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Old January 12th, 2006, 05:52 AM   #61
Frank J. Sprague
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FM 2258
I agree, there's really no point in taking rail for long distances unles you live between Washington, DC and Boston, MA. Then again in that case maybe flying or driving is better. At least with trains you don't have traffic jams.....or I don't think they do.

Aside from Amtrak, we need to figure out a rail solution for cities with lots of suburban sprawl. I recently took a flight from Houston to Austin and it was really sad because my drive home from the airport was a little over an hour while the flight was 30 minutes. I would gladly take a train to the airport if we had one. I'd have someone drop me off at a local station and hop on. No paying a shitload of money for gas, airport parking or taxi's.
Houston is about 160 miles from Austin by a former SP line (this was in a 1948 rail atlas, I'm assuming the line is still intact). Figuring you were able to run a train between the two with a top speed of 110mph you could probably average 80mph end to end. That would make a trip of 160 miles in two hours time. That is of course over optomistic considering the condition of most track in the US but shows what could be achieved with moderate upgrades rather than going for TGV levels of service in one step.

Another posters on this thread have pointed out that intercity passenger rail in the US will be hampered by lack of good public transport. This will be less of a handicap if at least one of the cities on a route has good public transport. Using the DOT's High Speed Rail Corridors as a starting point we find some routes that would have this.

I would suggest that Amtraks coach fleet be redeployed to give good service on a few corridors rather than poor service on a larger route system. The routes must be no more than a few hundred miles long and have a large population base to draw from, with at least one point having go public transport. In deference to political reality in the US the benefits must be national in scope. To cut to the chase, if a majority of states benefit from this support can be had in the senate.

I would suggest phase one to include:
Northeast Corridor, with the southern end extended into Virginia as far as Richmond.
Southeast Corridor, reoriented to focus upon Atlanta in a Birmingham-Atlanta-Greenville-Charlotte service.
South Central Corridor, phase one would be Oklahoma City-Dallas-Austin-San Antonio.
Midwest Network would focus upon Chicago with routes begining in Milwaukee to Chicago and then going either to St Louis or via Indianapolis to Cinncinatti or Louisville.
California should include an interstate component of Los Angeles-Las Vegas.
Pacific Northwest would be the existing route.
The goal should be to offer hourly or at least every other hour service between all points during the day. Twentyfive states would benefit from this service.

Amtrak's sleeper cars should be redeployed to create overland RO/RO car ferries running overnight. An example of a route would be running east from Denver to the Kansas side of the Missouri River.

It may also be expedient to create daylight trains running greater distances to serve more states such as a Butte-Pocatello-Salt Lake City run. Amtrak's car fleet has poor utilization, it should be possible to get at least twice the revenue miles than is done at the present time with existing equipment.
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Old January 12th, 2006, 06:10 PM   #62
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Aside from Amtrak, we need to figure out a rail solution for cities with lots of suburban sprawl. I recently took a flight from Houston to Austin and it was really sad because my drive home from the airport was a little over an hour while the flight was 30 minutes.
Try flying from JFK to Boston during the evening push. Spend 40 minutes taxying around JFK. Spend 35 minutes in the air.
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Old January 16th, 2006, 01:37 AM   #63
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The Ohio Hub Train System (pdf) would meet the system Midwest High Speed Rail Association at Toledo and Cincinnati, actually sharing track between Toledo and Cleveland.



With a network like this in place the addition of more links such as Dayton-Indianapolis-St Louis allows for many more city pairs to be connected. Likewise for the projected Columbus-Pittsburgh link which would also tie in with the Keystone corridor. The projected line between Toledo and Columbus could continue south to Charleston, West Virginia to allow it access to the network.

Not each city pair would need to be connected directly to make longer journeys possible, for instance a journey between Buffalo and St Louis could be make by a combination of Buffalo-Cleveland, Cleveland-Indianapolis and Indianapolis-St Louis trains. Of course at this distance the trip would not be competitive with the airlines but if the travel was between intermediate points such as Erie, Pennsylvannia to Terre Haute, Indiana it would be a different matter.

Anyway I think for now passenger trains need to worry more about competing with autos than planes, and the lines should also function to relieve freight from the highways. Since the bulk of the passenger travel will during the day while a lot of freight travels overnight it may be possible to have higher speed operation during the day for passenger trains.

Also any ROW around large cities should allow for at last four tracks to allow for commuter trains.
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Old January 18th, 2006, 01:43 AM   #64
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I take the train alot to Chicago from stl and the serice is normaly great and takes just as long as a car and is only around 45 dollars roundtrip. Now when i go places like back home to Wichita or KC its still cheaper then a plane but the rail lines are in bad shape and the travel time is a bit longer and some of the stations are jokes, like the one here in stl. HOW in the hell does a city this size and at one time have the largest rail termional in the world not have anything better then a shack? Or my home town not even have amtrak run there? you have to drive a half hour north to newton kansas to get on the train and it only runs every 10 or 12 hours.
Also the trains are always full and i can hardly ever find a place to sit on either trains.

Last edited by stlouiscityboy; January 18th, 2006 at 01:48 AM.
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Old January 18th, 2006, 01:58 AM   #65
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you have to drive a half hour north to newton kansas to get on the train and it only runs every 10 or 12 hours.
In the Netherlands on all railway's there is at least every hour a train. In densed area's every 15 minutes.

Only on international connections there are less trains: Amsterdam - Paris runs 6 times a day, and the trains from Amsterdam directly to Germany (and Poland) runs just 3 times a day...
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Old January 18th, 2006, 05:12 AM   #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stlouiscityboy
I take the train alot to Chicago from stl and the serice is normaly great and takes just as long as a car and is only around 45 dollars roundtrip. Now when i go places like back home to Wichita or KC its still cheaper then a plane but the rail lines are in bad shape and the travel time is a bit longer and some of the stations are jokes, like the one here in stl. HOW in the hell does a city this size and at one time have the largest rail termional in the world not have anything better then a shack? Or my home town not even have amtrak run there? you have to drive a half hour north to newton kansas to get on the train and it only runs every 10 or 12 hours.
Also the trains are always full and i can hardly ever find a place to sit on either trains.
That was a beautiful station and they turned into a mall and left St Louis with an Amshack. Done properly it should be restored for use as a train station, with commuter trains and inter-city trains connecting to Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, Memphis and Kansas City at hourly intervals. Probably even some longer runs to other destinations like Oklahoma City, Dallas-Ft Worth, Atlanta and the twin cities.

If you can find an old atlas (pre WW2) you will find that they usually had a page which showed distance by rail between major cities across the US. I am using a reprint of a 1948 railroad atlas by Rand McNally. St Louis was the hub a well developed network. At one time we had three separate railroads that connected St Louis to Kansas City directly, one of those lines should be preserved and upgraded for passenger and express freight traffic. Wichita could be served as part of an Oklahoma City-Wichita-Topeka-Kansas City route.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 07:55 AM   #67
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Probing Question: Why don't we have high-speed trains in the U.S.?
Thursday, April 27, 2006

By Lisa Duchene
Research/Penn State

The next time you need to get to New York or Washington, D.C., think how much easier it would be if high-speed trains were as common here as they are in Europe. Such trains would leave every hour and get you to your destination -- even right to the airport -- on time and faster than driving.

Here in the United States, high-speed trains are fantasy, but not in Europe or Japan. Eurostar trains run on the hour, speeding London passengers at up to 186 mph to Paris in about two and a half hours, for about $266 round trip. Trains between Barcelona and Madrid soon will reach 210 mph.

Japan's high-speed trains, the world's first, have linked Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka since 1964. The shinkansen, or "bullet" trains now reach speeds of more than 186 mph, shuttling riders from Tokyo to Osaka in two and a half hours, for about $120 each way.

Here, Amtrak's Acela Express makes the trip from Washington, D.C., to Boston in about six and a half hours for about $321 round trip. The Acela typically runs at speeds up to 120 to 130 mph and on one short stretch at 150 mph, speeds that make it the fastest train in America but are considered slow by global standards.

Why are we so far behind?

The answer is simple, said John Spychalski, professor of supply chain management in Penn State's Smeal College of Business. The U.S. government won't pay for high-speed trains.

"(High-speed train service) is not going to be built by private enterprise, no more than the interstate highway system was built by private enterprise," Spychalski explained. "The U.S. would not have the air-transport system developed to where it is today without public-sector involvement."

A lack of political support at the federal and state levels keeps Amtrak in an annual battle just to survive, ensuring that high-speed train service is not available in most of the country, said Spychalski.

This political vacuum has been consistent over many decades among both Republicans and Democrats, he noted, and has its roots in public attitudes.

"What does the average person know of high-speed rail? Very little," Spychalski said. "Their mindset is centered on two things they know: autos and airplanes." Where trains are seen as a quaint part of our history, Americans view their cars as status symbols, an extension of ego and class distinction.

Over the 20-year period from 1978 to 1999, federal spending on rail travel totaled $18.3 billion, about 3.6 percent of total transportation spending. In the same period, the nation spent $251.5 billion on highways (49.9 percent), and $114 billion on air (22.6 percent). During these two decades, spending on rail dropped 1.9 percent annually as spending on every other transportation mode increased annually up to 10 percent, according to a recent report from the Mineta Transportation Institute.

Last year, President Bush proposed zero funding for Amtrak, but then signed Congress' final budget with $1.3 billion for rail service. This year, Bush proposed cutting Amtrak's budget back to $900 million. Amtrak officials say they need $1.6 billion to operate at the current level and can't afford to make any progress.

"Funding of Amtrak is always hard-scrabble," said Spychalski. "Amtrak is always trying to catch up."

The benefits of high-speed train service, he explained, would include relieving pressure on the air traffic control system in crowded regions like New England, California and Chicago by getting passengers city-to-city faster than air flights.

Environmentally, rail uses the least land to move the most people, and high-speed trains promise better air quality, he added.

Traveling by rail is safer than traveling by car, Spychalski says. Plus, rail tends to be less vulnerable to severe weather and to terrorism.

The better-linked a rail system is to autos and air -- i.e. the rail stations at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport and Frankfurt's Airport -- the more valuable it is, said Spychalski. "We need to look at the transport system from a total system perspective and look at how the air, rail and road relate to each other."

Despite the political barriers, there are some U.S. rail success stories, said Spychalski. They include restoration of rail service between Boston and Portland, Maine, and both inter-city and commuter rail passenger services serving key areas within California. Ridership is increasing in both places.

Here in Pennsylvania, the state and Amtrak are working on a $100 million project to make train service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia faster, safer and more convenient.

The many benefits of high-speed rail and these success stories keep Spychalski hopeful that someday U.S. trains will eventually climb that political mountain, just like the Little Engine that Could.

***

John Spychalski is professor of supply chain management in the Smeal College of Business and editor of Transportation Journal. He works on projects at the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, is working on a European freight rail project and serves as chairman of the board of the Centre County Area Transportation Authority. He can be reached at [email protected] via e-mail.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 03:13 AM   #68
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US Rails to Thrive Even if Economy Slows

ANALYSIS-US rails say will thrive even if U.S. economy won't
By Nick Carey

CHICAGO, Aug 7 (Reuters) - When railroads reported second -quarter earnings last month, their stocks took a battering.

Not because they missed expectations -- in some cases, they outperformed -- but because investors feared a coming economic slowdown could hit their future earnings.

But the idea that railroad fortunes move in lock-step with the economy could be outdated. Some say railroads will continue to grow even if the economy weakens, boosted by rising imports from China, soaring demand for coal and ethanol, plus pricing power not seen for decades.

"We are far less dependent on the economy than we were a decade ago," said Wick Moorman, chief executive of railroad Norfolk Southern Corp. . "Unfortunately there are some people in the market who have not yet embraced that idea."

Shares of Union Pacific Corp. fell nearly 3 percent on July 20, despite earnings results well above expectations. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. fell nearly 8 percent on July 25, helped partly by package delivery company United Parcel Service Inc. , which missed analysts' forecasts and warned of a moderating economy that same day.

Worries of a U.S. economic slowdown had many investors scrambling to sell. Conventional wisdom has it that the railroads are a bellwether of the U.S. economy. If economic activity slows, fewer goods move by train.

But that thinking may no longer apply, making railroad shares attractive buys at current valuations.

"We're still in the middle of a rail renaissance," said Tony Hatch of New York-based ABH Consulting. "Unfortunately, the only way to prove that the railroads will keep growing in a weakening economy is to experience a slowdown."

HELPED BY IMPORTS, TRUCKING WOES, OIL PRICES

Hatch and others believe that as the United States shifts its manufacturing base overseas, rising imports of cheap consumer goods from developing nations such as China will continue to grow, even as the U.S. economy slows.

"If there is an economic slowdown we should see an improvement in that (import) business as people will be looking for lower-cost goods," said Matthew Rose, CEO of U.S. railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. .

Soaring demand for coal from power plants is another source of growth for the rails, as natural gas becomes increasingly expensive. Oil prices are expected to remain high.

High fuel prices have also helped the railroads take market share from trucking companies, which are less fuel-efficient and more costly to operate. Adding to the trucking industry's woes is a growing shortage of drivers.

Also tied to the issue of oil is ethanol; demand for the biofuel is on the rise because U.S. refiners are now using it as a cleaner gasoline additive instead of water-polluting MTBE.

All these trends have contributed to record rail profits.

"While the railroads still carry goods such as autos and chemicals that are cyclical, more than half of what they carry cannot be considered dependent on economic cycles," said Peter Smith, an analyst at Morningstar.

To be sure, there is still a hefty chunk of rail business that remains susceptible to economic slowdowns, but that is being offset by another another crucial benefit for the rails -- steadily improving pricing power.

PRICING POWER

For more than 20 years after the deregulation of the U.S. railroads in 1980, prices for hauling goods declined in real terms. Facing tight capacity and soaring demand over the past few years, in 2005 railroads hiked prices by at least 10 percent.

Fresh price hikes have followed this year and some rail executives have indicated more are in the pipeline.

"The pricing renaissance of the railroads means they have the best pricing power we've seen for a quarter of a century," said Ken Hoexter, an analyst at Merrill Lynch. "Even if growth moderates, we should see that pricing story continue because of tight capacity."

"We remain confident about these stocks," he added, "though some investors will only be convinced by sustainable profit growth in the next few quarters despite a weakening economy."

Believers like Hoexter and Hatch say now is a good time to buy railroad stocks because they are cheap.

Union Pacific Corp. is trading 16.7 times earnings, BNSF is trading under 15 times earnings, Norfolk Southern is at 13.3 and CSX Corp. is below 13.6. The sector average is just under 21 times earnings.

"These stocks are trading at near trough multiples," Hoexter said.

In a July 27 research note Bear Stearns analyst Edward Wolfe reiterated the investment bank's "overweight" rating on Norfolk Southern, CSX and BNSF.

"(T)his group remains near its historical low-end valuation despite the best fundamentals...," he wrote.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 05:32 AM   #69
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Good article hkskyline! Thanks for your research and sharing!
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Old August 9th, 2006, 05:43 AM   #70
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is passenger travel still valuable to the rail companies? or is revenue mostly based on freight
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Old August 9th, 2006, 08:24 AM   #71
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The private rail companies only rely on freight...

Passenger Rail is operated by the Public-owned Amtrak, which isn't that hot outside the Northeast US in revenues.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 10:00 AM   #72
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Amtrak is really bad. Oi.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 10:35 AM   #73
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xAKxRUSx
Amtrak is really bad. Oi.
I think that this article is mostly talking about Chicago's freight rail...
Well, it all depends, but I would say yes, it doesn't look too good the way it is heading! But I heard that there are some sort of HSR underway that might pick up the slack of amtrak tho, so we will see!
BTW, Metra on the other hand is do fairly well servering as Chicagoland commuter rail which IMHO, should also upgrade its existing technology should they like to continuing attract even higher ridership when the oil prices are at major concerns for the drivers!
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Old August 9th, 2006, 08:20 PM   #74
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Yea, Metra is pretty decent.
Could be a bit cheaper though. A bit expensive for a college student. lol
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Old August 10th, 2006, 03:56 AM   #75
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Intercity passenger rail is handled by the nationalized Amtrak, which isn't doing good anywhere, but it has almost no public support. Commuter rail (suburbs to city center) is actually faring OK, even though it is practically all public. It tends to get overlooked, particularly because it does such short runs with only basic accomodations. But I think at some point we might see two nearby cities combine, and perhaps then we might see a resurgence in passenger rail in the US.

I don't think any of the HSR proposals are particularly strong. The government unfortunately is not standing behind them, passenger rail is drastically over-regulated, and the dominance of freight railroads all conspire against it.
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Old August 10th, 2006, 04:19 AM   #76
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cloudship
Intercity passenger rail is handled by the nationalized Amtrak, which isn't doing good anywhere, but it has almost no public support. Commuter rail (suburbs to city center) is actually faring OK, even though it is practically all public. It tends to get overlooked, particularly because it does such short runs with only basic accomodations. But I think at some point we might see two nearby cities combine, and perhaps then we might see a resurgence in passenger rail in the US.

I don't think any of the HSR proposals are particularly strong. The government unfortunately is not standing behind them, passenger rail is drastically over-regulated, and the dominance of freight railroads all conspire against it.
But think about it tho, with the oil prices going nuts, the airfares are most likely to hike up due to its heavy reliance on gas and since HSR doesn't require gas, I think that government should think about the future NOW more so than ever! It isn't just good for the people, it is good for the national economy overall, unless we come to some sort of alternative energy plan, HSR seems to be well fit into the future long haul commuter rail area!
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Old August 10th, 2006, 11:26 PM   #77
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In the US, oil is still a major fuel source for electricity.

Having said that, I do think it is high time, in fact after todays events, I think it is now desperation time, for the US to build an alternative transportation system. But in order for that to happen, there has to be some major changes:

1) The railroad regulations need serious, drastic overhaul. I am thinking totally new agency, everything.

2) We need national support for them. This means national support for lines and stations. A national control system. And a national organization. I think we need to build a new gauge and lay new lines - forget about trying to reuse old trakc.

3) We need to stop proping the airline industry up in deference to other forms of transportation

4) We need to stop this idea of individual payment of transportation. It is a medieval system of class control, keeping the rich rich and poor poor, preventing the poor people form getting around and getting ahead, and discouraging the mobilization of citizens.

5) We need to tell the frieght industry to go stick it - railroads aren't there to just serve them. They have been granted enourmous amounts of land, with the idea that they would help the people. By discouraging passenger traffic they are not living up to that promise, and I think they need to be held accountable for it.
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Old January 17th, 2007, 09:53 AM   #78
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Rail Security Lapses Rampant Across US - Investigation

Newspaper: Rail security lapses rampant across U.S.
16 January 2007

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Train lines that carry hazardous shipments have little or no police presence and shoddy security that makes them easy targets for terrorists, according to a newspaper investigation.

During a several-month, nationwide investigation, a reporter with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was able to penetrate 48 hazardous chemical plants and the freight lines that service them. The reporter, who left his business cards on the cars, was never questioned when he climbed trains, photographed derailing levers and peeked into signaling boxes that control rail traffic, the newspaper reported in a series of stories that began Sunday.

"What you uncovered is a criminal tragedy, and it's a criminal tragedy that's just waiting to happen. It's also criminal what we haven't done about this," U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., told the newspaper. Biden has sponsored legislation to revamp rail security nationwide and pledged to hold hearings on the issue.

The newspaper visited rail lines from Seattle to New Jersey that had been documented by the Federal Railroad Administration since 2003 for defects in security. The newspaper found that little, if anything, had changed since those first reports were issued.

In Las Vegas, the Tribune-Review reporter reached 11 hazmat tankers either inside plants or along rail tracks. As a result of the findings, the Nevada Homeland Security Commission said it is investigating security shortfalls.

"Closing gates, making sure workers and guards and police are aware of our chemicals, that's important," Commission Supervisor Larry Casey said. "Unfortunately, the farther we get from 9/11, the more people forget about staying vigilant."

The Tribune-Review reporter left about 100 business cards on Union Pacific hazmat tankers from Las Vegas to Seattle.

"Our only statement is that we believe what you did is dangerous and we strongly encourage people to stay away from railroad tracks," Jim Barnes, a spokesman for Union Pacific railroad, told the newspaper.

Among other things, the newspaper also found defects or lapses in security in several other areas, including:

--In Atlanta, the reporter climbed aboard unguarded stores of deadly insecticides, flammable petroleum distillates and acetone. Atlanta and Georgia homeland security officials declined to comment on the newspaper's findings.

--Despite security cameras, roving patrols and high fences at Pioneer America's Tacoma, Wash., bleach plant, the reporter walked past rail switching levers and safety chocks to access a railcar filled with chlorine that was sitting outside the railyard gates. Pioneer's plant manager said police did patrol the area.

--In the New Jersey suburbs abutting New York City, the Tribune-Review found the toughest chemical plant security of anywhere, but was still able to enter 12 chemical facilities or railroads. Richard Canas, director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said the state is vigilant about protecting its rail lines but there are some vulnerabilities.

Nancy Wilson, vice president and director of security for the Association of American Railroads, said freight security has improved since 2001 but more must be done. There is about 240,000 miles of unprotected railroad line in the U.S.

"You've got to remember the open architecture of railroads. We're not static facilities. We cannot protect every railcar, every rail yard or every customer's facility all the time," said Wilson, whose organization represents haulers who handle about 90 percent of the nation's hazmat truck cars.

Homeland Security officials and the association said there's no indication that terrorists are plotting any rail attacks in the U.S.

"To me, this is a no-brainer for terrorists in Atlanta or anywhere else," Sal DePasquale, a Georgia State University expert on counterterrorism and retired security director for chemical titan Georgia Pacific, told the newspaper. "It's toxic material. It's unprotected. If you're a railroad or a chemical plant and you won't have someone ready to kill the adversary ready to attack your plant, then what can you do?"
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Old January 17th, 2007, 09:55 AM   #79
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keeping the homeland secure my ass.
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Old January 18th, 2007, 08:16 AM   #80
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Amtrak

Amtrak exec says it can keep long-distance trains
By John Crawley

WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Amtrak can operate more efficiently and maintain its long distance service, but success of the U.S. national rail system is going to depend heavily on state investment, Amtrak's president said on Tuesday.

Alexander Kummant told reporters at Union Station, where senators unveiled a rail investment proposal, he has no plans to undo the financially weak but politically backed network of trains that operate outside the flagship Northeast line.

Kummant said his view is to sustain the long-distance service but not preserve the business practices that have led to huge annual losses on trains that sprawl across the West, Midwest and South on tracks owned by freight railroads.

Ten to 15 years in the future, Kummant hopes Amtrak service throughout the country would be underpinned by billions of dollars in state capital invested in short-haul corridors that connect cities but also stop in smaller locales. He believes that highway and air congestion, coupled with high fuel costs, will drive rail development.

"I would say look at corridor conversion -- where can you take a long-distance train and break that into multiple state corridors where it makes sense?" Kummant said. "We want to approach that carefully but meaningfully."

Kummant, a former freight rail executive, also says he hopes to wring more cost savings out from operations.

Amtrak, a for-profit federal corporation, has muddled along for 35 years with annual federal subsidies that barely keep its trains in service and its infrastructure in good condition.

It has lurched from crisis to crisis, almost shutting down once before the Bush administration strong-armed business and operating reforms to save money. The changes fueled expectations Amtrak would slash popular but poorly performing long-distance routes.

Some of the administration's reform proposals, those that would have dismantled Amtrak and offered some of its routes to the highest bidder, have faltered. But two points remain and underpin the leading congressional rail funding proposal -- more state support and greater efficiency.

"We can't keep asking Amtrak to operate like a business while we string along the company year to year," said Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican.

The $19.2 billion plan by Lott and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, would provide $3.2 billion annually for Amtrak over six years. The rest would help states finance capital for rail development.
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