Friday, August 9, 2013

Iron Horse Roundup For July/August 2013

AFP Photo
MONTREAL, MAINE & ATLANTIC- In the wake of last month's deadly runaway train wreck that devastated the southern Quebec town of Lac Megantic, Hermon, ME-based Montreal, Maine & Atlantic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal bankruptcy court in Bangor, ME.
The MM&A has also petitioned Canadian civil courts for relief under that country's Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. The company appears to have set aside nearly $786,000 as “indemnification and/or contribution in connection with wrongful death litigation and other claims,” according to a listing of the company’s 20 largest creditors.

MMA still owes $27.5 million of a $35 million loan it received from the Federal Rail Administration in 2005, according to Gardner’s affidavit. The railroad also has a $6 million line of credit with the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. issued in June 2009. That company has sought to protect its security interest, the affidavit said.
Other creditors include JD Irving subsidiary New Brunswick Southern, a subsidiary of San Antonio, TX-based Valero energy [NYSE- VLO], Minneapolis, MN-based Flex Leasing LLC and the Canadian Pacific railroad [NYSE- CP; TSX- CP].

Although a federal bankruptcy judge ruled that the MM&A could continue to operate under Chapter 11 reorganization, the line through Lac Megantic is still closed, effectively severing the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic in two. At the end of July, Maine state officials had entered into talks with four other unnamed railways to continue service in anticipation of the MM&A shutting down.

The MM&A laid off 79 workers in the wake of the Lac Megantic disaster. Meanwhile, Canadian officials have raised the death toll in Lac Megantic to 47 during the July 6th derailment.

Xoan Soler- La Voz de Galicia

SPAIN- The driver of a train that derailed and killed 78 passengers in northwestern Spain has been provisionally charged with multiple counts of negligent homicide, although he wasn't required to post bond or sent to jail because he wasn't considered a flight risk.
Garzon was questioned for almost two hours at the court in Santiago de Compostela, the northwestern town near where the accident occurred.

Garzon was driving the train carrying 218 passenger in eight cars that hurtled far over the 80-kph (50-mph) speed limit into a high-risk curve on Wednesday evening, tumbling off the tracks and slamming into a concrete wall, with some of the cars catching fire.

The Spanish rail agency has said the brakes should have been applied four kilometers (2.5 miles) before the train hit the curve

However, a local resident who rushed to the scene of the accident said in an interview broadcast Sunday that minutes after the crash Garzon had told him he had been going fast and couldn’t brake.

The resident, Evaristo Iglesias, said he and another person accompanied the blood-soaked Garzon to flat ground where other injured people were being laid out, waiting for emergency services to arrive.

“He told us that he wanted to die,” Iglesias told Antena 3 television. “He said he had needed to brake but couldn’t,” Iglesias said. He added that Garzon said “he had been going fast.”

In its report about the accident, Antena 3 television showed a photograph of Iglesias in a pink shirt and cap helping to carry the driver after the train accident. The station also aired television footage of Iglesias working beside the wrecked train to help other survivors.

Garzon was reportedly on the phone with an agent at the next station to determine which track his train was to come in on. While in the USA, train crews are now prohibited from talking on the phone while operating the train, Spain's state-run RENFE uses what's referred to as 'tren-tierra' or train to land lines to communicate between stations and crew. Shortly before the accident, the train passed from an area where computers control most of the train's functions to one where the driver has to brake and accelerate accordingly. It's believed that Garzon may have missed this transition point while he was on the phone.

ARGENTINA- Transportation officials in Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires have released in-cab CCTV footage of engineers reading, napping or playing on their phones while the train is in motion.
In one clip, the driver is seen stepping up to the camera in his train cabin, attempting to obscure the lens so his activities cannot be seen. Other drivers are more overtly distracted, with some taking a nap, reading a book or playing on their mobile phone.

Argentina's Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo has since vowed to lead a crackdown on dangerous train drivers.

He plans to ban phone calls and unauthorised people in the cab

Mr Randazzo has introduced daily medical checks on all drivers to gauge their fitness to drive and to reduce the risk of them falling asleep at the controls.

Under the new system, all those caught distracted on camera will either be disciplined or fired.
The release of the footage comes more than a year after a commuter train plowed into a terminal in Buenos Aires, killing 49 and injuring hundreds.

FRANCE- Investigators in France believe a faulty switch system was to blame in a deadly derailment that killed six passengers at a station south of Paris last month.

After leaving the tracks, the train crashed into the station at Bretigny-sur-Orge.

A passenger speaking on France's BFM television said the train was going at a normal speed and was not meant to stop at Bretigny-sur-Orge.

He described children unattended in the chaotic aftermath, and swarms of emergency workers at the scene.

Two train cars, numbers 3 and 4, initially derailed, then knocked the other cars off the track, SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy said.

"Some cars simply derailed, others are leaning, others fell over," he said

A spokesman for the French state-run railway- SNCF- said the train was carrying an estimated 350 passengers when it derailed at 5:15 PM local time at Gare Bretigny sur Orge. The official death toll from the accident was 7 with more than 20 injured.

CALIFORNIA- Governor Jerry Brown has ordered a 60-day 'cooling down' period between San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit and workers threatening to strike over an expired contract with the transit agency.

Last month, a 4-day strike had left Bay Area commuters scrambling for alternate transportation. It was the first strike for BART since 1997.

Prior to Brown's announcement, both the Service Employees International Union and Amalgamated Transit Union were hoping the looming deadline of Sunday, Aug 11th would be sufficient to pressure BART management to agree to a renewed contract on the union's terms. Prior to Brown's intervention, the unions had threatened to resume their strike after this weekend.

The two month delay would take away some leverage from unions representing BART employees as it would allow the agency time to recruit replacement workers from out of retirement. An odd clause in the contract originally signed in 1979 would have prevented BART from hiring replacement drivers until the workers actually went on strike, and even then the replacement workers would only after completing a 15 week training course.

Reuters/Denis Balibouse

SWITZERLAND- Transportation officials in Switzerland are investigating the cause of a head-on collision between two passenger trains in the western part of the country. The crash killed the driver of one of the trains and injured at least 35 passengers.

The two Swiss Federal Railways regional passenger trains collided with one another head-on at Granges-Marnand in the Vaud Canton outside of Lucerne on July 29th. Although some press outlets have speculated that one of the trains left the Granges-Marnand station too early and collided with an incoming train, officials have yet to determine the exact cause of the crash and are moving both wrecked train sets to another location to closer examine the wreckage.

SOO Line SD60 #6053 leads an SD60M over county highway G38 outside of Washington, IA with a northbound Kansas City-St Paul manifest freight train on June 2012. Eric Rasmussen photo.

CANADIAN PACIFIC- In a surprise move, the Canadian Pacific Railroad announced that they are seeking bids for more than 40 former Soo Line SD60s and SD60Ms. The solicitation comes as the CPR is more than halfway through an extensive rebuild of their SD60 fleet. Some of the units are being stored at CP's St Luc yard in Montreal. All of the overhauled units have been rebuilt to Tier 0+ EPA compliance and feature AESS Locomotive Automatic Engine Start/Stop and Positive Traction Control in compliance with an upcoming PTC mandate expected to take effect starting in 2015- several more are supposed to undergo rebuilding at Montreal's CADRAIL facility.

The Soo Line ordered the SD60s from EMD in 1987 and with CP Rail's takeover, the burly 3800 HP six axle EMDs could be found anywhere from the Canadian Rockies to upstate New York although they were (and still are) outnumbered by CP Rail's far more prolific fleet of SD40-2s.

Canadian Pacific has also started putting up their fleet of former Milwaukee Road GP40s for sale- Respondek Rail Corp and United States Sugar Corp have already purchased a pair.

With the arrival of rebuilt GP20C-ECO and SD32C-ECO from Caterpillar [NYSE- CAT] subsidiary Progress Rail, Canadian Pacific returned their only two Gensets to National Railway Equipment in Illinois in July. The two Gensets- #2100 and #2101- were largely paid for by a province of Ontario 'green energy' intiative.

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