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Metra Awards Wabtec PTC Contracts

December 22nd, 2015

Wabtec Corporation has won approximately $45 million in contracts to supply a Positive Train Control (PTC) system and services for the Chicago area’s Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp. (Metra). The Metra PTC system will be fully interoperable with PTC systems used by U.S. Class I railroads.

The contracts, which are with Metra and Parsons Transportation Group, call for Wabtec to provide Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS®) equipment, including replacement components, its TMDS® Back Office System, track data, training and related services.

“We have worked with Metra for several years to develop and design their PTC program, and we are pleased to help in its implementation,” stated Wabtec’s President and CEO Raymond T. Betler. “Wabtec continues to demonstrate a unique and industry-leading ability to assist customers in meeting their PTC requirements.”

Betler also commented on the passage of the 5-year U.S. transportation funding bill, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, saying, “The new bill includes several provisions that should be good for the U.S. transit industry and, therefore, for Wabtec.”

“For example, this is the first multi-year bill passed in a decade, and that means transit agencies should have a longer-term planning horizon for potential projects. In addition, the bill calls for a 10.2 percent funding increase in year one and further increases in future years. When coupled with our strong backlog of transit projects around the world, the new bill is another reason to be optimistic about Wabtec’s long-term growth opportunities in the transit market,” added Betler.

Metra operates commuter rail service in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, serving more than 100 communities.

Parsons is a provider of technical, engineering, construction and management services.

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Alstom to Deliver Trainsets to Hesse, Germany

December 22nd, 2015
Alstom's Coradia Continental train. Photo: courtesy of Alstom.

Alstom's Coradia Continental train. Photo: courtesy of Alstom.

Alstom will supply 30 Coradia Continental electrical trains to the Hessische Landesbahn GmbH (HLB) in Hesse, Germany. The contract, worth €160 million, includes 13 three-car and 17 four-car trainsets that are scheduled to enter commercial service in December 2018 on the Südhessen-Untermain network in the west-central part of Germany.

“We are pleased that our long term customer HLB which ordered a variety of our diesel trains has chosen our modern electrical solutions manufactured at Alstom’s site in Salzgitter (Germany),” said Didier Pfleger, vice president of Alstom Germany & Austria. “For the first time the Coradia Continental will meet the new standards for interoperability of locomotives and passenger cars.”

Alstom’s regional Coradia Continental is able to travel at a speed of 160 km/h. The three-car trainsets can carry up to 350 passengers and the four-car version can transport up to 460 passengers. The traction equipment is located on the roof, allowing a larger interior and several multipurpose areas to provide space for wheelchairs, bicycles and strollers.

“As a longtime partner, we are pleased to continue in the future the good cooperation with the company Alstom and to expand our fleet with Coradia Continental electric trains,” stated Veit Salzmann, managing director of HLB GmbH.

Coradia Continental belongs to Alstom’s Coradia range of modular trains.

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Greenbrier Receives Orders for 1,800 Railcars

December 21st, 2015

The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. has reported new orders for approximately 1,800 railcar units valued at nearly $170 million since September 1, 2015, the beginning of the fiscal year, through December 15. The orders were for diverse railcar types, including automobile carrying railcars, boxcars, large cube covered hopper cars, and non-energy tank cars. The railcars were for markets in both North America and Europe.

Of the 1,800 units ordered, 500 units were received during the first quarter, which ended November 30, 2015, and 1,300 units were received subsequent to the quarter’s end. A previously announced order was changed in the car-type mix for 200 units. However, the overall value of the entire order remains unchanged.

The company reaffirmed guidance for fiscal 2016, including revenue, which is expected to exceed $2.8 billion, a diluted EPS in the range of $5.65 to $6.15, and deliveries of 20,000 to 22,500 units.

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SLSI Names Hynes Executive Director

December 21st, 2015
Ron Hynes

Ron Hynes

The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) has appointed Ron Hynes as executive director, effective January 4, 2016. The SLSI was developed by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) under a pilot program earlier this year and funded by a grant from the FRA. It is focused on improving safety culture of short line and regional railroads and their management with ongoing assessments, feedback, communication, and recommended improvements and best practices.

Hynes, who has more than 40 years of railroad experience, most recently served as the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) director, Office of Technical Oversight where he provided leadership to 12 technical divisions and served as chair of the FRA’s Safety Board. Prior to his position as director, he provided policy vision and direction for the development of the National Rail Plan, and he evaluated and recommended TIGER grant selections at the FRA.

“Ron’s career has uniquely prepared him for this position,” said Ed McKechnie, ASLRRA chairman. “Beginning his career with a short line railroad, gaining experience in the organizations that regulate our industry – particularly around safety, and his depth of knowledge about the rail industry in both passenger and freight rail assignments will enable him to provide the necessary guidance to achieve the institute’s goals.”

Hynes began his career at the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. He served in a variety of rail industry positions, including the National Transportation Safety Board, where he oversaw Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Investigations, and the Federal Transit Administration, where he led a variety of safety research projects.

“My experience over my career has always been led by a commitment to safety improvement,” remarked Hynes. “The SLSI will bring value as a safety improvement resource to the railroad industry and ASLRRA’s nearly 500 short line members specifically. I look forward to guiding this effort.”

SLSI has also announced the appointment of its Board of Directors and its Advisory Board. The new boards will be instrumental in framing the work and the implementation of the SLSI, and will rapidly move the organization from pilot to full implementation.

“The members of the Advisory Board have been chosen from among safety experts from short line and regional railroads, Class I railroads that have established safety culture programs, experts who have established safety culture change programs, academics versed in human factor issues, and industry thought leaders,” said ASLRRA President Linda Darr. “The Advisory Board will be instrumental in guiding the successful standup and ongoing direction of the SLSI.”

The Board of Directors will ensure that the goals of the institute are met and will develop processes by which assessments, education, training and research concerning safety culture will be supplied to the short line and regional railroads.

The Advisory Board will serve the SLSI by providing advice and counsel to the SLSI Board of Directors and the SLSI’s executive director regarding effecting safety culture changes in an organization; change management; risk assessment and management; and other safety related safety experiences to address improving the safety culture on short line and regional railroads.

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Metro-North Names Vonashek President System Safety

December 21st, 2015

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro-North Railroad has named Justin R. Vonashek vice president of system safety, effective January 4, 2016. Vonashek will oversee efforts to ensure the safety of customers and employees as the Metro-North continues to improve work practices and invest in new technology and equipment.

“Metro-North is committed to safety in all of our operations, and we are pleased to bring Justin on board to lead those efforts,” said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti. “We look forward to the experience and insight he brings from having worked in major cities such as Boston and Chicago.”

Prior to joining Metro-North, Vonashek was the chief safety, security, emergency preparedness and regulatory compliance officer at MBTA Commuter Rail in Boston. While there, he developed and monitored safety goals for the organization and was responsible for ensuring compliance with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory requirements.

He began his career in 2005 as a transportation specialist at Chicago’s Metra, where he was responsible for more than 200 train and engine service employees to ensure the safe and efficient operation of trains. He received various promotions while at Metra, eventually serving as director of regulatory compliance from September 2011 until February 2014.

“I look forward to collaborating with Metro-North’s team of men and women who have the institutional knowledge to drive change when it comes to safe and efficient operations,” said Vonashek. “It will be exciting to help advance the next generation of safety technology that Metro-North has already begun.”

Vonashek earned a bachelor of science from the Illinois Institute of Technology and is currently working on a master of science in transportation management. In 2013, he was named a Top 40 Under 40 award recipient by Mass Transit Magazine.

Vonashek will report to Giulietti and work closely with MTA Chief Safety Officer David Mayer and MTA Senior Advisor Corporate Safety Initiatives Anne Kirsch.

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U.S. Weekly Rail Traffic Declines in Week 49

December 18th, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending December 12, 2015, totaled 544,975 carloads and intermodal units, an 8 percent decrease compared to the same week in 2014.

U.S. carloads, which totaled 270,953 for the week, were down by 13.2 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 274,022 units, a drop of 2.3 percent compared to 2014.

Two of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending December 12, 2015, when compared with the same week in 2014. Miscellaneous carloads increased 39.5 percent to 10,764 carloads, followed by motor vehicles and parts, up 1.8 percent to 19,502 carloads.

Metallic ores and metals showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 27.2 percent to 20,935 carloads. Coal was down 22.3 percent to 92,934 carloads, and petroleum and petroleum products declined by 21.5 percent to 13,417 carloads.

For the first 49 weeks of 2015, U.S. rail volume totaled 26,664,525 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 2.1 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 13,589,488 were down by 5.4 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 13,075,037, was up by 1.7 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending December 12, 2015, was 702,177 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.6 percent.

For the first 49 weeks of 2015, North American rail volume was down 1.8 percent, with a total of 34,724,092 carloads and intermodal units.

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Hollysys Awarded High-Speed Rail Signaling Contracts

December 18th, 2015

Hollysys Automation Technologies, Ltd., a provider of automation and control technologies and applications in China, has been awarded contracts worth US$75.5 million to provide Automatic Train Protection (ATP) equipment and systems for 70 sets of high-speed trains in 200-250km/h and 109 sets of high-speed trains in 300-350km/h. The delivery of the products is expected to be finished by June 2016.

“We feel excited about the significant high-speed rail contract win, which demonstrates our solid technology capability and key market position,” commented the management of Hollysys. “Besides that, for 300km/h-350km/h speed segment, this is our first time to provide ATP equipment and system for B type and D types of high-speed trains unlike before we only provided for A type of high-speed trains, which means that our products now fit the requirements for more types of high-speed trains.”

The ATP on-board signaling equipment works together with the Train Control Center (TCC) ground-based signaling equipment as the control elements in the high-speed railway signaling systems to ensure the safety and reliability of the railway operation.

“In the future, Hollysys will continue to work closely with the China Railway Corporation and national railway authorities, leveraging its strong R&D capability, effective management and high-quality products and services, make more contribution to China’s railway construction and explore the vast rail and subway opportunities both in China and abroad, and create value for our shareholders,” added the management team.

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PANYNJ Promotes Plate to Chief Major Capital Projects

December 18th, 2015

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has promoted Steven Plate to the newly created position of chief of major capital projects to oversee complex transportation mega projects. While working closely with various stakeholders, Plate will focus on ensuring on-time, on-budget delivery for the projects, including the PATH-to-Newark Liberty International Airport extension and the emerging Gateway Tunnel project.

Plate joined the agency in 1985 and most recently served as deputy chief of capital planning/director of World Trade Center construction, overseeing the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. Prior to that, he oversaw the management and delivery of the Port Authority’s $2 billion JFK AirTrain system, delivering the project on time and under budget.

“Steve epitomizes what it means to be a ‘master builder’,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. “During his distinguished career, he has tackled two of the agency’s most challenging, high-profile construction projects – JFK AirTrain and the World Trade Center rebuilding – and through his perseverance and determination has gotten these projects to where they are today. As we return the Port Authority to its core mission of transportation, we are allocating our most valuable resource – our talented people – to those efforts.”

Plate will report to the agency’s executive director and continue to oversee and be responsible for World Trade Center construction as that effort continues to completion.

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PANYNJ to Establish Corporation for Gateway Tunnel Project

December 17th, 2015

The Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) will create a development corporation in partnership with the federal government to oversee construction of the Gateway Tunnel Project, which will link New York and New Jersey by a trans-Hudson rail tunnel.

The Board authorized the executive director to consult with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Amtrak, and report to the board on additional steps, including further studies necessary to establish a development corporation that will oversee construction and execution of the tunnel project. As a working group of the board, Commissioners Richard Bagger and Michael Fascitelli will oversee the effort to provide day-to-day guidance to the Port Authority executive director and staff in pursuing the Board’s mandate.

“It’s absolutely essential for the region that we move forward as quickly as possible in constructing a new rail link between New York and New Jersey. With the federal government’s commitment to pay for half of the effort, we are taking a big step forward in bringing this critical project to reality,” said Port Authority Vice Chairman Scott Rechler. “With today’s action, we have started down the road of creating the entity to receive federal grant funds and develop a plan to match this funding for the construction of a new tunnel.”

The corporation will have board representation from both states through the Port Authority, and the federal government will be represented by the USDOT and Amtrak. A Port Authority designee will act as chair of the corporation. The corporation will coordinate with key regional agencies, including NJ Transit.

The Board’s action also called for agency staff to work closely with the federal government to identify federal grants and maximize financing options. The staff will also work in cooperation with NJ Transit to expedite needed environmental and other necessary approvals for the project.

“The Port Authority has been called on many times in its nearly 100-year history to develop and build great projects,” said Port Authority Chairman John Degnan. “Once again, we are asked to take a leading role in one of this generation’s most important transportation project and we accept this responsibility. We will work closely with our federal partners to move this project expeditiously forward and will use the unparalleled expertise of our staff to see that it gets done.”

The existing Amtrak trans-Hudson tunnels, which are used daily by approximately 200,000 passengers, are more than 100 years old and are in need of significant rehabilitation after seawater flooding during Superstorm Sandy. It is estimated that the cost to the nation, should they be taken out of service for one day, would be $100 million in transportation-related impacts and productivity losses.

Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie and U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Cory Booker reached an agreement in which the federal government agreed to fund 50 percent of the project cost. New York and New Jersey would provide the remainder of the funding.

Today’s Board action makes no funding commitment on behalf of the Port Authority. The agency’s exact role in the construction, operation and maintenance of the project has yet to be determined.

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Surface Transportation Bill Passes House

December 17th, 2015

The House of Representatives has unanimously passed S. 808, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015, which reauthorizes and reforms the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to improve its efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability in regulating the U.S. freight rail industry.

Earlier this year, the bill passed the Senate with unanimous consent and will now move on to President Obama.

The STB was established in 1996 upon the termination of the Interstate Commerce Commission to, among other duties, resolve railroad rate and service disputes and review proposed railroad mergers. The bill is the first reauthorization of the STB and update in railroad economic regulation since the agency’s establishment.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster stated, “The STB plays an important role in ensuring a balanced, fair regulatory environment for both the railroads and its customers, but the agency hasn’t been reauthorized or reformed since it was created. This bill makes common sense improvements to increase the efficiency of the agency’s processes and decision-making, and ensures that the successful U.S. freight rail transportation system is not smothered by unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

The bill provides reforms that reduce litigation costs for small businesses, such as grain shippers; give more certainty to railroads and shippers in the decision-making time line and process; and provide more efficient options for service dispute resolutions.

“These much-needed reforms give the STB the ability to be responsive and effective as they work with our railroads to ensure safe and efficient transportation for goods and passengers nationwide,” said Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Representative Jeff Denham.

Edward R. Hamberger, Association of American Railroads (AAR) president and CEO, welcomed the passage of S. 808 by the House, stating, “In reauthorizing the Surface Transportation Board for the first time since the agency was created, Congress has clearly stated the critical need for railroads to be able to earn the revenues to build, maintain, and further modernize the nation’s 140,000-mile privately-owned rail network. These investments are needed to meet current and future freight transportation demands.”

“This legislation strikes the right balance of preserving a market-based structure for shippers and railroads, while also providing commonsense process improvements that will allow the STB to work more efficiently,” added Hamberger.

“The industry invests revenue it earns, not government funding, to grow the nation’s rail system and respond to the shipping needs of customers, large and small. Congress has reaffirmed balanced economic regulations that allow market-based competition to establish rate and service standards, with a regulatory safety net available to rail customers,” concluded Hamberger.

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