WRR – 03-11-2011

WEEKLY RAIL REVIEW

FOR THE WEEK ENDING FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2011

THE WEEK’S TOP RAIL AND TRANSIT NEWS (in chronological order):

(MON) Torrential rains caused a notable washout on Metro North’s Danbury Line, rendering it out of service and forcing the substitution of buses to serve the line’s stations. The washout measured approximately 150-feet wide by 20-feet deep and occurred at a location not readily accessible by an existing road. Metro North estimated that the line would be out of service for approximately two weeks while repairs were made. (ffd: NYMTA, Trains)

(MON) Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that creates the Southeast Commuter Rail Transit District. The district was created to facilitate eventual construction of a new 33-mile Metra commuter rail line, to be known as the Southeast Service Line, that would run alongside existing rail lines in southern Cook and Will counties. A state spokesman said that a final proposal is expected to be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration later this year. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(MON) Union Pacific released the schedule for the first part of its 2011 steam excursion program. The schedule is available on the UP website, www.uprr.com. (ffd: Trains)

(TUE) BNSF noted that its customers had facilitated fuel efficiency and emissions reduction by shipping via rail instead of by truck. It noted that, in 2010, its rail traffic reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 21 million metric tons, which it said was equivalent to reducing the consumption and resultant emissions of more than 2 billion gallons of diesel fuel. UP sent each of its intermodal, automotive, industrial products and agricultural products customers a customized letter that analyzed their total rail carbon footprint and saving compared to movements of their shipments via the highway. (ffd: BNSF RR)

(WED) In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Warren Buffett noted that it had received a $1 billion dividend from BNSF Railway, which it acquired the stock of in 2009. Berkshire also received a $1.5 billion dividend from BNSF last year. Said Mr. Buffett, “It now appears that owning this railroad will increase Berkshire’s earning power by nearly 40 percent pre-tax and by well over 30 percent after-tax.” (ffd: Railway Age)

(WED) The Association of American Railroads announced that U.S.-based Class I railroads will spend an estimated $12 billion on capital improvements this year. If realized, this spending would exceed the record capital expenditures of $10.7 billion made by these railroads in 2010. The AAR added that the two Canadian-based Class I railroads, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, would spend an estimated $2.8 billion for capital improvements this year, which is additional to the amount being spent by U.S.-based railroads, and with at least $750 million going to the Canadians’ U.S. operations. (ffd: AAR, Business Week, Journal of Commerce)

(WED) New Jersey Transit’s board of directors approved $155.6 million to install a Positive Train Control (PTC) system on its lines. An NJT spokesman said that Parsons Transportation Group would install the first three phases of the system. The spokesman added that NJT’s PTC system would be compatible with the Amtrak PTC system. (ffd: Asbury Park Press)

(WED) Cascade Investment, wholly owned by software billionaire Bill Gates, announced that they had recently acquired 35,784 more shares of Canadian National for more than $2.4 million. Cascade now holds 37.4 million shares of CN and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, on which Gates serves as co-trustee, also owns 8.56 million CN shares. As the sole owner of Cascade and co-trustee of the trust, Mr. Gates now retains ownership and/or control of nearly 46 million CN Shares, or 10 percent of CN’s outstanding shares. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(WED) Amtrak announced that it had carried more than two million passengers last month. A total of 2,099,010 passengers were transported in February, 2011, up 7.6 percent from the previous February record in 2010. Amtrak said that it also marked, from November, 2009 through February, 2011, the 16th straight month of ridership growth, averaging a 6 percent growth rate during this period. (ffd: Amtrak, NARP)

(WED) Railway Age named Blacklands Railroad the 2011 Short Line Railroad of the Year and the Reading & Northern Railroad the 2011 Regional Railroad of the Year. In announcing the awards, the magazine said that “the entrepreneurial spirit of the two winners is a shared belief in the economic power and potential railroads of all sizes can offer.” The awards will be presented at the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association’s annual convention in San Antonio, TX in May. (ffd: Railway Age)

(WED) Three bands – Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show – announced that they would tour on a special train of two locomotives and 15 private cars. Dubbed the “Railroad Revival Tour,” the train will originate on April 21 in Oakland, CA and conclude on April 27 in New Orleans, LA, with the bands playing in these and four other intermediate cities. The bands will eat, sleep, and record on the train, which will be the focus of a documentary film. (ffd: Trains)

(THU) The House Railroad Subcommittee held a hearing on how private enterprise might play a role in U.S. high-speed passenger rail service. Notable at the hearing was a spirited exchange between House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL), who called the launch of recent high-speed rail initiatives “an absolute disaster,” and Railroad Subcommittee Ranking Minority Member Corrine Brown (D-FL), who blamed the failure of the long-planned Tampa-Orlando corridor on Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott’s “lack of leadership.” Also testifying at the hearing was Federal Railroad Administration Chief Administrator Joe Szabo. (ffd: NARP)

(THU) Following the failure of efforts in Florida to overcome Governor Rick Scott’s declining $2.4 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail development between Tampa and Orlando, U.S. Secretary Transportation Ray LaHood said that he was beginning efforts to reallocate the funding toward other passenger rail products. “There is a line outside my door of governors, senators and congressmen,” Mr. LaHood said during a congressional meeting. “There is no shortage of interest in $2.4 billion we’re going to reallocate from Florida.” (ffd: The Hill, NARP)

(FRI) The Washington [DC} Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority proposed to realign Metro subway service to “improve service, reliability, and prepare for the future Dulles extension.” The proposal is to shift-one third of Blue Line trains from Franconia-Springfield to operate via the Yellow Line Bridge to L’Enfant Plaza and on to Greenbelt. To offset the shift, three Orange Lines trains per hour would be added from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center. The proposal, which is targeted for implementation in mid-2012, will be vetted through public hearings. (ffd: RT&S)

(FRI) Amtrak announced that it would hold a rededication ceremony for its Wilmington, DE station on Saturday, March 19. The station, which recently received a $37.7 million fix-up, will be renamed in honor of Vice President Joseph Biden, who was a longtime Amtrak commuter between Wilmington and Washington, DC while serving in the U.S. Senate. The station, which was built in the early 1900s, was designed by noted architect Frank Furness. It is presently Amtrak’s 12th busiest station, serving approximately 696,000 passengers annually. (ffd: Amtrak)

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group released a high-speed rail advocacy video featuring two characters drawn from the popularly and critically acclaimed AMC television series, “Mad Men.” The series, which will start its fifth season later this year, is set at a New York advertising agency in the 1960s. In the video, two principals of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency, Pete Campbell played by Vincent Kartheiser and Harry Crane played by Rich Sommer, muse over the best way to pitch fast trains. To watch the video, link to www.funnyordie.com and search on “mad men on trains.” (ffd: APTA)

 

STATS – CLASS 1 RAIL TRAFFIC:

(THU) The Association of American Railroads reported that, for the week ending March 5, 2011 and ranked with the comparable week last year:

- U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 300,953 units, up 5.5 percent

- Notable U.S. carload traffic increases included metallic ores up 105.2 percent, motor vehicles and equipment up 20.8 percent, and petroleum products up 18.6 percent; notable decreases included grain mill products down 12.1 percent

- U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 214,343 units, up 1.0 percent

- Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 70,551 units, down 5.9 percent

- Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 43,401 units, down 3.3 percent

- Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 14,225 units, up 6.0 percent

- Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 6,921 units down 4.2 percent

 

For the period January 1 through March 5, 2011:

-U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 2,578,642 units, up 6.0 percent

-U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 1,959,272 units, up 7.9 percent

-Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 630,100 units, down 1.4 percent

-Canadian intermodal rail totaled 470,050 units, up 3.9 percent

-Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 128,418 units, up 5.5 percent

-Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 65,042 units, up 11.6 percent

NOTE: Canadian counts include traffic from the U.S. operations of the two Canadian-based Class I railroads, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway.

 

 

EXPANSIONS, CONTRACTIONS AND ALIKE:

 

None of note this week.

 

APPOINTMENTS, ACHIEVEMENTS AND MILESTONES:

(FRI) Kansas City Southern Executive Chair Mike Haverty was named the winner of Progressive Railroading Magazine’s Railroad Innovator Award. The magazine said that it was recognizing Mr. Haverty for being “a strategic thinker who’s willing and able to read between the North American rail map’s lines, make sense of what he’s read and plan/manage accordingly.” (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

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