Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

North Carolina’s future rides on rails

Here is an analysis published in the Charlotte Observer. Scott Saylor’s piece covers a lot of territory, but let me highlight a bit of it. You should read the whole thing, of course.

We are under no illusions that trains will replace highway construction. But traditional thinking won’t meet future transportation needs that are so important to our state’s economy and jobs. The North Carolina Railroad can help.We envision in 2020 a North Carolina Railroad with:

• Double tracking increased by 50 percent, mainly between Charlotte and Raleigh.

• A dozen more freight trains daily to the intermodal facility at the Charlotte airport. Intermodal, or container, business is the fastest growing segment of freight transport. Just the trains to the Charlotte facility will mean 3,000 fewer long haul trucks on 1-85 every day.

• Rush hour commuter rail service linking the Piedmont, Triangle, Metrolina and Eastern North Carolina

• Better performance for the trains we already have between Charlotte, Raleigh and on to the northeastern U.S.

There is real urgency to reach these goals. Four million people — the equivalent of South Carolina’s entire population — will arrive by 2030. Highways can’t carry that entire load.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Joplin Globe gets failing mark on rail editorial

Fiscal responsibility is a good idea, and Missouri has been ahead of the curve promoting passenger service between St. Louis and Kansas City. The Joplin paper is very critical in a recent editorial. Here is a taste of the sour sauce.

It would seem that freight trains are clogging the route between Kansas City and St. Louis and, as a result of delays, the number of passengers using Amtrak has fallen by 20,000 to about 116,000. According to an Amtrak spokesman, the passenger rail service has shown an increase in ridership nationwide.

We would suggest that legislators not only give consideration to the Amtrak-Union Pacific-MoDot plan, but also take a long look at whether the state’s taxpayers should continue to subsidize the passenger service.

A few years ago, we would have suggested that Amtrak was it a waste of valuable and limited state resources and should be eliminated from consideration in the state’s budget.

Darn it. They do have a point.

Missouri passengers and taxpayers are being held hostage by Union Pacific congestion. Delays have been numerous and prospective passengers expect some level of reliability.

Chronically late connecting trains at either end do not help.

We know why ridership is down and it is not too much to expect improvement. Railroads were built with public-private cooperation long ago, and it’s Union Pacific’s job to come up with a workable plan to professionally operate and dispatch Amtrak trains.

That should satisfy the editorial writers.

It is a foolish plan to discontinue this service. They do not generally come back once passenger infrastructure is destroyed. When they do come back (see Duluth story below) it’s expensive.  That would be real fiscal irresponsibility.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Russian luxury train

Normally, TFA does not report on high-end “toy trains,” but this one could be the forerunner of a dramatic improvement in rail passenger service in Russia. See for yourself. Russia Today reports.

Rail passengers who fancy a bit of luxury now have a new hotel on wheels – the ‘Express’ luxury train between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Popular across Europe and in Asia, it’s the first VIP train run by a state company in Russia. The route between the nation’s two capitals has always been in high demand for rail travelers, with it accounting for about 40% of all traffic in Russia’s North West.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Minneapolis movements

It looks like costs will be a bit higher than anticipated for improving the Minneapolis – Duluth rail link. The Bemidji Pioneer has an excellent story, and it contains some good news. If the trains operate at 110 mph, as described, people will use it. That seems to be the threshold speed, according to what I recall from the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

The last Amtrak passenger trains ran between the Twin Cities and Duluth in 1985, a trip that then took four hours. Trains often ran late, ridership had been consistently falling and public subsidies were increasingly needed to keep it running.

But boosters of a new line, led by county officials along the proposed route, say that times have changed. They’ve gained important allies in U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, along with both of Minnesota’s U.S. senators, Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar. They’ve cited an easing of traffic congestion, the prospect of new economic development and a positive environmental impact, among other factors.

The proposed line would feature trains that could reach speeds of 110 miles per hour and would have an average speed of 80 miles per hour on revamped Burlington Northern Santa Fe track, in contrast to a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour in 1985.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Fast trains for the Lone Star State?

Why Can’t We Have Fast Trains in Texas? PDF Print E-mail

What went wrong with Texas’ first attempt at higher speed passenger and freight rail service? What is keeping Texas from being more than a one track congested railroad system? What can be done to have a seamless transportation system in Texas and the Southwest? Presenters from government, business and industry and advocacy sectors will address these issues as Texas Rail Advocates hosts the 4th Annual South Central Rail Corridor Conference on Friday, February 1 at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Dallas.

Details on the only all-day all-rail conference in Texas can be found at http://www.texasrailadvocates.org/Conf-Feb-2008/index.html

This year, the French are in the spotlight as attendees hear how that country developed their rail network into today’s modern high-speed system. Representatives from the high-speed TGV rail network and the French government will discuss long-term construction and development aspects.

Presenters from Union Pacific, BNSF Railway, Texas Department of Transportation, Midwest High Speed Rail Association and others will discuss present and future plans for both freight and passenger services in Texas, the Southwest and across the country. International transportation columnist Don Phillips who was transportation reporter for the Washington Post, shares his insight on why the U.S. can’t wait any longer to develop a dynamic railroad system.

Presenters include:

• John Barton, P.E., newly appointed Assistant Executive Director, Texas Department of Transportation

• Linda Harper Brown, Texas State Representative

• Jean Pierre Arduin, French National Railways – growth and development of the French TGV High Speed Rail Network

• “Why the first try at High Speed Rail in Texas failed and what we can learn from it” – Hal Cooper, President, Cooper Engineering

• Pete Rickershauser, BNSF Railway, VP of Network Development (Thursday evening dinner speaker)

• “The Train to the Plane” – Andrew Sharpe, Director, International Air Rail Organization – London

• Sebastian Gourgouillat, Transportation and Construction Attachй, Embassy of France – Washington D.C.

• “Interstate II” – Moving from Road to Rail” – Gilbert Carmichael: Senior Chairman, Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver

• “A National Vision for Passenger Rail Service” – Ross Capon, Executive Director, National Association of Railroad Passengers, Washington D.C.

• “Incentives to Increase Freight Rail Capacity” – Patsy Harris, Go21

• Don Phillips, Internationally recognized transportation writer who also covered transportation issues for the Washington Post

• “Illinois’ Success Story on Higher Speed Rail” – Rick Harnish, Executive Director, Midwest High Speed Rail Association

• Update from Joe Adams, Chairman’s Special Representative, Union Pacific Railroad

• Curtis Morgan, Multi Modal Freight Transportation, Texas Transportation Institute

• Tim Gillespie, BGL Associates (formerly Vice President of Governmental Affairs for Amtrak) and an Officer for the Passenger Rail Today Political Action Committee.

A Thursday night, January 31 dinner will precede the conference. The rail forum draws attendees from local, state and federal agencies, passenger and freight railroads, business and industry sectors and rail advocacy organizations.

Texas Rail Advocates is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit who mission is to accelerate Texas’s economic growth and enhance the quality of life enjoyed by its people by advancing the development of rail service to its full potential as a carrier of freight and passengers.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

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