Amtrak's Acela to reach one million passenger mark

Amtrak's high-speed train service between Washington and Boston is expected to pass the million-passenger mark sometime in December after a year of operation.

Acela Express - billed as America's first high-speed train, capable of speeds up to 150 mph - experienced a surge in ridership after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks discouraged many from traveling by airplane.

The service, which is still being phased in along the Washington-New York-Boston corridor, ran below Amtrak's projections for much of the year but has exceeded them by 9 percent since Oct. 1, according to information released by the railroad.

As of Nov. 30, Acela Express trains had carried nearly 857,000 passengers. Service began Dec. 11, 2000, after more than a year of delays. At the time, one train made a daily roundtrip between Washington and Boston.

Conrail to pay Amtrak $3.5 million

Conrail agreed on December 10 to pay $3.5 million to settle claims it understated the number of miles its trains traveled on Amtrak's rails for reimbursement purposes.

Conrail was required under a 1986 contract to report the miles its trains traveled on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and pay for the use of the tracks.

Amtrak filed civil claims alleging that Conrail under-reported those car miles by well into the millions. Conrail denied any allegations of wrongdoing or liability to Amtrak.

In return for the $3.5 million, federal prosecutors agreed to release Conrail from any civil liability.

In addition, Amtrak agreed to drop any claims concerning the reporting of car miles through June 1, 1999, according to the agreement.

Conrail and Amtrak also agreed to arbitrate disputes over payment for use of "articulated," or "spine," cars on Amtrak's rails, which are capable of carrying multiple rail-freight containers, the settlement said.

CSXT settles 140-year-old dispute

CSXT has settled a 140-year dispute with the North Carolina Railroad, which involved ownership of a portion of track near Raleigh, N.C.

Under the agreement, NCRR, which owns a 317-mile rail corridor between Charlotte, N.C., and Morehead City, N.C., will be acknowledged by CSXT as owner of the track. In exchange, NCRR granted CSXT the right to continue using the corridor. Both companies agreed to continue to accommodate Amtrak.

Last year, CSXT filed a lawsuit disputing ownership of a 200-foot portion of the corridor, which is used by both CSXT and Amtrak.

Three teens killed walking on tracks

An Amtrak Acela Express train traveling 100 miles an hour rounded a curve December 9 and killed three teenagers who were walking on the railroad tracks. None of the train's 300 passengers were hurt.

The three victims were among five teenagers trespassing on the tracks in an industrial area in suburban Philadelphia, the police said.

The accident happened in Morrisville, about 25 miles northeast of Philadelphia, said an Amtrak spokeswoman said.

Passengers on the southbound Acela train en route to Washington were stranded for about two hours.

Canada to implement national standard at rail crossings

Carmanah Technologies Inc. has completed Phase 1 of a project to develop a national standard for LED warning signals at railway crossings all throughout Canada.

This phase completes a review of the standards in use in other jurisdictions, compares the strengths and weaknesses of LED and incandescent technologies, and reviews the scientific and technical findings that lead to a recommended specification.

In 2000, there were 458 fatalities involving railway crossing accidents in North America, including 33 fatalities and 33 serious injuries in Canada. Railway crossing accidents account for the largest percentage of all rail-related fatalities.

In September, Carmanah hosted 12 representatives of Transport Canada, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National. The objective was to review the company's laboratory tests and to participate in a field test of five types of LED- based light assemblies which may be used as part of the new national standard.

In February, Carmanah was awarded a $112,000 contract by Transport Canada to develop the new national standard for warning signals at road/railway grade crossings. A final recommendation for the national standard will be presented to Transport Canada in early 2002.

U.S. freight traffic up in November

U.S. freight rail carload traffic rose 1.7 percent (22,546 carloads) in November 2001 compared to November 2000, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported.

On the positive side in November 2001, carloads of coal were up 5.0 percent (25,986 carloads), grain was up 10.8 percent (9,005 carloads), and crushed stone and gravel was up 5.0 percent (3,625 carloads). All told, 9 of the 19 commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw an increase in carloads in November 2001 compared with November 2000.

On the negative side, carloads of metallic ores were down 7.7 percent (4,307 carloads), primary metal products was down 7.5 percent (3,675 carloads), and coke was down 11.1 percent (1,821 carloads) all reflecting the distress of the U.S. steel industry. Carloads of pulp and paper were down 8.2 percent (3,149 carloads) in November 2001, while carloads of primary forest products were down 13.6 percent (2,644 carloads). Carloads of chemicals were down 0.5 percent (507 carloads) in November.

Canadian rail carloads were down just 0.6 percent (1,472 carloads) in November 2001 compared with November 2000. Carloads of grain for Canadian carriers were up 14.8 percent (5,170 carloads) for the month, pulp and paper was up 5.1 percent (888 carloads), and coal was up 2.3 percent (832 carloads). Commodities that showed declines in November include farm products excluding grain (down 33.8 percent, or 4,387 carloads), lumber and wood products (down 15.1 percent, or 1,937 carloads), chemicals (down 3.0 percent, or 1,598 carloads), and motor vehicles and equipment (down 3.4 percent, or 1,083 carloads).

Maglev hearing raises questions

Residents of Penn Township, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh, organized a meeting to learn more about the maglev project planned for their area, but came away from the meeting with more questions than answers.

During the meeting, held in early December, township residents peppered maglev officials with questions about property acquisition, possible routes through the municipality, benefits the township could gain from hosting a route, noise levels, and more.

Unfortunately, maglev officials couldn't answer many of the questions with detail because an Environmental Impact Study, or EIS, isn't finished. But they added that they care about what the citizens had to say and think.

The train system would connect Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh International Airport. The Pennsylvania project is competing with Baltimore-Washington to receive federal funds to be the first maglev system in the country.

Particularly at issue for Penn residents are two of three routes proposed through Westmoreland County because both would go through the township. Those two alignments already have been opposed by the township's commissioners in comments sent to maglev.

Maglev officials said that they couldn't now say which of the three routes through Westmoreland County would be selected. They also said that another round of public hearings is scheduled for January or February.

DM&E wins key STB decision

The Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad won a key regulatory victory in its quest to build a $1.4 billion rail line into Wyoming.

The final environmental-impact statement, released by the federal Surface Transportation Board on November 19, gave the project a conditional green light. The EIS added 147 separate conditions costing an extra $140 million. However, none are expected to derail the project.

DM&E wants to extend and rebuild its existing east-west line to create a high-traffic railroad that could move up to 100 million tons of Wyoming coal a year to Midwestern utility markets.

In December 1998, the STB approved the project on its transportation merits, then ordered its environmental staff to write an environmental-impact statement.

DM&E officials said they hope to start construction by 2003 and have trains running by 2006.


2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers