flow pressure-relief valves; protected top fittings; and upgraded bottom outlet valves. Additional safety features of the tank cars over the DOT 117 standard include a thicker tank head, protective housing for the manway and two times the rated tank test pressure.

“Connecting domestically produced crude oil with U.S. refining centers by rail supports American jobs and enhances our energy security, but these benefits are null if it can’t be done safely and efficiently,” Casey continued. “Industry partnerships like ours with UTLX, along with hard work from regulators and legislators including the Washington State congressional delegation, are helping to improve the safety of the system.”

Weekly U.S. Rail Traffic Declines

May 21st, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending May 16, 2015, totaled 549,199 carloads and intermodal units, a drop of 2.9 percent compared to the same week in 2014.

U.S. carloads, with a total of 269,092 for the week, were down by 10 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume, with a total of 280,107 units, was up by 4.9 percent compared to 2014.

One of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending May 16, 2015, when compared with the same week in 2014. Motor vehicles and parts increased 1 percent to 19,021 carloads. Metallic ores and metals showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 16.5 percent to 22,655 carloads, and coal was down 15.3 percent to 93,664 carloads. Nonmetallic minerals declined by 10.6 percent to 34,086 carloads.

This week, AAR reported that for the 2015 first quarter, U.S. Class I railroads originated 113,089 crude oil carloads, a drop of 13.7 percent, or 17,982 carloads, when compared to the fourth quarter of 2014.

For the first 19 weeks of 2015, U.S. rail volume totaled 10,272,271 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 0.3 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 5,312,651, were down by 2.2 percent, and intermodal was up by 1.9 percent to 4,959,620 units.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending May 16, 2015, was 720,320 carloads and intermodal units, a drop of 2.7 percent.

For the first 19 weeks of 2015, North American rail volume was up by 0.8 percent, with a total of 13,401,930 carloads and intermodal units.

Oregon’s Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Makes First Run

May 21st, 2015
Governor. Brown, Senator Merkley and TriMet GM McFarlane on MAX Orange Line. Photo: courtesy of TriMet.

Governor Brown, Senator Merkley and TriMet GM McFarlane on MAX Orange Line. Photo: courtesy of TriMet.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown joined U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and other officials on the first ride on the Portland-Milwaukie light rail, which will be the future MAX Orange Line. The new Type 5 MAX trains traveled at normal operating speeds with passengers for the first time on the 7.3-mile route between downtown Portland and north Clackamas County. The new line will open on September 12, 2015, and is operated by TriMet, the transportation authority for the Portland area.

“This seven-mile stretch of rail, including the extraordinary Tilikum Crossing Bridge, will contribute to making our region more economically vibrant,” said Senator Merkley. “It was great to ride the new Orange Line today and to celebrate this terrific addition to our transportation infrastructure‎.”

“Investments in transit are essential if we are going to preserve the mobility of goods and people who live and work in this region,” stated Governor Brown.

The trains boarded at the Lincoln Street /SW 3rd Avenue Station in Portland and traveled across Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, to the end of the line at the SE Park Avenue Station.

“The Orange Line will deliver more and better transit service, along with expanded bike and pedestrian pathways plus $40 million in roadway improvements between Milwaukie and downtown Portland,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “All of this while coming in on time and under budget, which is a great accomplishment.”

TriMet is purchasing 18 Type 5 trains from Siemens, who sponsored the First Ride event.

The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project will feature 10 stations and travels across the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, a multi-modal bridge that carries light rail and streetcar trains, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians, but no private vehicles. The transit project expands the MAX system to 60 miles and 97 stations.

FRA Instructs Amtrak to Take Immediate Actions on NEC

May 20th, 2015

Following the derailment of Amtrak Train 188 in Philadelphia on May 12th, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has instructed Amtrak to immediately take several actions to improve safety on its Northeast Corridor (NEC). The actions will be formalized in the coming days via an Emergency Order.

“We are continuing to work with the NTSB to understand exactly what happened on Tuesday so we can prevent this type of devastating accident from ever happening again,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While we do not yet know everything that happened, we do know – without question – that protecting rail passengers is our top priority.”

“The actions we have instructed Amtrak to take are aimed at improving safety on this corridor immediately, but we won’t hesitate to require the railroad to do more to improve safety as the accident’s causes become clearer,” said Secretary Foxx.

The actions that the FRA has instructed Amtrak to take are:

  • Immediately place Automatic Train Control (ATC) into use on the northbound trains at and near the derailment site. ATC is currently in use for southbound trains in this area. ATC detects when a train is traveling above the speed limit, alerting the engineer. If the engineer fails to slow the train, ATC will automatically apply the train’s brakes.
  • Analyze all curves on the NEC to assess risk and immediately implement appropriate technology in all areas where approach speed is significantly higher than curve speed in order to prevent over-speed derailments. Amtrak must also evaluate all curves along the NEC and determine if safety improvements are needed for these areas and report their findings to the FRA.
  • Amtrak must increase the amount and frequency of wayside signage on the NEC alerting engineers and conductors of maximum authorized speed. This will provide a redundant means to remind engineers and conductors of the speed, in addition to information they receive from the ATC system and other operations documents.

Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg stated, “These are just initial steps, but we believe they will immediately improve safety for passengers on the Northeast Corridor. While full implementation of Positive Train Control is the most important step that must be taken to improve safety, it is not the only action that we will require of Amtrak and other railroads.”

“As we learn more from the ongoing investigation into this derailment, we will take additional steps and enforcement actions as necessary,” added Feinberg.

NS’ Purchase of Delaware & Hudson South Lines Approved

May 20th, 2015

Norfolk Southern Railway Company (NS) has received approval from the Surface Transportation Board for the  acquisition of the Delaware & Hudson Railway Company, Inc. (D&H) South Lines.

The lines consist of approximately 267 miles of the main line between Sunbury/Kase, Pa., and Schenectady, N.Y., and approximately 15 miles of the running track between Voorheesville Junction and Delanson, N.Y. The approval is subject to a number of conditions, including NS entering into two voluntary commercial agreements with D&H to preserve certain shippers’ access to two carriers (NS and D&H).

The Board found that the acquisition is not likely to cause a substantial lessening of competition or create a monopoly or restraint of trade, even when taking into account D&H’s planned discontinuance of trackage rights that connect to the D&H South Lines, which are the subject of a separate proceeding.

The Board concluded that any anti-competitive effects, which are unlikely to occur, would be far outweighed by the very strong public benefits of the transaction. Such benefits include allowing NS and rail transportation generally to provide more effective competition with other modes of transportation, such as trucking and barge.

VIA Rail Sees Increased Revenue

May 20th, 2015

VIA Rail Canada, the Canadian national rail passenger service, has reported increased revenues in its 2014 annual report, with total revenues increasing 3.7 percent to $280.3 million.

”While challenges abound, VIA Rail’s overall 2014 performance confirms that the traveling public is buying into the solid value proposition train travel represents,” stated VIA Rail President and CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. “Starting in the second half of the year, we saw a welcome trend of increasing revenues.”

In 2014 VIA Rail refurbished all LRC Business Class cars, and added a train in each direction to the Ottawa-Toronto service on weekdays. The rail service also entered into intermodal agreements with AccesRail, China’s Hainan Airlines and the Canadian Automobile Association.

VIA Rail is experiencing increased rail congestion that negatively affects on-time passenger rail performance. Currently, freight railways own 98 percent of the network. VIA rail is studying the feasibility of acquiring or building passenger tracks, possibly with the help of private investors and provincial or municipal governments who would benefit from the improved transportation.

Desjardins-Siciliano said, “We all share the same objective: to be of greater service to our communities and to foster economic growth and prosperity.”

The 2014 annual report for the first time includes a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report, which aligns its reporting with recognized CSR best practices and provides an overview of how VIA Rail conducts its business in a responsible manner.

Between 2009 and 2014, VIA Rail consumed 29.9 percent less fuel and used 2.2 million fewer liters of fuel compared to 2013.

AAR’s Hamberger Speaks at Hearing on Staggers Act

May 19th, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger spoke at the recent hearing held by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials on the effect of deregulation under the Staggers Rail Act on the U.S. freight rail industry.

The Staggers Act, signed into law in 1980, reduced federal government regulation of the rail industry, allowing railways to establish rates for rail service and eliminating across-the-board rate hikes in the industry.

At the hearing, Hamberger pointed out that the partial deregulation of the freight rail industry was a catalyst that still continues to revitalize railroads and ensures they can meet the demands of the economy.

“The global superiority of U.S. freight railroads is a direct result of a balanced system of economic regulation that relies on market-based competition to establish rate and service standards, with a regulatory safety net available to rail customers who need it,” said Hamberger, noting that balanced regulation has led to the stronger financial performance of the rail industry.

Currently annual rail company investment in the 140,000-mile rail network is required because the companies maintain its operation and maintenance. Partial deregulation increased earnings, leading to increased amounts spent on infrastructure and equipment by the rail industry. America’s freight rail industry has invested $575 billion since 1980 for enhancement of the nation’s freight rail network, including upgraded track, and new locomotives and freight cars needed to meet growing demand in services.

“Railroads are preparing for tomorrow today, all over the country,” continued Hamberger. “They’re expanding intermodal terminals in northwest Ohio and outside Atlanta; double-tracking track between North Dakota and Montana; installing thousands of new rail ties in southeastern Arizona; upgrading signaling systems in Chicago; and building a major new rail yard between Dallas and Houston.”

“These are just a few examples of the thousands of similar projects that freight railroads undertake each year,” said Hamberger.

Removing the successes of the Staggers Act would result in less revenue for the rail industry, resulting in less capacity investments required to meet customer demand.

“Private railroad investment in transportation infrastructure should be encouraged, and regulations and legislation should not adversely affect railroads’ ability or willingness to make those investments,” concluded Hamberger.