Archive for January, 2019

Glenview to Spend More to Fight Rail Siding

January 29, 2019

The board of trustees of Glenview, Illinois, has approved spending another $105,000 to continue its opposition to certain elements of a proposal to expand Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee.

The north Chicago suburb is served by existing Hiawatha Service trains as well as Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

The recently approved appropriation brings to more than a half million dollars the amount the village has spent or plans to spend in its campaign.

Much of the village’s opposition focuses on a component of the service expansion that calls for construction of a siding that would be used for Canadian Pacific freight trains awaiting permission to access a Union Pacific line that CP uses to reach its yard in Bensonville, Illinois.

The departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin have proposed increasing Hiawatha Service from seven to 10 roundtrips per day.

A draft environmental assessment of the proposal has suggested the 10,000-foot long siding be built adjacent to tracks used by Amtrak, CP and commuter rail carrier Metra.

The siding has been described as necessary to avoid delaying Metra and Amtrak trains. The siding would extend between Glenview and Northbrook.

Critics of the proposal have said it would increase noise pollution affecting nearby residential neighborhoods, which in turn could adversely affect property values.

They have also been critical of a planned 10- to 20-foot retaining wall that would also be built, saying it would reduce some green space that would provide a buffer.

Village officials have also tried to argue that plans to install crossover switches would increase the possibility of train derailments as well as create noise.

State transportation officials have said the increased service would help to alleviate near-capacity and over-capacity conditions for peak time service, allowing more flexibility with train time options and address “inadequate service reliability” as a result of conflicts with freight and passenger traffic along the corridor.

Most of the money that has been spent by the village to oppose the project has gone to consulting and public relations firms.

Brightline to Create Station for Orlando Tourists

January 29, 2019

Tourists will be the primary beneficiary of a station that Brightline plans to develop in Orlando.

The idea behind the concept is to cater to those traveling to Orlando’s theme parks.

Brightlight has not yet said where the station will be located but in documents submitted to the Florida Department of Transportation the carrier hinted that it might create a connection with SunRail, a commuter service in Orlando, and create a station in Lakeland.

Brightline has also indicated an interest in creating a stop for Disney World.

“On our way to Tampa we will likely have a station somewhere around theme parks in Orlando and we think that’s going to be a great thing for our partnership with the Tampa airport,” said Bob O’Malley, Brightline’s vice president of governmental affairs.

Service to Tampa is expected to begin in 2021. Brightline is in the process of transitioning to the Virgin Rail brand.

Polar Vortex Leading to Midwest Cancelations

January 28, 2019

A Polar vortex that is bringing extreme cold to the Midwest has prompted Amtrak to modify its service on Midwest corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Most of the changes are effective between Jan. 29 and 31.

The carrier said it will operate four round trips between Chicago and Milwaukee: Nos. 330, 331, 334, 335, 338, 339, 341 and 342. Nos. 329, 332, 333, 336, 337 and 340 will be cancelled.

Chicago to Carbondale No. 393 will be cancelled Jan. 28-30 while Carbondale to Chicago No. 390 is cancelled Jan. 29-31.

The City of New Orleans will continue to operate as will Nos. 391 and 392.

Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Nos. 351, 352, 353 and 354 will operate but Nos. 350 and 355 are cancelled on Jan. 29-31.

In the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, Nos. 301 and 304 are cancelled between Jan. 29 and 31. All others Lincoln Service trains as well as the Texas Eagle will continue to operate.

There will be no cancellations on routes linking Chicago with Quincy, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Port Huron, Michigan.

In a service advisory Amtrak said it expects the winter storm to reduce travel demand, but it was also acting out of “an abundance of caution.”

Amtrak said passengers holding reservations on the affected trains will be able to change their reservations for travel on other trains, including on other days, at no charge.

Amtrak to Add Second Train to Norfolk

January 28, 2019

Amtrak is planning to add a second Northeast Regional train to Norfolk, Virginia, starting March 4.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said the schedule for the train has yet to be completed, but a news release from the City of Norfolk indicated it will be a mid-morning departure.

Amtrak returned to Norfolk in December 2012. Previously, the city had been served by the Chicago-Norfolk Mountaineer between 1975 and 1977.

The current Northeast Regional train departs Norfolk at 6:10 a.m. on weekdays and five minutes later on weekends.

The train returns to Norfolk at 8:38 p.m. on weekdays and two minutes earlier on Sundays. The Saturday train arrives at 11:36 p.m.

The service is funded in part by the state of Virginia.

Philly Solari Board Removed

January 28, 2019

The venerable Solari train information board at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station has been removed and replaced by a digital screen.

The board, which has been widely described as a flip board, was removed late Saturday night as onlookers recorded the event on their cell phones.

At the bottom of the board before its removal was a message “farewell Philadelphia.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the board was being sent to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg.

For now, a temporary digital screen has been placed near where the Solari board once stood.

The board’s removal has evoked nostalgia from many who said that its click-clacking alpha-numeric split-flaps were part of the ambiance of the station.

Installed in the 1970s, the Solari board was the last of its kind still in use by Amtrak. It was named after its Italian manufacturer.

The Solari board was placed in shrink wrap and put into a create for transport to the museum.

The Inquirer also noted that an old-style train bulletin chalk board that had remained in a hallway at 30th Street Station was also being removed to be taken to the museum.

Amtrak, MTA Reach Pact on NEC Access

January 28, 2019

Amtrak has relented on two demands it has long made to allow the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to use its tracks in the East Bronx of New York City.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has brokered an agreement between MTA and Amtrak that will enable Metro-North commuter rail service to build four new stations in the East Bronx.

The deal hinges upon a plan to delay a bridge replacement that was called “beyond a state-of-good-repair” nearly a decade ago.

MTA has agreed to pay for the stations to be built in Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City.

Amtrak has agreed to allow Metro-North trains to use Amtrak-owned tracks on the Northeast Corridor to reach Penn Station in New York.

Officials have described the area in the East Bronx where the stations are to be established as a “transit desert” that has limited subway service.

Amtrak has long demanded that MTA pay track access fees and that the public transportation agency repair the two-track Pelham Bay Bridge, a project estimated to cost $500 million.

The bridge was built in 1907 and requires extensive ongoing maintenance. The top speed over the bridge is 45 mph.

The MTA-Amtrak agreement calls for the bridge replacement to be delayed for 10 to 20 years and for MTA to conduct a joint study with Amtrak to consider the feasibility of Amtrak expanding its service to Long Island.

Pacific Northwest Eyes Ultra High Speed Rail

January 28, 2019

State and provincial governments in the Pacific Northwest continue to discuss a high-speed intercity rail passenger route between Vancouver and Portland via Seattle.

The states of Washington and Oregon along with the Canadian province of British Columbia are cooperating to study routes, stations, equipment, and costs of a service that could have a top speed of 250 miles per hour.

The study is looking at conventional rail, maglev and hyperloops.

High-speed rail is among the seven long-term transportation goals of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

Legislation recently introduced in the Washington legislature would provide funding of $3.25 million to establish a “new ultra high-speed ground transportation corridor authority with participation from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.”

That is defined as a 250 mph speed for passenger trains.

The authority named in the legislation would conduct outreach and preliminary environmental review, including “a robust community engagement process to refine the alignment for communities and businesses relevant to the ultra high-speed corridor” between Portland and Vancouver.

The Washington Department of Transportation would be mandated to provide a report to the governor and state legislators that includes “an assessment of current laws in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia related to an ultra high-speed ground transportation corridor, [and to] identify any laws, regulations or agreements that need to be modified or passed in order to proceed with developing an ultra high-speed corridor, and summarize the results from the community engagement process.”

NS, UP, CP Release 4th Quarter Financial Results

January 28, 2019

Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific all reported positive financial results in the fourth quarter of 2018 when compared with the same period of 2017.

NS said its 2018 fourth quarter income from operations was $1.1 billion, an increase of 27 percent compared with the same period in 2017 and up 9 percent on an adjusted basis.

Net income rose 44 percent to $702 million, earnings per share increased 52 percent to $2.57, revenue climbed 9 percent to $2.9 billion, volume increased 3 percent to 1.98 million units, railway operating expenses increased 9 percent to $1.8 billion and the operating ratio improved 5.5 points to 62.8.

The adjusted fourth quarter results reflect the remeasurement effects of net deferred tax liabilities resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which affected net income and diluted earnings per share in a year-over-year comparison, NS officials said in a news release.

Intermodal revenue climbed 13 percent to a record $755 million and volume rose 5 percent to a record 1.1 million units; merchandise revenue grew 7 percent to nearly $1.7 billion and volume was flat at 611,700 units; and coal revenue increased 7 percent to $457 million and volume inched up 1 percent to 255,000 units.

For all of 2018 NS reported railway operating revenue of $11.5 billion, up 9 percent compared with 2017. Intermodal and merchandise revenue set records at $2.9 billion (up 18 percent) and $6.7 billion (up 6 percent), respectively.

2018 income from railway operations jumped 17 percent to a record $3.9 billion, net income leaped 39 percent to $2.7 billion, railway operating expenses rose 4 percent to $7.5 billion, volume increased 4 percent to 7.9 million units and the operating ratio improved 2.7 points to an annual record 65.4.

At Union Pacific, the fourth quarter net income was $1.6 billion while diluted earnings per share were $2.12, an increase of 29 percent and 39 percent, respectively, compared with adjusted results for fourth quarter of 2017.

Reported results include previously disclosed adjustments reflecting the impact of corporate tax reform. Including those items, fourth-quarter net income totaled $7.3 billion, or $9.25 per diluted share.

UP said in a news release that on a year-over-year basis, fourth quarter operating revenue rose 6 percent to $5.7 billion, freight revenue grew 6 percent to $5.4 billion, operating income climbed 9 percent to $2.2 billion, operating expenses increased 4 percent to $3.5 billion, carloads rose 4 percent to 2.2 million units and the operating ratio improved 1.1 points to 61.6.

Revenue generated by premium business — which includes domestic and international intermodal, and finished vehicles — jumped 15 percent to $1.7 billion, with volume up 9 percent to 1.1 million units. International intermodal revenue ballooned 21 percent to $446.7 million while domestic intermodal revenue rose 3 percent to $561.7 million.

Industrial products revenue climbed 10 percent to $1.4 billion and volume increased 6 percent to 431,000 units — driven by strong construction materials and metals business — and agricultural products revenue rose 5 percent to $1.1 billion even though volume dipped 2 percent to 275,000 units.

Energy revenue declined 8 percent to $1.1 billion and volume fell 9 percent to 404,000 units due to a 47 percent plunge in sand business associated with more local sourcing and a 6 percent decrease in coal business.

During 2018, UP’s operating revenue grew 7 percent to $22.8 billion, operating income climbed 8 percent to $8.5 billion, net income soared 29 percent to $6 billion, operating expenses rose 7 percent to $14.3 billion, volume increased 4 percent to 8.9 million units and operating ratio ratcheted down 0.1 points to 62.7 compared with 2017 figures.

Canadian Pacific said it posted record operating income of CA$874 million for the fourth quarter, a 28 percent increase compared with the same period in 2017.
CP’s revenue for the quarter rose 17 percent to CA$2 billion from CA$1.7 billion a year ago.

Quarterly diluted earnings per share fell 43 percent to $3.83 from $6.77 a year ago. However, adjusted diluted EPS rose 41 percent to a new quarterly record of $4.55 from $3.22 in 2017 CP said in a news release.

CP’s operating ratio improved by 370 basis points to 56.5 percent while total operating expenses increased to CA$1.13 billion from CA$1 billion in Q4 2017.

CP reports its financial results in Canadian dollars, except for share and per share data.

For 2018, CP’s revenue rose 12 percent to CA$7.3 billion from CA$6.6 billion in 2017; operating ratio improved to a record 61.3 percent; and diluted EPS fell 17 percent to $13.61 from $16.44, while adjusted diluted EPS rose 27 percent to $14.51 from $11.39.

Total operating expenses for full-year 2018 rose to CA$4.5 billion compared with CA$4 billion in 2017.

PTC in Place on Most Class 1 Routes

January 28, 2019

U.S. Class 1 railroads are now using positive train control on the vast majority of their routes, the Association of American Railroads said last week.

AAR said that at the end of 2018 the Class 1s had 83.2 percent of required route miles operating with PTC.

In a news release, AAR said the Class Is have equipped all locomotives, installed all wayside units and radio towers, trained all affected employees and acquired all radio spectrum needed for PTC operations.

Railroads that have done that will qualify for an additional 24 months of time via a waiver from the Federal Railroad Administration to test their systems and ensure interoperability.

AAR said all Class needed to complete testing and have PTC systems fully implemented across their networks.

The news release said Class 1 railroads have invested $10.5 billion in the development, installation and implementation of PTC, and had systems in operation across 44,695 miles of their required 53,732 miles of track.

Lipinski to Head House Rail Subcommittee

January 28, 2019

A Chicago congressman has been named the chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Dan Lipinski represents a district that includes parts of the city of Chicago and some Chicago suburbs.

A news release from Lipinski’s office said he was named to the chairman’s post based on his experience in and knowledge of rail, pipeline and hazmat safety; freight-, commuter- and passenger-rail issues and regulation; and the impact rail and pipelines have on local communities.

The release noted that Lipinski’s district include not only railroads but also several underground pipelines.

“As chair, I will continue the work I have done to advance policies that prioritize rail and pipeline safety, a better environment, more jobs and better public transit,” Lipinski said.

Lipinski also said he will continue to pursue funding for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program, a public-private partnership seeking to ease congestion on Chicago railroads.