The British Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that Govia, a joint venture between Keolis and Go Ahead, has been awarded the seven-year Thameslink Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise, which currently represents 22% of rail passenger trips and will be the largest in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue, and staff.
“This new contract represents a very significant milestone in Keolis’ international growth and it strengthens our partnership with Go Ahead,” said Keolis President and Group CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou. “TSGN is a key reference in mass transit and we look forward to delivering the challenging requirements of this new franchise.”
TSGN will serve London and several cities to the north and south as well as Gatwick and Luton airports and the London St. Pancras international hub. The franchise will combine the rail operations of Southern and a section of Southeastern, both operated by Govia, with the First Capital Connect. Govia will be introducing three new train fleets for the franchise and updating stations on the line.
“This award is testimony to the experience of our people of working in partnership with the DfT, Network Rail and other industry stakeholders and in delivering improvements at stations,” commented David Brown, group chief executive to Go Ahead Group.
The new contract will begin September 14, 2014, with the First Capital Connect. The second phase will start in July 2015 and will cover the Southern and Gatwick Express routes. The franchise is expected to generate an annual £1.1 billion in revenue.
OmniTRAX, Inc. has announced that Edmond Harris has been elected to its Board of Directors. Harris, whose position is effective today, has worked for the rail industry his entire career.
“Ed’s experience and network of industry relationships adds greatly to the strength of our board,” said OmniTRAX Chairman Brad Skinner. “We now have access to most of the key executives at leading companies across the country and will use these connections to expand our business.”
Harris is currently a senior adviser at Global Infrastructure Partner, an infrastructure fund manager. He is also a member of the Board of Directors at A & B Rail Services.
From 2010 to 2011, Harris served as executive vice president of operations and chief operating officer at Canadian Pacific. He held several management positions at Canadian National, including executive vice president of operations and worked his way up from yard clerk to vice president of operations at Illinois Central Railway.
Harris earned a bachelor of science in Business Management from the University of Illinois. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Seattle’s Sound Transit annual ridership report cited an increase of 8 percent in total Sound Transit ridership numbers for the 2014 first quarter when compared to the 2013 first quarter. Ridership in Link light rail increased by 15 percent compared to the first quarter of 2013, with 2.3 million boardings and an average of almost 30,000 weekday boardings. Ridership on Sounder commuter rail increased 5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2013, with 11,843 average weekday boardings and 759,942 boardings for the quarter.
“Transit is the future for moving our region’s commuters and economy,” said Dow Constantine, Sound Transit board chair and King County executive. “The demand for both buses and congestion-free light rail will keep growing. The good news is that Sound Transit remains on track to expand the region’s light rail system from 16 miles to 50 miles by 2023.”
The report comes amid recently released statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that show Seattle had the highest growth rate in the nation at 2.8 percent from July 2012 to July 2013. The Sound Transit Board is updating the region’s Long-Range Plan to include a projected 30-percent population growth by 2040. The plan will be used to consider where light rail and other regional transit services should expand after current voter-approved projects are complete.
The University Link light rail extension is expected to open the first quarter of 2016. The agency remains on target to deliver more than 30 miles of light rail expansions by 2023.
CSX Transportation’s mainline leading to the Perron industrial and maritime park in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield has opened, marking a milestone in the construction of the $100 million intermodal terminal, which will enable shippers in the region to connect to new markets.
“The construction of the intermodal terminal in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield continues to progress,” said Chris Durden, assistant vice president, terminal and network operations. “The opening of the new mainline is just one more step towards the completion of this important project.”
The new, 2.2-kilometer mainline track will minimize congestion in the city’s residential area. In addition, two new railroad crossings, one at the intersection of highway 530 and Gérard-Cadieux Boulevard and the other at Des Érables Boulevard located close to the highway 530, are now in operation.
The 89-acre intermodal terminal in the City of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield in Quebec, connects the region with CSX’s 21,000-mile network in the United States.
The Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) has voted for an overpass that will take the Green Line light rail, vehicular traffic and sidewalks over Hughes Street and connect the rail line to the Magnolia Transit Center. The plan also provides a lane for vehicular traffic and pedestrian sidewalks at street level.
Preliminary costs for the project are estimated between $35 and $43 million, and completion is projected to take 31 months. Next steps include working with the city of Houston to try to expedite the construction process.
The decision to move forward with an overpass rather than an underpass, which would have cost $52 to $68 million and take approximately 48 months to complete, was made after several meetings with residents, elected officials and environmental professionals on the subject.
“I think it’s important that we never lose sight of our fiduciary duty, and we represent everyone and everything within the service area,” said METRO Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia. “We’ve got to complete the line. That is the best thing we can do for this community – complete the line and get out of the way.”
The start of Florida’s SunRail commuter rail service, which began May 1, 2014, in Central Florida, marked the completion of a $168 million design-build project for the joint venture RailWorks Track Systems and Archer Western, which was responsible for the complete design and construction of the initial 32-mile operating segment.
RailWorks and Archer Western began construction in 2011, performing their work around active freight and Amtrak operations along a busy rail corridor. The team was also responsible for earthwork, cast-in-place and precast reinforced concrete, station construction and railroad bridge rehabilitation.
RailWorks companies constructed 19 miles of double track, installed 49 turnouts, rebuilt 42 crossings and installed a new signal and communications system. In addition, they constructed track for three yards, the Operations Control Center as well as the vehicle storage and maintenance facility.
During construction, RailWorks also maintained all track and signals on the entire 61.5 mile corridor, a Class IV rail line that CSX Transportation uses as a main line.
The new service marks completion of the first phase of the $1 billion Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit (CFCRT) project, expected to be a 61-mile commuter rail line.
Bombardier Transportation has begun delivering BOMBARDIER TRAXX diesel multi-engine locomotives to Südostbayernbahn (SOB), a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn. The locomotives will be used to pull passenger trains between Simbach and Munich in southeast Bavaria beginning in mid -2014.
“The purchase of eight class 245 TRAXX P160DE multi-engine locomotives is the biggest investment of Südostbayernbahn in the company’s history,” said SOB Director Christoph Kraller. “We are looking forward to transporting our passengers even more reliably and environmentally friendly in future.”
The new locomotive has a multi-engine concept of four diesel engines with a performance of 563 kW each. The diesel engines can be switched on and off individually as required so the locomotive only uses the energy it actually needs. The locomotive has an overall performance of 2,252 kW and a top speed of 160 km/h. It meets the EU emission standard level IIIB.
Ulrich Jochem, President Locomotives, Bombardier Transportation, remarked, “The deployment of these locomotives by SOB shows that Bombardier Transportation is successful in developing innovative products for passenger and freight transport.”
CN President and CEO Claude Mongeau said recently that dangerous goods are an integral part of everyday life and that CN is committed to moving all traffic safely. Speaking to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, Mongeau said CN’s commitment to safety is evidenced by the more than 50 percent reduction in CN’s main-track rail accidents per million train miles in Canada between 2003 and 2013 as well as 99.998 percent of CN movements of dangerous goods arriving at destination without a release caused by an accident.
“Dangerous goods are an important part of how all of us live and a major business for us,” said Mongeau. “Because of that, we know we have a clear obligation to transport these products safely – it’s fundamental to the economy and to CN’s social license to operate its business.”
Mongeau said the company’s safety record flows from annual investments of more than C$1 billion in rail infrastructure to maintain network safety and integrity along with a focus on employee training and safety awareness, root cause analysis of accidents, and technological innovation.
Following the Lac-Mégantic accident, Mongeau said CN took a series of steps to further reduce the potential for accidents. The company strengthened its train securement practices and unveiled a special program to acquire additional monitoring equipment for early detection of defects. The company also applied the U.S. “OT-55 key train policy” to trains hauling highly flammable liquids and voluntarily extended the policy to its Canadian operations, including measures on train dispatching, track inspection and restrictions on train speeds.
Additionally, CN is conducting corridor risk assessments, examining rail line proximity to urban centers, environmentally sensitive areas, and railway operating practices to develop enhanced safety processes for trains transporting dangerous goods.
Mongeau spoke of CN’s support for the retrofitting or phase-out of older DOT-111 tank cars, a reinforced standard for new tank cars, and special operating practices for the transportation of dangerous goods. CN has also begun to phase-out its small fleet of legacy DOT-111 tank cars used to transport diesel fuel for its locomotives to yard terminals and has implemented freight rate changes to encourage customers to acquire tank cars that meet higher safety standards.
Mongeau said he believes the rail industry can enhance safety by working more closely with communities, and CN is reaching out to municipalities along its North American rail network to review its safety practices, share relevant information on dangerous goods traffic, and discuss emergency response planning and training. CN is also urging the implementation of mutual aid intervention protocols, with the participation of other carriers and producers of dangerous commodities to help codify emergency response standards and expand response resources.
“The safe transportation of dangerous goods and all other freight traffic is a social and business imperative. It’s a fundamental principle for CN in its relationships with communities along its network and central to its role as a true backbone of the economy,” concluded Mongeau.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation has awarded more than $16 million to 40 projects across the state through the Freight Rail and Rail Crossing Safety Improvement program, which supports projects that improve the safety of rail-highway crossings and freight service in North Carolina.
Included in the 40 projects, is $4.7 million to eight projects that will close seven at-grade crossings around the state and improve adjacent crossings. An additional $5.3 million went to 14 projects that will improve short line railroads by adding capacity, increasing operating efficiency and enhancing safety.
Thirteen projects that will improve rail access for companies and enhance the ability to move rail by way of the rail network received $3 million, while an at-grade crossing replacement project in Mount Airy received $240,000.
Modernization projects were also awarded a portion of the $16 million, with $1.9 million going to two projects to modernize rail crossing signals and another $833,000 going to a project that will modernize the Wilmington Terminal Railroad at the Port of Wilmington.
Established in 2013 by the General Assembly through Senate Bill 402, the Freight Rail and Rail Crossing Safety Improvement program uses dividends received by the North Carolina Railroad Company.
Stella-Jones Inc. has announced that the acquisition of the wood treating facilities of Boatright Railroad Products, Inc. has been completed. Boatright Railroad Products manufactures, sells and distributes creosote and borate-treated crossties as well as switch ties, tie plugs and bridge timbers to railroads and railroad contractors. Their facilities are located in Montevallo and Clanton, Alabama. Boatright sales for the 12-month period that ended December 31, 2013 reached US$73.5 million.
“The acquisition of these facilities further enhances our range of treated wood products and services to the North American railroad industry,” said Brian McManus, Stella-Jones president and CEO. “We expect this transaction to yield synergies and to be immediately accretive to earnings, as we continue to optimize the overall efficiency of our continental network.”
The purchase price for Boatright was approximately US$60 million, plus the sellers’ inventory at closing, estimated at US$9 million, subject to post-closing adjustments. Stella-Jones has financed the transaction through a combination of its existing revolving credit facility and a five-year unsecured promissory note of US$15 million. An amount of US$20 million is being held in escrow pending the formal title transfer of the Montevallo assets, which shall occur concurrently with the issue of certain governmental permits that relate to the facility to Stella-Jones.