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CN to Serve New Frac Sand Transloading Terminal in Alberta

July 5th, 2013

CN will start serving a new frac sand terminal north of Grande Prairie, Alta., starting in November 2013.

The new 20-acre facility, which is being built by Di-Corp of Edmonton, will have three tracks capable of holding 44 rail cars for unloading. It will have an annual throughput capacity of 550,000 tons of frac sand.

“We are very pleased to be working with CN on this project in northwestern Alberta to help accommodate existing and expected growth in frac sand demand in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin,” said Trevor Derksen, vice-president of marketing at Di-Corp. He went on to praise the cost-effective service provided by the Canadian rail giant to western Canada.

Frac sand is used by oil and gas industries in the hydraulic fracturing process. Last month, CN announced an expedited upgrade to a Wisconsin rail line to serve frac sand supply chains, and the railroad performed similar work last year as well.

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FEC Subsidiary Names Vohr AVP of Drayage and Trucking Operations

July 3rd, 2013

FEC Highway Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Railway, has hired J. Alex Vohr as assistant vice president, drayage & trucking operations, with responsibility for terminal operations across the FEC Highway Services network. Vohr joined the company in May.

“We are pleased to welcome Alex to the FEC family.  His background in logistics and organization makes him the perfect fit for this important position,” said John Brenholt, FECR’s chief financial officer, in a written statement.

A 24-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Vohr last served as director of logistics of the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Fla. In that capacity, he was responsible for directing the joint logistics, engineering and medical planning for U.S. Department of Defense activities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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All Aboard Florida, FDOT Agree on Lease to Enable Intercity Passenger Rail Service

July 3rd, 2013

The Florida Department of Transportation and All Aboard Florida have reached agreement on the terms of a lease for portions of the state’s State Road 528 right of way in Central Florida, which AAF will use to build and operate intercity passenger rail service between Orlando and southeast Florida.

The terms call for a 50-year lease with an option to renew for another 49 years. AAF will pay FDOT $275,000 per year, adjusting annually for inflation.

“I am pleased to sign this lease between the department and All Aboard Florida in what will become the nation’s first privately financed, operated and maintained passenger rail system,” said Ananth Prasad, FDOT’s secretary, in a written statement. “This high speed passenger rail service will offer transportation choices for our residents and visitors traveling between Orlando and Miami at no cost to state taxpayers.”

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Operation Lifesaver Awards Grants for Rail Crossing Safety Projects

July 2nd, 2013

Operation Lifesaver, in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration, has awarded more than $200,000 in grants to 12 state Operation Lifesaver programs for a variety of rail crossing safety and anti-trespassing public education projects and public service announcements across the country.

Operation Lifesaver organizations in Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin will use the grants to establish programs and broadcast public safety messages on television, radio and in movie theaters; erect billboards on distracted driving; target outdoor sportsman and Spanish-language speakers; and create new rail safety products and presentations.

“Our OLI state coordinators proposed some very exciting initiatives to help further Operation Lifesaver’s mission of eliminating collisions, injuries and deaths at crossings and along rail property,” said Joyce Rose, OLI’s president and CEO, in a written statement. “These projects will go a long way toward increasing the number of eyes and ears that receive our message.”

“When you see one, tweet us at @olinational,” she added. “We want to hear from you.”

The FRA, a national partner and adviser of Operation Lifesaver, provided the funding for these grants. The 17 approved grants were awarded through a competitive process, and selections were made by a panel of railroad safety experts using criteria such as successfully leveraging the federal funds with private partnerships, targeted messaging and the ability of the program to quickly roll out an initiative over the summer.

“While the number of grade crossing incidents over the last decade decreased by nearly 34 percent nationally, fatalities at highway rail crossings and trespassing incidents continue to constitute 95 percent of all rail-related deaths,” said Joseph C. Szabo, FRA administrator. “The FRA is committed to working with our partner Operation Lifesaver to continuously improve safety at highway-rail grade crossings.”

Operation Lifesaver plans to announce the results of a similar grant program for rail transit safety education projects in early August.

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Amtrak’s Rulemaking Power for Freight Railroads Derailed by Federal Court

July 2nd, 2013

A federal court today ruled that Amtrak’s role in setting on-time performance standards that could trigger investigations of Class I railroads whose trains get in the way is unconstitutional, Bloomberg reports.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said Congress had improperly delegated to Amtrak, a private corporation, the power to draft performance standards that affected companies whose tracks the passenger carrier uses. Amtrak had been authorized to set on-time performance standards in collaboration with the Federal Railroad Administration under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The standards could have resulted in investigations of freight railroads by the Surface Transportation Board.

The case dates back to 2011, when the Association of American Railroads sued the Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration on behalf of the top seven railroads operating in the U.S. The lawsuit, AAR v. DOT, 12-5204, argued that the standards forced freight railroads to alter their business operations, at times delaying their own freight traffic. It stated that Amtrak is a “financially interested private party that stands to directly benefit from violations of the rules it created” when it levies complaints against carriers to the Surface Transportation Board.

“Though the federal government’s involvement in Amtrak is considerable, Congress has both designated it a private corporation and instructed that it be managed so as to maximize profit,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown in the ruling.

AAR commended today’s court decision:

“Freight railroads recognize Amtrak wants to run trains on time, and they work closely with Amtrak to help make this happen,” said Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president and CEO, in a written statement. “However, freight railroads believe setting and measuring schedules and on-time performance metrics should not be done through a one-size-fits all approach at the federal level, but addressed jointly through private bilateral contracts that take into account the facts and circumstances of particular routes.”

“We are pleased with the court’s unanimous finding that Section 207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 is unconstitutional,” Hamberger concluded. “We are continuing to review the decision to determine what will be the resulting next steps.”

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Red River Valley & Western Railroad Moves Millionth Carload

July 2nd, 2013

The Red River Valley & Western Railroad has moved its millionth carload since beginning operations nearly 26 years ago.

The celebratory shipment was 110 tons of corn destined for the Port of Seattle.

“This is a major milestone for our company,” said Andrew Thompson, president of the 577-mile North Dakota railroad, in a written statement. “We’d like to extend a big thank you to our customers, employees, connecting carriers, local and state officials and friends who helped make this possible.”

Since startup, RRV&W’s annual rail volume has tripled to 60,000 carloads in 2012. Grain accounts of more than half of the railroad’s shipments, but RRV&W also moves other commodities such as corn sweetener, sugar, ethanol, corn feed byproducts and fertilizer.

“The Red River Valley & Western Railroad Company — one of 550 short-line railroads nationwide — has been able to turn a collection of unprofitable branch lines into a successful small railroad,” Thompson concluded.

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Greenbrier Reports Net Loss of $56 Million in Third Quarter

July 2nd, 2013

The Greenbrier Companies reported net earnings in the third quarter of fiscal year 2013, ending May 31, 2013, excluding a non-cash goodwill impairment charge of $71.8 million, net of tax, were $15.7 million, versus $13.8 million in the previous quarter, ending Feb. 28, 2013.

The non-cash goodwill impairment charge was related to the wheels, repair and parts segment, and led to a net loss for the quarter of $56.0 million. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the quarter were $39.6 million, or 9.1 percent of revenue, compared with $36.2 million in the second quarter of fiscal year 2013.

Revenue in the third quarter rose 2.5 percent quarter-over-quarter to $433.7 million, driven by favorable change in demand and product mix in the wheels, repairs and parts segment, according to the Lake Oswego, Ore.-based rail equipment company.

“We are encouraged by the growth of our diverse backlog and robust order activity, with orders in the third quarter for 5,500 railcar units,” said William A. Furman, president and CEO, in a written statement. “Since quarter end, we have received orders for an additional 2,100 railcar units, including a sizable double stack intermodal order for 1,500 units, about a third of which will be delivered in fiscal 2013, and the balance in fiscal 2014.”

New railcar deliveries were 2,500 units in the third quarter, down from 2,700 units in the second quarter, fueled by softness in intermodal demand and slower than anticipated tank car ramp up, according to Greenbrier. Since Sept. 1, 2012, Greenbrier has received orders for 13,500 railcar units valued at nearly $1.3 billion, including 1,400 units in the first quarter and 4,500 units during the second quarter. New railcar backlog as of May 31, 2013, was 14,200 units, with an estimated value of $1.57 billion, compared with 11,700 units with an estimated value of $1.30 billion as of Feb. 28, 2013. Greenbrier’s management anticipated that new railcar deliveries in 2013 will be between 11,750 and 12,250 units and revenue will be in the range of $1.75 billion to $1.80 billion.

“We anticipate brighter prospects for intermodal railcar activity and downstream energy-related railcar products such as plastics, in fiscal 2014,” Furman said.

Separately, Greenbrier has announced that it will sell or close eight of its 38 wheels, repair and parts facilities, as part of its plan to reduce capital employed in its operations by at least $100 million before the end of its fiscal year 2014. The company is also implementing initiatives to improve profitability and reduce capital at another six facilities that have been underperforming. Greenbrier said it expects to realize a minimum return of capital of $25 million by Dec. 31, 2013, as a result of these actions.

Greenbrier has appointed two new co-leaders, William Glenn and Rick Turner, for its wheels, repair and parts segment, effective with the retirement of Timothy A. Stuckey, 62, on June 30 as president of Greenbrier Rail Services. In addition to each executive’s designated oversight duties, Turner and Glenn will develop a comprehensive rail services strategy that will serve Greenbrier’s integrated business model.

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GATX Announces Three Senior-Level Appointments

June 28th, 2013

GATX Corp. has named Thomas A. Ellman as executive vice president and president of Rail North America, Michael T. Brooks as senior vice president of operations and technology and Paul F. Titterton as vice president and chief commercial officer.

Ellman will continue to oversee the commercial activities of GATX’s North American rail business and will assume responsibility for its operational activities.

Brooks will assume responsibility for Rail North America’s maintenance operations, in addition to his current role leading the information technology department.

Titterton has been promoted to vice president and chief commercial officer, in charge of GATX’s North American railcar sales, fleet, structured finance and customer experience activities.

Both Brooks and Titterton will report to Ellman.

“These organizational changes will enable GATX to better serve its customers,” said Brian A. Kenney, president and CEO, in a written statement.

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Norfolk Southern Opens Bulk Transfer Terminal in South Carolina

June 27th, 2013

Norfolk Southern has opened a new “Thoroughbred Bulk Transfer” terminal in Columbia, S.C.

TBT terminals are specialized facilities that allow customers without rail sidings to transfer a large array of commodities between rail cars and trucks. TBT terminals are operated by NS and operated by independent contractors that facilitate bulk transfer and distribution.

Located less than two miles from Interstate 26 and near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in West Columbia, S.C., the terminal can handle dry and liquid bulk commodities such as flour, sugar and plastic pellets, as well as aggregates, steel and lumber. It features five acres of paved lay-down area and a truck scale. Markets served by the terminal include the Columbia area, as well as points east such as Darlington, Florence, Hartsville, Orangeburg and Sumter, S.C.

The new Columbia terminal, one of 31 TBT facilities, is operated under license by RSI Leasing.

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Crosstex Energy, Savage Cater to Energy Markets

June 27th, 2013

Crosstex Energy has reactivated  its Black Run rail loading terminal in Frazeysburg, Ohio, on the Ohio Central Railroad, allowing the export of Utica Shale light oil condensate production.

The Black Run facility is a 20-car rail rack with tracking gangways designed to top load multiple products, including light oil condensate and various grades of crude oil, at a rate of 24,000 barrels per day.

“The reactivation of our Black Run rail facility enables us to offer producer customers in the Utica Shale an immediate midstream solution to export their products to out-of-region markets to maximize value for our customers,” said Barry E. Davis, Crosstex president and CEO, in a written statement. “Our Ohio River Valley assets continue to provide Crosstex with an exceptional growth opportunity as more wells come on line in the Utica Shale.”

The OHCR is a 70-mile short line freight railroad that interchanges with the Columbus and Ohio River Railroad, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, Ohio Southern Railroad and Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway. The Black Run terminal, which is adjacent to the Crosstex’s oil gathering pipeline, will leverage Crosstex’s existing tankage and piping, as well as the capabilities of its truck fleet in the Ohio River Valley.

Separately, Savage has introduced bulk material handling and rail transloading services at the Ohio Commerce Center in Lordstown, Ohio, in the Utica Shale area, in order to serve the oil and gas markets by rail.

The new Savage operation is located adjacent to Route 45, Interstate 80 and the Ohio Turnpike. The OCC also has direct access to the CSX Class I rail line.

“Transloading services at the OCC will allow oil producers in the Utica Shale Play a more flexible option to get their products to market,” said Ed Ivey, vice president and business unit leader for Savage, in a brief.

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