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STB to Hold Meetings on Reporting of Rail Service Performance Data

November 12th, 2015

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) will hold informal meetings with stakeholders between November 16 and December 7 on proposed rules for reporting railroad service performance data in the pending proceeding United States Rail Service Issues, EP 724. The STB believes the meetings will allow it to better assess what types of data might be useful to the public and how individual railroads monitor performance.

“This will be the Board’s first permanent collection of service-related data,” remarked STB Chairman Daniel Elliott. “These informal meetings will allow open and candid conversations between STB staff and stakeholders regarding the highly technical data questions at issue here. Dialogue between stakeholders and STB technical staff is especially valuable and efficient in these informal circumstances, outside of an appearance before the Board.”

With measures in place to ensure public notice, fairness, and transparency, the STB is waiving its general prohibition on ex parte or private communications for a limited time in this proceeding.

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USDOT Awards Grant for Connecticut Commuter Rail Station

November 12th, 2015

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Sarah Feinberg has announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will provide $10 million for the Barnum Station Project in Bridgeport, Conn. The project includes a new commuter rail station, widening of the existing tracks to accommodate two center island platforms, constructing an underpass tunnel to provide platform access, and modifying roadways. The station will serve the Metro North Railroad on the east side of Bridgeport.

The project is one of 39 federally funded transportation projects in 34 states selected to receive a total of nearly $500 million under the Department’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) 2015 program.

“This project is much more than just a stop on a train route,” said Administrator Feinberg. “Barnum Station creates new access to transportation in a former manufacturing area and will increase Metro North ridership and benefit workers. The TIGER program really enables innovative transportation projects to become a reality.”

The project plans were an outcome of a HUD Sustainable Communities planning grant. The project aims to provide additional rail access to a low-income community and complement plans for new transit-oriented development, enhancing Ladders of Opportunity for east Bridgeport.

“Transportation is always about the future. If we’re just fixing today’s problems, we’ll fall further and further behind. We already know that a growing population and increasing freight traffic will require our system to do more,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “In this round of TIGER, we selected projects that focus on where the country’s transportation infrastructure needs to be in the future; ever safer, ever more innovative, and ever more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America.”

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RailComm Names Troy Haworth VP Sales

November 12th, 2015
Troy Haworth

Troy Haworth

RailComm has named Troy Haworth vice president of sales to lead the sales team and drive business growth and market share.

“We are excited to welcome Troy Haworth to our team. Troy will be focused on expanding our existing markets as well as developing the market for our latest smart monitoring and analytics platform. Troy will be a dynamic addition to our management team,” said RailComm President & CEO Joe Forgione.

Haworth joins RailComm with more than 20 years of experience in all areas of sales strategy and management for computer software, telecommunications, and IT technologies and services. He held various sales and management positions in the technology sector, including GT Software, Rx Networks, Aepona, and IntelliOne Technologies.

Haworth earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Georgia State University.

“I’m very excited to be part of RailComm and to help the organization achieve new levels of visibility and collaboration to grow revenue and maintain its leadership position in the industry,” said Haworth. “I intend to work with our internal teams and customers to ensure that our portfolio and newest developments are strongly represented across all markets.”

RailComm provides railroads and rail-served industrials with software-based solutions focused on train control and railroad management. The company’s solutions are installed on Class I railroads throughout North America and on passenger rail, shortline and regional railroads, ports and industrials.

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GE Supplying Locomotives to Indian Railways

November 11th, 2015

GE was awarded a contract worth approximately $2.6 billion over 11 years by India’s Ministry of Railways to develop and supply Indian Railways with 1,000 diesel locomotives. The largest deal in GE’s 100-year history in India, the company will invest $200 million to build a diesel locomotive manufacturing facility in the Indian state of Bihar in the Marhowra district, as well as maintenance sheds at Bhatinda in Punjab and Gandhidham in Gujarat.

The Government of India allowed 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the railway sector last year. The Marhowra diesel locomotive project marks one of the first major instances of FDI in enhancing India’s rail locomotive capacity.

“This infrastructure project is further evidence of India’s position as a growth engine for Asia,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “It is a major advancement and milestone for India and for GE, and a symbol of our commitment and support of the ‘Make in India’ initiative.”

The deal advances the ‘Make in India’ initiative and is a major boost to India’s railway modernization efforts, providing skill development opportunities for local talent.

“This project combines GE’s deep infrastructure and manufacturing expertise with India’s growth priorities,” stated GE Transportation Chief Executive Officer Jamie Miller. “This is an exciting and integral part of our localization strategy in India. We are excited about working with Indian Railways and continuing to invest in the region.”

GE will sign an agreement to formalize the contract and establish a joint venture with Indian Railways before breaking ground to construct the facility.

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Wabtec to Provide Signaling/PTC for Denver Commuter Rail

November 11th, 2015

Wabtec Corporation was awarded a $27 million contract from Regional Rail Partners to provide Phase I signaling and communications systems, including Positive Train Control (PTC) equipment, for the new North Metro Rail Line in Denver. Wabtec’s Xorail division is providing wayside signaling and communications systems, along with integration and project management services. The Denver North Metro train control system will meet the requirements of the U.S. Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Wabtec was previously awarded two other contracts in connection with the Denver project. In 2011, the company won a $63 million contract with Denver Transit Partners to provide PTC equipment and services, a dispatch office system, wayside signaling and communications systems, and related integration and project management services for three other commuter rail lines that are part of the overall project. In 2012, Wabtec was awarded a $25 million contract to provide brakes, couplers, PTC equipment, event recorders and doors for 50 new transit cars for the system.

“We’re pleased to be working with Regional Rail Partners and other industry suppliers on this important project,” said Wabtec’s President and CEO Raymond T. Betler. “This demonstrates the variety of roles we can play, as transit agencies around the U.S. continue to deploy PTC and to invest in their systems. To date, we have booked nearly $400 million of transit PTC projects, and we are bidding on many other future opportunities.”

The North Metro Rail Line, part of a 12-year, multi-billion-dollar public transportation expansion plan in the region, is an 18.5-mile electric commuter rail line that will run from Denver Union Station to Highway 7 in North Adams County. The line will eventually be integrated into Regional Transit District commuter rail services.

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Grant Awarded for Effort to Bring SCMaglev to Northeast

November 11th, 2015

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded $27.8 million in Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) funds to support private sector efforts to bring Superconducting Magnetic Levitation (SCMaglev) trains to the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

The high-speed rail line will be equipped with SCMaglev technologies, which uses magnetic forces to accelerate trains to speeds of more than 300 miles per hour while levitating inches off the ground. The planned rail line will offer a 15-minute ride between downtown Baltimore and downtown Washington, D.C., with an interim stop at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The application for the federal grant was submitted with the understanding that the Japanese government will be a source of significant financial backing for the project, along with private-sector support from Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail LLC, which is leading the initiative. With the FRA grant, Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail can now move forward to initiate planning and engineering analysis and review compliance and permitting.

“The SCMaglev project has the opportunity to transform not only Baltimore but the entire Northeast corridor,” said Wayne Rogers Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail Chairman and CEO. “We are excited for the help of the State of Maryland and the federal government to make this project a reality.”

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is supporting the effort for the high-speed rail line. “The ability to travel between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. in only 15 minutes will be absolutely transformative, not just for these two cities, but for our entire state,” said Governor Hogan. “This grant will go a long way in helping us determine our next steps in this transportation and economic development opportunity.”

On June 4 of this year, the Governor and Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn joined executives from the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) and the Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail to ride the 27-mile-long Yamanashi Maglev Line in Japan. The JR Central train achieved a record-breaking 375 miles per hour earlier this year.

“The experience of riding on SCMaglev was something that greatly exceeded my expectations,” said Secretary Rahn. “Maryland will be on the leading edge of technology as the only state in the nation with the private-sector-led pursuit of SCMaglev.”

During his trade mission to Asia, Governor Hogan and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on a Memorandum of Cooperation between the State of Maryland and the Government of Japan, with one of the areas of cooperation involving high-speed rail, specifically SCMaglev.

“We are very pleased to see this funding announced,” said Japanese Ambassador Kenichirō Sasae. “Working with the United States Government, the State of Maryland and Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, we will prove that this cutting-edge Japanese technology will be a great asset to the busy Northeast Corridor.”

The Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Economic Development Corporation applied as co-applicants on behalf of Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail for the FRA grant due to the application having to come through a public agency. Pursuing FRA funding did not require state funds or matching state funds.

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Koppers Reports Third Quarter Results

November 10th, 2015

Koppers Holdings Inc., a producer of treated wood products and other services for industries including rail, has reported 2015 third quarter consolidated sales of $433.8 million, a decrease of 1 percent, or $6.3 million, from sales of $440.1 million for the same quarter in 2014. The company’s Railroad and Utility Products and Services (RUPS) saw improved results due to higher sales volumes for railroad crossties driven by strong industry demand and increased hardwood availability.

“Our third quarter results met our expectations given the headwinds we continue to face with lower oil prices and a stronger U.S. dollar continuing to challenge our global businesses,” said Leroy Ball, Kopper’s president and CEO. “Our RUPS business continues to benefit as expected from increased availability of untreated crossties and strong overall demand despite some modest reduction in Class I railroad treating demands.”

“Our PC (Performance Chemicals) business continued to enjoy strong volumes during the quarter due to seasonally higher demand and the near-term future of that business also remains positive due to the continued upward trend of existing home sales which is a critical driver for repair and remodeling expenditures,” added Ball.

The company’s sales in Carbon Materials and Chemicals (CMC) declined by $63.6 million due to lower sales volumes for carbon black feedstock and carbon pitch combined with lower sales prices for carbon black feedstock, naphthalene, and phthalic anhydride.

The 2015 third quarter had a net income of $10.1 million, or $0.49 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $2.7 million, or $0.14 per diluted share in the 2014 third quarter. Adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per share were $13.8 million and $0.67 per share compared to $12.3 million and $0.60 in the third quarter of 2014.

Ball concluded, “We are well on our way to achieving our stated goal of $100-$125 million of debt reduction for 2015 as we have reduced our debt by $87 million through the end of the third quarter and we expect to end the year above the mid-point of the range provided that we can apply our excess cash in China to the outstanding debt prior to year-end. We also continue to work diligently to restructure our CMC business to better match changing industry dynamics and reduce volatility in earnings from changes in oil prices.”

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Three States Order Siemens Locomotives

November 10th, 2015

Siemens has received an order for a total of 34 diesel-electric locomotives from the states of California, Illinois and Maryland. The original procurement order for passenger locomotives by the Departments of Transportation in Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington was signed in 2014. The order included the delivery of 35 diesel-electric locomotives for passenger service with a volume worth US $225 million and included an option for up to an additional 222 locomotives. The locomotives will be built at the Siemens rail manufacturing plant in Sacramento, Calif.

“The new diesel-electric locomotives provide U.S. operators with a number of advantages. Their energy efficiency reduces costs and helps protect the environment,” said Jochen Eickholt, CEO of Siemens Mobility Division. “At the same time, they improve the reliability and efficiency of passenger rail service.”

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has ordered 14 locomotives to serve the Pacific Surfliner Amtrak route that travels from San Luis Obispo to San Diego via Los Angeles. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has ordered 8 locomotives for the first time for the MARC commuter rail line, and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will expand its fleet with 12 locomotives. With this new order, Caltrans, IDOT and MTA have called up further locomotives from the framework contract signed in March 2014.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty stated, “With these new state-of-the art, energy-efficient locomotives, California can continue toward its goal to offer more alternative and sustainable transportation choices. Not only will these new engines promote increased passenger rail ridership, but they will have environmental benefits by reducing the amount of automobile traffic.”

“Approval of this contract enables us to replace older locomotives, thereby improving the reliability and efficiency of MARC for thousands of commuters, businesses and tourists that depend on this vital train service every day,” remarked MTA CEO Paul Comfort. “This cooperative agreement also enabled us to purchase these eight new locomotives at a lower cost, which will save taxpayers money.”

The passenger locomotives can operate at speeds up to 200 kilometers per hour and are powered by a 16-cylinder, 95 liter displacement, 4,400 horsepower-rated diesel engine built by Cummins Inc. headquartered in Columbus, Ind. The locomotives are FRA and Federal Transit Administration Buy America compliant with parts produced by suppliers in the United States. This includes Siemens’ traction motors and gearboxes in Norwood, Ohio, and power converters in Alpharetta, Ga.

A microprocessor control system manages the performance of the locomotive and performs self-diagnoses that automatically make self-corrective action and notifies the locomotive engineer and maintenance facility about any required service measures. The locomotives also feature a traction converter that provides backup to secure the power supply for the passenger coaches and maintain primary systems such as lighting, communications, heating and cooling when needed.

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Anacostia Promotes Shore at CSS, Bonner at NY&A

November 10th, 2015

Anacostia Rail Holdings, Inc. has announced that Michael R. Shore was promoted to vice president operations of its subsidiary Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad (CSS) and James P. Bonner was promoted to vice president of its subsidiary New York & Atlantic Railway (NY&A).

Shore, who became vice president of CSS on November 2, has more than 23 years of railroad experience. He served as superintendent and most recently, general superintendent for the CSS, since 2012. Previously, he held various positions, including general manager, with Chicago Rail Link since 1999 and worked for the Belt Railway Co. of Chicago, the Orient Ocean Container Lines, and the Burlington Northern Railroad.

Shore earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Aurora University in Aurora, Ill.

Bonner’s position as vice president of the NY&A became effective November 1. Prior to his promotion, he served as director of sales and marketing at the NY&A since January 2013. Before that, he was the general manager for Connecticut Southern Railroad in Hartford, Conn., since August 2011 and held various operating posts with Rail America, the Rail America affiliate Otter Tail Valley Railroad, and Kyle Railroad Company.

Bonner earned a business/computer science degree from Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, Kan.

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NS Dedicates Environmentally Friendly Locomotives

November 9th, 2015
‘Eco’ friendly locomotive in Chicago rail yard. Photo: courtesy of NS.

‘Eco’ friendly locomotive in Chicago rail yard. Photo: courtesy of NS.

Norfolk Southern (NS) was joined by local and state officials at its 47th Street intermodal facility in Chicago to dedicate a new fleet of environmentally friendly rail yard locomotives. NS plans to put 15 of the locomotives to work at its five major Chicago rail yards by the end this year.

The engines are branded “Eco” locomotives for their operating efficiencies in reducing emissions and fuel consumption. The new units feature a stylistic green paint scheme with an Illinois-shaped icon and the slogan “Working Together for a Cleaner State”. The new units have 3,000-horsepower engines that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier-3 emissions standards and are expected to prevent the release of 7.58 tons of particulate matter and 196 tons of nitrogen oxides pollutants annually while using less fuel compared with older switching locomotives.

“These locomotives will be rolling billboards in Chicago for years to come of one of the finest examples of collaboration between public and private partners to think and act big on diesel emission reduction technology,” said Norfolk Southern Vice President Mechanical Don Graab. “The bottom line is cleaner air quality for Chicago residents. We thank the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning for their partnership in helping us achieve this goal for our locomotive fleet.”

Funding for the $30 million public-private partnership to replace Norfolk Southern’s entire Chicago yard locomotive fleet was made possible by a $19 million grant through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ).

“In programming federal CMAQ dollars for the metropolitan Chicago region our agency uses a competitive review process to seek the most meritorious projects,” stated Joseph C. Szabo, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. “These locomotives will reduce particulate matter emissions by 76 percent, significantly benefiting the region’s air quality.”

The locomotives were designed and built at the NS locomotive shops in Juniata, Pa., using components from Electro-Motive Diesel, a division of Progress Rail Services, a Caterpillar company.

“More than 1,000 engineering and manufacturing employees working for Electro-Motive in LaGrange, Ill., designed and manufactured the engines, electrical lockers and various other components on this ECO locomotive,” said Progress President and CEO Billy Ainsworth. “This locomotive is a tribute to our dedicated employees and their commitment to sustainable solutions that improve the world where we live.”

NS is pairing three of the “Eco” units with “slugs” – engineless locomotives equipped with traction motors that add emissions-free pulling power – and installing plug-in engine heating systems to eliminate locomotive idling in collaboration with U.S. EPA Region V.

NS introduced 10 “Eco” locomotives at its Atlanta yard earlier this year and next year plans to add three more engines at its Macon and Rome yards in Georgia with additional CMAQ grants.

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