Rail Travel News
August 14, 2012

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Rail Travel News was formerly  published by Message Media Company, PO Box 9007, Berkeley CA 94709.
Website copyright © 1997-2007 by Message Media Co. Copyright 2007-2010 by RailPAC.

California HSR project draws both praise and criticism

Since California Governor Brown's signing of SB 1029, the legislation that starts the wheels rolling (figuratively) on the state's Northern to Southern California High-Speed Rail project, the public has been bombarded with intense pro and 
con arguments about the desirability of building the system. At the base of most of the opposing arguments is the economics of the project. 

The history of such large infrastructure projects shows that disputes over costs invariably arise and complicate the process of project completion. What the naysayers fail to see are the end results the projects bring to the public in 
terms of economic stimulation and lifestyle enhancement.

An example is the Golden Gate Bridge: there was considerable opposition to its construction, including from the Southern Pacific Railroad, which faced the demise of its ferry service. Court challenges added years and extra costs to the project. But now it's hard to imagine anyone opposing the structure, which is not only an indispensable piece of transportation infrastructure but also a priceless public relations attraction for innumerable travelers to the Bay Area. 

The Interstate Highway System required many years of political wrangling mainly over financing. But the project did go forward and has contributed enormously to the nation's economic health. 

So too the outcome of the High-Speed Rail project will be so positive that future citizens will scratch their heads in wonder that there was ever opposition to such an obviously beneficial transportation improvement. The line will also forever wear the crown of the first real high-speed rail system to be built in the U.S.

 New dual-mode locomotives debut on NJ Transit

NEWARK, NJ, JULY 30, 2012 --[Transportation engineering firm STV released this information today]
A groundbreaking, first-of-a-kind locomotive made its long-anticipated debut in New Jersey recently thanks to the assistance of STV, a leading transportation engineering  firm, enabling NJ TRANSIT to take advantage of a locomotive that not only conserves fuel and reduces emissions and noise, but also increases operational flexibility across both electrified and non-electrified territories.

The ALP-45DP, also known as a Dual Powered Locomotive, is the first locomotive in the United States to be powered by the overhead catenary or by its twin diesel engines. Demonstrating its versatility, the first ALP-45DP locomotive to run on NJ TRANSIT arrived at Montclair State University Station in Montclair, NJ, under diesel power, raised its pantograph arm to make contact with the overhead catenary wire, and left the station for Hoboken Terminal under electric power.

"This is a revolutionary locomotive," said Christopher Holliday, P.E., STV senior vice president and vehicles and systems national practice leader. "With the ability to run under both diesel power and alternating current electric power, these new locomotives provide greater operating flexibility for our clients."

STV provided design, inspection and test engineering support services for this initiative, which also extends north of the border to Canada where the same vehicles are being procured for Agence Métropolitaine de Transport in Montreal. The locomotives are being manufactured by Bombardier in Kassel, Germany.

The new locomotives also offer better acceleration and lower exhaust emissions than NJ TRANSIT's current diesel equipment. In diesel mode, the vehicles can reach 100 mph and in electric mode, 125 mph. The switch from diesel to electric mode takes approximately 100 seconds.

[Editor's note: While the ALP-45DP is currently the only dual-mode locomotive in the U.S., there have been a number of others in the past.]

For a video about the ALP-45DP, visit STV's YouTube channel at:


STV is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012. Since its earliest predecessor firm opened its doors in 1912, the firm has grown to become a leader in providing engineering, planning, architectural, environmental, and construction management services for buildings and facilities, transportation systems, energy, and infrastructure. 

New analysis of California HSR environmental footprint

July 26, 2012 
In a study published July 26, 2012 in Environmental Research Letters, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State University reported an updated analysis of the environmental effects of California's planned High-Speed Train. 

They concluded that when the rail system becomes fully operational, it will reduce the state's transportation environmental footprint. An average train load of 80-180 passengers will produce as many emissions as a 35 mpg sedan with 2.2 people, they calculated, and a 130-280 passenger train would emit as much as a plane with only 116 passengers. 

In making these assessments they used emission estimates for improved auto and aircraft expected to be in future operation. 

For more details, see http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/07/26/california-high-speed-rail/

UK plans big investment in rail electrification

While oil interests in the U.S. wrangle with promoters over California's decision to release funds for starting a high-speed passenger train line between Northern and Southern California, the UK on July 16 announced plans to invest 9.4 billion pounds in electrifying rail lines in England and Wales.

The UK is apparently ready to move forward with this improvement without significant conroversy. Construction will take place between 2014 and 2019. Of the major nations, the U.S. and Canada are the only ones not yet enjoying the advantages of modern high-speed rail. 

For further details of this project, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18851907. 

High Speed Rail Ass'n salutes passage of CA HSR funding

July 10, 2012
Washington, DC - The US High Speed Rail Association (USHSR) commends the California Legislature for their vision, leadership, and commitment to the state's new high speed rail project. USHSR and its 250 members fully support this visionary transportation project, and commend the legislature and Governor Brown for leading the way in getting America to think big again.

"This is one of the most important projects in the history of America as it will be the first step in building the nation's 21st century transportation system.  We commend the legislature, Governor Brown, and Secretary LaHood for showing true leadership and moving forward with this project," said USHSR's President Andy Kunz.  "This is the beginning of a new direction in transportation for America, and California is leading the way!" added Kunz.  Widespread support for the project includes business groups, elected officials, labor, environmentalists, and millions of Californians.  "This is a courageous step forward for California's future" said Jim Wunderman, President of the Bay Area Council. 

 The deciding vote in favor of starting the project came late in the day Friday after hours of discussion and debate in the state Senate.  The Assembly voted to move forward with the project on Thursday, leaving the final vote for the Senate on Friday.  Not one single Republican voted for the bill in the Assembly or the Senate.  "This is puzzling because high speed rail supports many traditional Republican ideals that encourage big business, efficiency, new real estate development, big construction, manufacturing, economic development, international competitiveness, and national security," said USHSR's Kunz, "Republicans should be the leading champions of high speed rail!"

Immediately following the vote, Senator Darrell Steinberg said "This is a turning point in California, a time when we decided to say yes to hope, yes to progress, yes to the future."  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood added "No economy can grow faster than its transportation network allows.  With highways between California cities congested and airspace at a premium, Californians desperately need an alternative."

The Los Angeles Times said recently: "If Californians have the patience and the political will to stick with it, they'll have a project with extraordinary environmental, economic and transportation benefits.  If they don't, they'll have worsening congestion, rising pollution and soaring transit expenses as gasoline prices continue their inevitable rise.  We like the first vision of the future better."

Recent polls show over 88% of Americans support high speed rail.  Jim Earp, the Executive Director of California Alliance for Jobs said "Forward-thinking projects like high-speed rail offer tremendous environmental, economic and transportation benefits that are well worth the investment, not only now but for future generations."

USHSR supports the California high speed rail system as a Special Project of National Significance, and sees investment in HSR is both visionary and pragmatic.  It's visionary for thinking big and working for a better future.  It's pragmatic and fiscally conservative because it's a smart investment in the nation's future. HSR creates millions of jobs, revives manufacturing, stimulates real estate development, and sets up America to save energy, money, and time - year after year.  HSR delivers fast and reliable mobility, it lowers our carbon footprint, protects the nation from energy price spikes, and increases national security by reducing dependency on foreign oil.
Source: USHSRA

California approves high-speed rail funding
July 6, 2012
California will become the first state to enter the 21st century in transportation by starting construction of its long-planned high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The state Senate on July 6 voted by a narrow margin along party lines to issue bonds to begin work on the first segment of the line, between Madera and Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. Bond issuance was approved by voters in 2008. On July 5 the Assembly approved the funding measure by a healthy margin. Governor Jerry Brown, a strong supporter of the rail line, will sign the bill.

The bonds, totaling $4.6 billion, were necessary to qualify for an additional $3.3 billion in federal grants. (The voters in 2008 approved issuing $9.9 billion.) Besides going towards San Joaquin Valley construction, the $7.9 billion total includes $1.9 billion for rail transit projects in Northern and Southern California related to the overall upgrading of the rail travel environment, such as the important electrification of the Caltrain commuter line on the San Francisco peninsula and tunnel construction to bring trains into downtown San Francisco. 

The U.S. High Speed Rail Association has been a long-time advocate of this project and of HSR in general. They wrote:

There is widespread public and business support for California's HSR project as everyone is fed up with the horrible conditions on our highways, and with aviation that continues to deteriorate daily.  Building the state's HSR project will be far cheaper than expanding roads or airports.  HSR will deliver a whole new form of very high capacity mobility, while at the same time decongesting the roads and runways - making both of these function better as well.  This is a 3-for-1 deal of the century!  Spending the same money expanding California's highways by adding new lanes will be a waste of money because they will quickly fill up with more bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Archived news:

Amtrak plans National Train Day

    Amtrak is planning its third annual National Train Day,
to be held on Saturday, May 8, 2010.

Events will be held throughout the United States,
including at Washington DC Union Station, where
activities will include train equiipment and model train
displays, National Park Service Trails and Rails exhibit
and more. The National Train Day Spokesperson
will be on hand to meet and greet visitors. Event
planners said the Spokesperson will be announced soon.

The official Website for National Train Day is found
at www.nationaltrainday.com

New High Speed Rail Conference planned for Florida

 The U.S. High Speed Rail Association has announced its High Speed Rail 2010 conference scheduled for March 4-5 in Orlando, Florida. The USHSRA said its latest conference will be even more exciting than its inaugural conference of October 2009 in Washington DC. 

Among numerous major speakers invited are Florida Governor Charlie Crist; Mel Martinez, former US Senator (FL); Quentin Kopp, California High Speed Rail Authority; Antonio Perez, CEO of Talgo, Spain; Katsuhiko Ichikawa, Central Japan Railway; Ed Turanchik, Director ConnectUs, and many others. USHSRA said new speakers are being added weekly. 

A special emphasis of the conference is bringing high speed rail to Florida. Registrations for the conference are now being taken. Further information is at their Website at www.ushsr.com

New alliance promotes high speed rail

A founder and former chairman of the US High Speed Rail Association, Lewis J. Goetz, announced Jan 11 the formation of the American High Speed Rail alliance (AHSRA). The new organization, under president Eric C. Peterson, will broaden its scope to promote high speed rail in cooperation with the broad range of stakeholders, including federal and state governments, associations, manufacturers, service providers, consumers and advocates.

Said Peterson, "It is not enough to say you are interested in high speed rail, or to be a cheerleader for high speed rail. Developing a world class national high speed rail system will take the dedicated efforts of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans. AHSRA will serve as the unified voice for this effort, working hand in hand with stakeholders to make this national high speed rail system a reality." For more info, see its website at www.americanhsra.org.

Amtrak considers route restorals

Some cities on the former route of the Amtrak Pioneer train, which ran between Salt Lake City and Seattle, are calling for restoration of the service. Amtrak reportedly has been looking for a consultant to help with the evaluation of that route, suggesting that some progress is being made on that project. Amtrak was supposed to finish studying a number of route restorations by mid-October 2009, but there is apparently no further information on those studies. Typically, Amtrak does not publicly release information on such studies until they reach an advanced decision stage. 

The missing New Orleans-Orlando FL section of the Sunset Limited route, gone since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 due to damaged CSX tracks, is being pushed for restoration by a number of local politicians and community activist groups. Reportedly, CSX has no objection to restarting this service. Amtrak may be hesitating, however, because of the previous lower ridership on that Sunset leg. 

Virgin Pendolino train, operator's view. Virgin Trains photo.

Virgin Trains announces extra service London-Glasgow

Virgin Trains on Dec 17 announced the times of the additional trains on the London to Glasgow via Preston route over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, which will help passengers affected by the collapse of Scotland’s airline Flyglobespan. The extra trains had been arranged to help passengers affected by the planned strike action on British Airways, but will continue to operate following the High Court ruling that the strike cannot go ahead.

The extra trains will supplement the already advertised service of 26 trains daily in both directions between Euston and Glasgow.

Chris Gibb, Virgin Trains’ Chief Operating Officer said: “Christmas and New Year is an extremely busy time for us, but I am confident that with the additional trains being arranged alongside our scheduled services, most of which have 439 seats, we will be able to carry all our regular customers together with those affected by the planned BA strike and those whose travel plans have been disrupted by the collapse of Flyglobespan.”

Dec 23 update on Eurostar services

Eurostar has reported that the procedures that were put in place to prioritise passengers have worked well and in the course of today the backlog of passengers from the weekend has been cleared. Eurostar will continue to operate a restricted service on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 December. Trains will be running throughout the day. More information is available on www.eurostar.com. Customers with tickets for travel between Saturday 19 and Thursday 24 December can come to the terminal on either Wednesday or Thursday and we will do our best to allocate a seat on the next available train.

Eurostar service update for Dec 22

Eurostar will be resuming a restricted service from Tuesday 22 December. Trains will depart from 07.30 to 18.00 (GMT).

We continue to strongly advise customers whose journeys are not essential not to travel and to change their tickets for travel on a later date or have their tickets refunded.

Only customers who hold a ticket that was originally for travel on Saturday 19 or Sunday 20 December will be eligible for travel on Tuesday 22 December.

Customers holding tickets for Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 December will be eligible for travel on Wednesday 23 December. Customers holding tickets for Wednesday 23 or Thursday 24 December will be eligible for travel on Thursday 24 December.

Customers are advised not to attempt to travel independently via the channel ports or the Channel Tunnel unless they have confirmed bookings.

Eurostar begins independent review of problems

The Board of Eurostar announced today that it has commissioned an independent 
review into the problems it has experienced over recent days. The review will be led 
by Christopher Garnett,  former Chief Executive of GNER and formerly Commercial 
Director of Eurotunnel, in conjunction with Monsieur Claude Gressier who is 
Inspecteur General des Ponts et Chaussees. The review will begin at once. 

Eurostar service cancelled indefinitely

After weather-related power problems continued on the Eurostar service, 
the operator announced that service would be cancelled indefinitely until
the problem was resolved. Read original report here, which includes a trip 
report by a NY Times reporter.

See Eurostar announcement update

Amtrak Crescent stuck in snowstorm

The northbound Crescent, train 20, on Dec 19 became immobilized just outside 
Alexandria VA. Passengers said they had been stuck on the train for a long time
and complained of lack of information about their situation. The power in the
train had gone out after a time and the onboard temperature was falling. They
said the Amtrak crew had fed them a meager dinner of rice. 

Much of the East Coast had been hit by a very heavy snowstorm that day,
which paralyzed airports and highways as well. See a video report on the
Crescent situation at this link.

Eurostar suffers major breakdowns due to weather

Five Eurostar trains broke down Friday evening, Dec 18, stranding about 
2000 passengers in the Channel Tunnel. The highly disruptive and embarassing 
to Eurostar breakdown was blamed on the contrast in temperature between
the Continental side of the line, where extreme low temperatures were recorded,
and the higher temperatures in the tunnel. Read full story here.


Eurostar trains image is being upgraded

Eurostar announced in August that Italian designer Pininfarina will be re-designing 
the interiors of its trains. Now on Dec 17 came the announcement that SomeOne, 
a London-based creative design agency, has been tapped to provide a "new visual 
identity across all its traveller touch-points".   Eurostar said the visual identity being 
developed by SomeOne will tie in with PininFarina's new interior designs. 

Italy now tops all Eurail Pass single-country sales

More Eurail single-country Passes are being sold for Italian travel than for any other 
European nation. In addition, Italy has become the number-two country for overall 
Eurail Pass travel, according to a Dec 17 announcement from Eurail Group. 

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train hitting the Midwest

The Holiday Train is a freight train covered in more than 200,000 bright lights. At 
140 stops across Canada and United States, Canadian Pacific provides a box car 
stage, a line up of great musical talent and a corporate contribution to the local 
food pantries and food shelves. Food pantries and food shelves provide collection 
bins for non-perishable food. Communities, in turn, donate food and funds, all of 
which stays in the community. The Holiday Train has raised $4 million and 2 million 
pounds of food. Full schedules and background information are available at 
www.cpr.ca by clicking on the Holiday Train. For the train schedule for upcoming 
days in the Midwest, see this link.

Russian passenger train hit by terrorist bomb
See this story at CNN here:

California high-speed train project is set back by need for new environmental
See this story at SFGate here.

Will a federal jobs bill include funds for rail infrastructure?

House Democrats are working quickly on a jobs creation bill, hoping to have it ready for President Obama's signature in January, reports the L.A. Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-jobs27-2009nov27,0,3049289.story There is disappointment that the earlier stimulus package did not result in the creation of enough jobs, and the nation's unemployment rate has risen to 10.2%. 

There is talk of focussing heavily on "shovel-ready" projects to fund, including much infrastructure work. Rail advocates are asking whether badly-needed rail projects will be included in the legislation. An example of that sentiment comes from a Web diary commenter: "Government-created jobs to build rail lines might increase demand for concrete-and-steel ties made in the Midwest, steel rails made in America, earth-moving equipment to grade and clear new road beds, domestically produced signal devices, and... and... real jobs? By golly, somebody might even set up a factory to reclaim, rebuild and refurbish passenger cars that have been rusting on sidings or resting in switchyards for 60 years so that... wait for it... Amtrak might have more than 632 cars (Truth!) to use. Good heavens! If that happens, Amtrak might be able to increase its carrying contribution of passengers, move them more efficiently than by single-passenger autos, move America toward a more efficient mix of transport that reduces our dependence on foreign oil."  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/11/27/808513/-Democrats-Working-on-a-Multibillion-dollar-Jobs-Package! 

Senator Dianne Feinstein on Meet the Press Nov 22 said: "An interest that I have had for a long time is in high-speed rail, and there are three regional high-speed rail systems being planned in the United States.I'd like to see an infrastructure bank developed with some of the remaining TARP money that could lend to communities to move those plans forward quicker so that -- because transportation has a billion -- it has 40,000 jobs for a billion dollars spent, and so it's a good investment of funds right now. We have to be concerned with jobs." 

According to The Hill, "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said that passage of a $500 billion, six-year transportation reauthorization bill, funding highway and transit construction projects, could serve as a jobs bill, but the White House and Senate Democrats have only supported extensions of the current transportation bill." 

Rail advocates will continue to push for funding for high-speed rail and Amtrak upgrading and expansion.