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AAR Reports Decline in U.S. Rail Traffic

October 1st, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending September 26, 2015, totaled 566,700 carloads and intermodal units, a drop of 1.8 percent compared to the same week in 2014.

U.S. carloads, with a total of 285,856 carloads for the week, were down by 5.4 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 280,844 units, up by 2.1 percent compared to 2014.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending September 26, 2015, when compared with the same week in 2014. Grain increased by 30.1 percent to 22,232 carloads, followed by miscellaneous carloads, up 14 percent to 10,100 carloads, and motor vehicles and parts, up 8.7 percent to 18,727 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 22.3 percent to 13,014 carloads, and coal was down 14.2 percent to 101,561 carloads. Metallic ores and metals declined by 10.4 percent to 24,128 carloads.

Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 22.3 percent to 13,014 carloads; coal, down 14.2 percent to 101,561 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, down 10.4 percent to 24,128 carloads.

For the first 38 weeks of 2015, U.S. rail volume totaled 20,725,660 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1.2 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 10,590,411 were down by 4.4 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 10,135,249, was up by 2.5 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending September 26, 2015, was 736,449 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.1 percent.

For the first 38 weeks of 2015, North American rail volume was down 0.8 percent, with a total of 26,999,035 carloads and intermodal units.

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Testing Starts on Siemens’ New ICx High-Speed Train

September 30th, 2015
Siemens’ new ICx high-speed train. Photo: courtesy of Siemens.

Siemens’ new ICx high-speed train. Photo: courtesy of Siemens.

Siemens has begun the first high-speed trials for its new ICx high-speed train built for German rail operator Deutsche Bahn. The testing, conducted by DB Systemtechnik on Germany’s public rail network, will begin at 160 kilometers an hour and will gradually increase to the top speed of 250 kilometers an hour. The first test series will end at the beginning of October.

Deutsche Bahn has ordered 130 ICx-type trains, and beginning in 2017, they will replace the Intercity and Eurocity fleets. At a later time, the ICx will also replace ICE 1 and ICE 2 vehicles. Deutsche Bahn has an agreement with Siemens Mobility for up to 300 trainsets, the largest train contract that Siemens won in its history.

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Progress Rail to Acquire Rail Product Solutions

September 30th, 2015

Progress Rail Services Corp. has entered into a definitive agreement with Amsted Rail Company, Inc. to purchase Rail Product Solutions, Inc. (RPS), a provider of track fastening products and integrated fastening systems. The acquisition is anticipated to close once regulatory approvals are received.

“This acquisition shows our continuing commitment to grow our business and expand our product and service offerings for our customers,” said Progress Rail President and CEO Billy Ainsworth. “RPS is a leader in track fastening systems, and I am proud to have them join the Progress Rail and Caterpillar team.”

“Our focus on high quality products and dependable service has enabled Progress Rail to be a preferred supplier in the rail industry,” said Dave Roeder, senior vice president of Progress Rail’s Engineering and Track Services. “The RPS acquisition expands our portfolio of track related products and allows us to provide more comprehensive solutions to our customers.”

“RPS is a good strategic fit, and a good cultural fit, as their team shares the same passion for customer service and satisfaction as Progress Rail,” added Roeder.

Progress Rail, a member of the Caterpillar Company, is a supplier of railroad products and services.

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Lev Ross Joins AllTranstek as VP Strategy and Consulting

September 30th, 2015

AllTranstek, LLC has appointed Nicole Lev Ross as vice president of strategy and consulting, responsible for heading up strategic services as well as working on growth initiatives and expansion of the company’s global rail consulting practice. She has extensive experience in consulting, business strategy and acquisition development with Fortune 500 companies nationally and internationally.

Richard J. Kloster, AllTranstek senior vice president strategic development and technical service, stated that Lev Ross is “an exceptional strategist” with “considerable experience delivering the detailed analysis and providing solutions that AllTranstek customers increasingly require.”

Lev Ross most recently served at FreightCar America where she directed corporate development for more than five years and was responsible for sourcing and developing acquisition targets and partnerships. She also provided valuation analysis and due diligence of more than 50 rail related target companies and led companywide strategic planning activities.

She earned an International MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a BBA from The University of Iowa. Lev Ross also studied at Fundação Getulio Vargas in São Paulo, Brazil and La Universidad de Las Américas in Puebla, México.

AllTranstek recently announced several other organizational changes, including Jeffery J. Wilson’s promotion to president after 11 years as the company’s chief operating officer and Richard J. Kloster’s promotion to senior vice president and chief marketing officer after three years leading AllTranstek’s Strategic and Technical Services groups.

AllTranstek manages more than 210,000 railcars and provides technical and operational support, including field inspections, engineering, regulatory compliance, and training. The company also offers market research, analytics, forecasting, and strategic consulting services.

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NCRR & Town of Morrisville to Replace Bridge

September 30th, 2015

The North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) is partnering with the Town of Morrisville to replace a  railroad bridge built in 1927 over Crabtree Creek in Morrisville. NCRR will invest $6.9 million with Morrisville investing an estimated $1 million to partner in the bridge project, following approval for the expenditure by the Town Council. NCRR will also be working on the project with longtime freight partner Norfolk Southern.

The new railroad bridge allows for a future second track that could be required to maintain freight service and any future passenger rail. It also includes a provision for a pedestrian greenway to be constructed under the bridge. Morrisville is developing rapidly and pedestrian access is limited in the railroad area.

NCRR President Scott Saylor said, “These investments will not only secure the future of freight, but also provide a safe way for pedestrians to pass under the railroad in what is a constrained area.”

“The Morrisville project is just one example of the NCRR’s commitment to work closely with local, state and private partners in planning for freight and passenger mobility with a focus on job creation and economic development, while also fitting comfortably into a community’s best interests,” added Saylor.

“Thanks to the North Carolina Railroad Company’s investment and our partnership, the pedestrian underpass will provide a safe location for pedestrians to cross under the railroad and enjoy the greenway we will develop,” said Jerry Allen, Morrisville Director of Parks and Recreation.

The Morrisville construction is part of a $13 million economic development investment package that was approved by the railroad’s board of directors in 2014. These improvements also include projects in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Durham and Craven counties.

The NCRR owns and manages the 317-mile rail corridor stretching from Charlotte to the Morehead City Port Terminal. Since 2000, it has invested more than $80 million in capital improvements and has committed to invest more than $60 million for economic development through 2020.

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L.A. Metro Board Approves Rail Crossing Studies

September 29th, 2015

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors has approved a contract with the engineering firm AECOM for studies to identify safety improvements at approximately 153 at-grade crossings as part of the L.A. County Grade Crossing and Corridor Safety Program.

The studies, part of a three-year, $3.87 million contract awarded to AECOM, will examine pedestrian and vehicular grade crossings along 160 miles of Metro-owned right-of-way in Los Angeles County. The line is currently operated by the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) for the Metrolink commuter rail service.

“Safety will always be Metro’s number one priority,” Metro CEO Phil Washington stated. “Our responsibility as the region’s largest transportation agency is to develop programs like this one to identify areas where we can implement additional safety enhancements along our rail corridors and potentially save lives.”

The program will establish a strategy for grade crossing safety and will identify opportunities to address trespassing and other issues that would enhance safety, including locations where at-grade crossings could become grade-separated. The program also includes a study of methods to prevent unauthorized access to the right-of-way, including enforcement, fencing, and the application of advanced technology. State and federal grant opportunities will also be explored as a means of funding for these items.

The L.A. County Grade Crossing and Corridor Safety Program will supplement SCRRA’s Sealed Corridor Program, which has enabled SCRRA to upgrade several crossings with state-of-the-art equipment such as enhanced pedestrian treatments, four-quadrant gates, and advanced preemption.

The approval of the program coincides with California Rail Safety Month, a public education campaign headed by California Operation Lifesaver.

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FTA Approves D.C. Transit’s Safety Plan

September 29th, 2015

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) corrective action plan to improve the safety of its Metrorail and Metrobus systems has been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA has also directed WMATA to provide focus and attention on implementing the plan to provide a higher level of safety.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx stated, “WMATA must demonstrate a renewed commitment to set a higher standard of safety for its riders and employees. This plan is an opportunity for WMATA to make lasting changes and restore public confidence in its system.”

In Spring 2015, the FTA conducted a Safety Management Inspection (SMI) evaluating WMATA’s operations and revealed several areas of organizational deficiency and operational concerns. It included 54 safety findings, 44 of which were for Metrorail. In June, FTA issued a Safety Directive to WMATA, detailing 91 required actions, including 78 actions to be completed by Metrorail. The Safety Directive also directed WMATA to submit for FTA approval a corrective action plan to address each of the required actions.

“It is critical that WMATA effectively implement its corrective action plan,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “And on a broader scale, to truly manage its safety risk on an ongoing basis, WMATA must demonstrate strong and consistent leadership, combined with a strong safety culture throughout its organization.”

The WMATA board of directors and its management team must closely monitor the time and resources made available to carry out this corrective action plan, noted McMillan, particularly for those items related to the Rail Operations Control Center, employee safety training, and system maintenance, including increasing track time for maintenance work.

The FTA will closely monitor WMATA’s progress, and required actions will be closed only after the FTA can verify the actions were implemented. The FTA will also consult with WMATA’s State Safety Oversight Agency, the Tri-State Oversight Committee, before closing any required actions related to Metrorail.

Under WMATA’s corrective plan, most of the 91 required actions will be completed from 2015-2017, with a few actions extending into 2019.

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NCDOT Awards Contract for Charlotte Rail Project

September 29th, 2015

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has awarded a contract to Blythe Development Company for construction of the Sugar Creek Road grade separation project in Charlotte. The completed project will eliminate the risk of train/vehicle collisions on the line, improve safety for both vehicle and rail passengers, and reduce traffic delays in the area.

The grade separation project includes constructing a bridge to carry Sugar Creek Road over the existing and future railroad tracks. In addition, the project will extend, realign, and construct several area roads and a new connector road to eliminate rail crossings and improve intersections.

The grade separation is part of upgrades to the North Carolina Railroad Company‘s line from Raleigh to Charlotte, one of the busiest sections in the state. The corridor currently hosts more than 30 Norfolk Southern Railroad freight trains and eight Amtrak trains per day.

Construction costs are estimated at $17 million, with the total programmed project cost estimated at $43 million in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The project is funded by the City of Charlotte, the North Carolina Railroad Company, Norfolk Southern, the Federal Railroad Administration and NCDOT.

Charlotte Area Transit System’s Blue Line Extension (BLE) will initially close Sugar Creek Road on September 28 for work on the nearby station and project. After the BLE work is completed, NCDOT will maintain the road closure for its grade separation project.

Work on the grade separation project is expected to begin by October 1. All work, except for reforestation, is scheduled to be complete by September 2018.

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Senate Committee Posts Railroads’ Comments on PTC Deadline

September 28th, 2015

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has posted letters received from railroads regarding their progress toward meeting the mandated installation of positive train control (PTC) by December 31, 2015.

In 2008, Congress mandated PTC for certain lines carrying passengers or toxic-by-inhalation (TIH) chemicals, which involves communications equipment installed on both locomotives (over 20,000 units) and along rail track (over 60,000 miles). No railroad has yet met the legal requirements for complying with the PTC mandate.

The independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently determined that the December 31, 2015, deadline for nationwide implementation is not realistic. The GAO has estimated that most railroads will need an additional 1-5 years to meet the legal requirements for implementation.

In the event railroads do not meet the December deadline, current law forces them to decide between stopping service and operating in violation of the law.

Further PTC information from the Commerce committee and links to correspondence from freight and passenger railroads concerning PTC implementation can be found on the Committee’s web site.

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Weaver and Jones Join Metro Executive Team

September 28th, 2015

The Metro System for Cincinnati, Ohio, has named Randal Weaver senior vice president of operations/chief operations officer and Olivia Jones vice president of human resources/EEO officer.

In his new position, Weaver is responsible for overseeing Metro’s Operations, Fleet and Facilities, Accessible Services, Transit Services Planning and Development departments, as well as the Cincinnati Streetcar.

Before joining Metro, Weaver was president of TransPro Consulting, LLC, a management consultancy firm, where he led strategic operational initiatives for transit systems across the United States, including Las Vegas (RTC), the Pennsylvania DOT, Baton Rouge (CATS), Jacksonville (JTA), Tampa (HART and PSTA) and New York (BC Transit). He served as chief operating officer for the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) prior to his position at TransPro.

Weaver earned a Master’s of Business Administration from the Simon Business School and a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, High Honors, from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Jones, who has more than 20 years in the transportation industry, will oversee Metro’s Human Resources department and organizational training. She was formerly assistant general manager at the Muncie Indiana Transportation System, where her responsibilities included employee benefits, workers’ compensation, property and casualty insurance, labor relations/negotiations, Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE), and paratransit operations. In the past, she held leadership positions at Capital Metropolitan Transit Authority and Union Pacific Railroad.

She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and Management from the University of Phoenix. Jones served in the U.S. Army as a signal specialist and the Texas Army National Guard as a combat medic.

Jones is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Human Resources Committee, Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), and the Transportation Research Board.

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