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First of Forty New Diesel-Electric Locomotives in Service on MBTA Commuter Line

April 17th, 2014

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has put the first of 40 new environmentally friendly diesel-electric locomotives into service on the Haverhill Commuter Line. The new locomotives will be tested and placed into service throughout the MBTA’s 12 commuter rail lines as they arrive through summer of 2015. They will replace existing locomotives between 35 and 40 years old.

MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott was at North Station when the first of the new commuter rail locomotives went into service. “This is a great day,” commented Dr. Scott. “This state-of-the-art equipment allows us to continue our efforts to improve customer satisfaction by providing the most reliable rail service possible.”

The Authority awarded a $222 million contract in 2010 to MotivePower, Inc. (MPI), a Wabtec company, for 40 new diesel-electric passenger locomotives. The locomotives feature new communications systems and are compliant with current EPA Emission Standards. GE is predicting up to a 6% increase in fuel efficiency when compared to the MBTA’s older locomotives, which may result in approximately 10,000 gallons of fuel saved per locomotive per year.

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KCS Reports 2014 First Quarter Earnings

April 17th, 2014

Kansas City Southern (KCS) has reported first quarter 2014 revenues of $607 million, an increase of 10% over first quarter 2013, with carload volumes 4% higher than the 2013 first quarter.

Reported net income in the first quarter of 2014 totaled $94 million, or $0.85 per diluted share, compared with $104 million, or $0.94 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2013. Excluding the impacts of lease termination costs, foreign exchange rate fluctuations and debt retirement costs, adjusted diluted earnings per share for first quarter 2014 was $1.05, an 18% increase when compared with $0.89 in the first quarter of 2013.

First quarter revenue growth was led by a 40% increase in agriculture and minerals compared to the first quarter of 2013. This was primarily due to an increase in grain volumes over 2013 volumes, which were affected by the 2012 drought conditions in the Midwest. Intermodal and automotive revenues grew by 10% and 7%, respectively. Chemical, petroleum, and industrial and consumer revenue grew by 3%, and energy revenue grew by 2%, compared with the 2013 first quarter.

“We are pleased with how our company performed during the first quarter,” stated David L. Starling, Kansas City Southern’s president and chief executive officer. “All six commodity groups reported year-over-year revenue gains led by agriculture and minerals, which increased 40% over the prior year. Later in the first quarter, KCS also recorded higher than expected utility coal volumes and revenues as a result of higher natural gas prices, which made coal a more competitive option benefitting certain plants we serve.”

After adjusting for lease termination costs, operating expenses in the first quarter were $418 million, 7% higher than 2013 operating expenses. Adjusted operating income for the first quarter of 2014 increased by 17% with a reported income of $190 million compared with $163 million for the same time period in 2013. First quarter 2014 adjusted operating ratio was 68.7%, a 1.8 point improvement over the 2013 first quarter.

“While it is still early in the second quarter, KCS business levels have improved in April,” commented Starling. “The indication that our core business appears to be gaining strength provides us with positive momentum towards achieving the 2014 goals we outlined to investors in January.”

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STB Orders Fertilizer Shipment Reports

April 17th, 2014

CP and BNSF must file specific plans by April 18 with the Surface Transportation Board on how they are going to handle peak season deliveries of fertilizer shipments.

The step is the first follow-up action from the agency’s April 10 rail service hearing. The agency wants to hear their plans “given the immediate need for fertilizer to meet rapidly approaching planting deadlines, and the potential long-lasting and widespread effects of missing those deadlines.”

“This directive is intended to focus each carrier’s attention on these very time-sensitive deliveries while the carriers simultaneously work to address the extensive service and car supply issues for all commodities and to get those commodities moving on the rail network. The board continues to closely monitor rail service metrics data for all movements and consider other efforts to address rail service issues,” the agency said.

 CP and BNSF are directed to each provide weekly status reports over the next six weeks, beginning April 25, regarding the delivery of fertilizer on their networks. These reports will include fertilizer delivery data, by state, indicating the number of cars, shipped or received, which are billed to agricultural destinations, and the number of cars placed during each prior week.  CP and BNSF need to also include actual performance versus trip plan data for fertilizer shipments.

BNSF, meanwhile, put out a special service bulletin this week advising of its plans to handle peak demand for fertilizer movements. “As we enter the next few weeks of peak demand for fertilizer, we understand the shortness of the season and the necessity of timely delivery in order to safeguard that producers can get this year’s crops planted with the proper plant nutrients. BNSF is undertaking several specific actions to expedite fertilizer delivery to ensure our customers have the fertilizer where and when they need it.”

BNSF said it is taking the following measures to increase velocity on fertilizer shipments and improve the efficiency of sets in fertilizer service:

  • Handling unit fertilizer similar to the logistics of grain shuttles, where customers have the capacity for rapid load/unload.
  • For customers with this capability, BNSF will commit locomotives to these trains to reduce any potential delays and ensure expedited turn around service at origin and destination.
  • Adding an additional shuttle set into fertilizer service to increase capacity through increased resources.
  • Managing crew availability so that crews are in position when the train is ready to depart.
  • Working to ensure accurate ETAs so facilities can be prepositioned to load and unload as fast as possible.
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Construction Progressing on Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT

April 16th, 2014

Glen R. Murray,  Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure of Ontario, has announced that progress is being made on Toronto’s new Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit (LRT), the province’s largest public transit construction project in more than half a century.

Tunneling is underway from the west launch site area near Black Creek Drive to Yonge-Eglinton station and construction has also begun at the tunnel boring launch site east of Brentcliffe Road. The headwalls that will form the future underground station boxes have been completed at Keele and Caledonia, and work has begun on the future Dufferin and Oakwood stations. Construction has also started on extraction and launch shafts at Allen Road, which will allow the tunnel boring machines to skip over the TTC subway Line 1 so it can continue to operate during construction.

“Our government is making progress on the biggest investment in public transit in the City of Toronto,” said Murray. “The new Eglinton Crosstown LRT will help advance economic development and get residents and businesses to work, school and play faster than ever before.”

The Eglinton Crosstown LRT line will run about 19 kilometers along Eglinton Avenue between Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and Kennedy Station and include up to 25 stations and stops. About 10 kilometers will be underground between Keele Street and Laird Drive and will continue east on an at-grade right-of-way lane.

The province is investing $5.3 billion toward the construction of the line, which began in 2011 and is expected to be in service by 2020. Metrolinx, Ontario’s regional transportation agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is responsible for building the transit line.

“The Eglinton Crosstown is one of The Big Move projects currently under construction in the region. Metrolinx continues to make progress on its mandate to transform transit and improve how the region is connected,” stated Metrolinx President and CEO Bruce McCuaig.

Earlier this week, the government released its Moving Ontario Forward plan. The 10-year plan would invest $29 billion for priority infrastructure projects such as public transit, roads, bridges and highways.

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Secretary Foxx Visits Siemens Norwood Plant During Invest in America Bus Tour

April 16th, 2014
 U.S. Transportation Secretary at Siemens Motor Manufacturing Plant

Photo: Courtesy of Siemens AG

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited the Siemens USA, Norwood Motors Manufacturing Facility during his Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour, a multi-state tour highlighting the need to invest in America’s transportation infrastructure when the nation’s surface transportation programs are set to expire and the Highway Trust Fund is running out of money.

Secretary Foxx toured the plant and met with employees who are building motors and gears for Amtrak Cities Sprinter (ACS-64) locomotives for use on Amtrak’s heavily-traveled Northeast Corridor (NEC) and Keystone Corridor. Siemens relies on more than 60 suppliers in over 20 states for parts and materials to build the locomotives.

“Siemens is creating jobs and increasing work not just in Ohio but across the country, thanks in part to President Obama’s commitment to improving passenger rail,” remarked Secretary Foxx. “I’m traveling across the country all week to highlight work like this that shows the difference we can make and the jobs we can create if we invest in America and commit to the future.”

Siemens Norwood Facility is currently manufacturing traction motors and gears for 70 energy-efficient, electric locomotives as part of Amtrak’s equipment modernization effort. The plant will also manufacture motors to power 32 next-generation passenger train locomotives being built under a Multistate Procurement led by the Illinois Department of Transportation, with funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under its High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The Norwood facility previously manufactured motors for the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rapid transit system, and the New York City Transit Authority, with $1.5 billion in multi-year federal grants from the FRA.

After touring the facility, Secretary Foxx spoke about the U.S. Department of Transportation‘s plan to address the infrastructure deficit with a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal, which includes $19 billion for current and future rail service improvements. Secretary Foxx and President Obama will send the bill to Congress later this month.

“Throughout our history, Americans have always been able to leave their children a brighter future, thanks in part to the opportunities transportation has provided. We are at risk of failing our children. We need to not only invest in America, but commit to the future – not only rebuild and repair our roads and bridges, but re-imagine how we do it,” said Secretary Foxx.

The Invest in America, Commit to the Future five-day bus tour includes visits to manufacturers, bridges, freight facilities and highway projects through eight states. In an effort to raise awareness of America’s infrastructure needs, Secretary Foxx is visiting with business leaders, stakeholders and community members to highlight infrastructure gaps that need to be filled in order to promote economic growth and American competitiveness.

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Keolis Names Mitrou General Counsel for MBTA Commuter Rail Contract

April 16th, 2014

Keolis Commuter Services, which will begin operating the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail system on July 1, has named David T. Mitrou general counsel and director – labor affairs for the company’s MBTA commuter rail contract.

“As we rapidly prepare for taking over the MBTA commuter rail contract this July, we’re pleased to be getting legal guidance from such an experienced and well-respected railroad expert,” said Gerald Francis, acting general manager for Keolis Commuter Services in Boston.

Before joining Keolis, Mitrou was employed by The McCormack Firm in Boston, where he was a partner who represented commuter rail operators and other public transportation service providers in Massachusetts. His client experience includes the MBTA, its past two commuter rail operators, and the Canadian National Railway Company. Previously, Mitrou was an assistant district attorney in Nassau County, N.Y.

Mitrou earned a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College and a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. He has been recognized in “Massachusetts SuperLawyers – Rising Star Edition” seven times. He is a member of the National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel.

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CSX Reports First-Quarter Earnings, Strong Intermodal and Merchandise Markets

April 16th, 2014

CSX Corporation has reported a decrease in its 2014 first quarter net earnings of $398 million when compared with its 2013 first quarter net earnings of $462 million. Earnings per share were $0.40 for the first quarter of 2014 compared with $0.45 per share in the same quarter of 2013.

Revenue increased by 2 percent to $3.0 billion for the 2014 first quarter on 3 percent volume increases. Declines in coal were offset by strength in intermodal and merchandise markets.

Operating income declined 16 percent to $739 million and the operating ratio increased 520 basis points to 75.5 percent, primarily due to the impact of winter weather conditions. CSX estimates that weather-related disruptions increased expenses by approximately six cents per share and impacted revenue contribution by approximately two to three cents.

Michael J. Ward, CSX chairman, president and chief executive officer, praised the work of employees challenged by winter’s extreme weather conditions. “The company is indebted to the dedicated men and women of CSX who worked tirelessly through one of the worst winters on record to keep the network running as fluidly as possible,” he said. “Thanks to the hard work of our employees, service levels are gradually recovering, and we are capitalizing on an economy that continues to show positive momentum.”

CSX expects modest full-year earnings growth for 2014 on the strength of broad-based merchandise, intermodal gains and an improving domestic coal environment. The company is confident it can sustain double-digit earnings growth and margin expansion in 2015 and beyond for its shareholders and also expects to sustain a mid-60s operating ratio longer-term.

The company’s Board of Directors approved a 7 percent increase in the quarterly dividend to $0.16 per share, payable on June 13, 2014 to shareholders of record at the close of business on May 28, 2014. This represents a 20 percent compound annual growth rate during the past eight years.

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MTA & LIRR Begin Restoration Project on Long Beach Branch

April 15th, 2014

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Long Island Rail Road have started a $120 million construction program designed to protect the LIRR’s Long Beach Branch from the recurrence of damage such as that caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The four-year project includes construction of three new power stations and the replacement of switch machines, signals, communications systems and third rail equipment. The project also includes vegetation management and the restoration of the Wreck Lead Bridge, which spans Reynolds Channel and connects Island Park to the City of Long Beach.

When Sandy struck in October 2012, the Long Beach branch suffered the most damage of the railroad’s branches. Third rail power was lost with three of the four substations off-line and awash in sea water. The tracks between Island Park and Long Beach stations were covered with debris and switch, signal and communications were knocked out by the salt water.

“The LIRR is an economic lifeline for tens of thousands of residents on the South Shore of Nassau County who commute to and from work each day via the Long Beach Branch,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “ It is no less important to the City of Long Beach, a destination for thousands more heading to the community’s beautiful public beachfront and its popular restaurants and nightlife. There is no better insurance for the economic vitality of this region than ensuring the safe and reliable future operation of the LIRR’s Long Beach Branch.”

Three substations – Oceanside, Oil City and Long Beach – are being demolished and replaced by prefabricated substations constructed on platforms that will put them well above flood waters. Work has recently started on the Oceanside substation, with the Oil City project set to begin in January and the Long Beach project in September 2015.

The Long Beach Branch systems restoration, which is currently in design stage, will replace switch machines, signals, communications and third rail equipment. Critical components like the new signal and communication huts will be placed on platforms to avoid damage from flood waters.

Vegetation will be cleared on the LIRR property to prevent safety hazards and slip-slide conditions that can occur when leaves fall and decompose, leaving a residue on rails. Tree limbs and bushes will be cut back and an extensive clearing of trees and bushes will take place on LIRR property to accommodate a pole line that will anchor new signal, communications and electrical systems well above the flood plain.

Restoration of the Wreck Lead Bridge will include the replacement of underwater cable, the bridge electrical system and the bridge’s emergency generator.

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New Railcar Repair Company to Provide Services to Crude-By-Rail Industry

April 15th, 2014

Kevin Goins and Don Walsh have formed Freedom Railcar Solutions, LLC to provide mobile railcar repair and maintenance to crude-by-rail shippers, operators and other railcar lessors in the Bakken Shale and Powder River Basin areas.

Goins, cofounder and president, has more than 20 years’ experience in the rail and transload industry. He currently serves as president of Strobel Starostka Transfer, which operates transload facilities for the energy industry. He was senior vice president and COO of Watco Transload & Intermodal Services prior to joining Strobel Starostka. Before Watco, Goins directed CSX Corporation’s North American and international transload divisions.

Walsh, cofounder and vice president of business development, served as a director of operations for Transco Railway Products Inc., where he added tank car mobile repair services to Transco’s Iowa and Montana operations. He has management experience as a railcar owner and lessor with GE and a railcar lessee with Loders Croklaan. Walsh also managed railcar repair services for Rescar Companies and Greenbrier Rail Services.

“We are very pleased to announce the formation of Freedom Railcar Solutions,” said Goins. We formed Freedom Railcar to address the increasing demand for dependable, high-quality railcar services in the Bakken and other rapidly emerging crude-by-rail markets. We are a next generation company with a customer-driven approach to railcar repair and maintenance. We believe in measuring our success by our customers’ success. Our first objective is to ensure that we minimize railcar downtime by providing safe, reliable and rapid service when and where our customers need it.”

Freedom Railcar expects to begin operations in North Dakota and Wyoming by July 1, 2014. The company will be based in Mustang, Okla.

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NFTA Names Cox CFO

April 15th, 2014

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority  (NFTA) has appointed John T. Cox to the position of Chief Financial Officer. As CFO, he will report to the NFTA’s board of commissioners and will be a member of the executive director’s management team with functional responsibility to the executive director.

Cox’s duties will include formulating the strategic financial plan of the authority. He will also act as an advisor on all financial matters pertaining to developing innovative cost containment measures and revenue enhancements for all business centers within the authority.

Prior to joining NFTA, Cox spent two years as deputy director of finance / accounting for the City of Rochester, N.Y., where he supervised and participated in preparation of various financial statements and reports, the city’s annual update document and financial statements, and the city’s comprehensive annual financial report.

From 2007 to 2012, Cox was comptroller / director of finance for the City of Binghamton, N.Y. His responsibilities included overseeing the city’s cash management and investment strategies and collaborating to formulate the annual budget.

Cox attended Syracuse University where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He has a master’s degree in accounting from Binghamton University.

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