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)

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