Patriot Rail and Ports, an operator of short lines in the United States, was acquired by First State Investments, an Australia-based firm that has invested in infrastructure in Australia, Europe, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Railway Age reported Aug. 27.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Patriot Rail and Ports operates a portfolio of 12 short-line freight railroads with more than 585 track miles across 14 states in the U.S. Patriot owns a number of properties represented by SMART Transportation Division.
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washington_stateMore than half of Washington’s short line rail miles aren’t up to modern standards, a recent study found.

The evaluation was done by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State University Freight Policy Transportation Institute at the request of the Legislature. The final result, the Washington State Short Line Rail Inventory and Needs Assessment, was released in late June.

Many of the state’s 29 short line railroads are local and serve farmers in agricultural and timber-growing communities by hauling their products to larger railroads. The study found that more than 55 percent (740) miles of all short line track miles within the state are not able to efficiently handle the 286,000-pound rail cars used in modern freight transport. That means trains have to go slower on the lines, cause more wear and cost more to operate.

Capacity for heavier rail cars is important because products often move from short line rails to larger rail systems to reach national and global markets. Because they’ve been neglected for many years, bringing the lines up to modern standards could cost more than $600 million, the study determined.

The study also highlighted the benefits of short line railroads. In addition to getting goods to market, the rail lines help cut down on roadway congestion and highway wear and tear. As an example of savings from short line railroads, the study found that the Tacoma Rail alone generates public benefits in excess of $11 million annually in addition to cost savings to businesses and shippers. Public benefits include increased safety due to reduced truck trips in addition to less wear and tear on roads.

Study findings can be used by lawmakers and others to plan for future rail investments as well as exploring funding sources. Recently, the Washington Legislature passed, and Gov. Jay Inslee signed, a new revenue package which included over $107 million for statewide freight rail track improvements. The funding includes $47 million for the state-owned short line rail system and $31 million for the Freight Rail Assistance Program, which supports economic development and rail preservation initiatives.

WASHINGTON — The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) has selected Linda Bauer Darr to succeed Richard F. Timmons as the Association’s President. Timmons is retiring at the end of 2014.

Darr is currently the President and CEO of the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), serving in that capacity since 2007. She previously held senior positions in the American Bus Association (ABA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA). From 1998 to 2000 she served in the Clinton Administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“ASLRRA undertook a nearly year-long search for its new President and we believe we have concluded that search with an outstanding selection,” said ASLRRA Chairman Ed McKechnie. “Ms. Darr has significant experience in leading trade associations and has spent almost her entire career in the transportation industry. Her government service was at a very senior level in the Agency that has direct budget and programmatic oversight over the Federal Railroad Administration, the federal agency with the most interaction with the railroad industry,” said McKechnie.

Richard Timmons is concluding his 12th year as ASLRRA’s President. “Rich transformed our Association,” said McKechnie. “He made us a stronger, more effective and more member-focused organization and we are sincerely grateful for the energy and enthusiasm he gave us during his tenure. In Linda Darr we look to taking our Association to an even higher level of effectiveness as we address the challenges of improving safety, building on our legislative successes and enhancing the short line railroad brand,” said McKechnie.

“Short line railroads are a dynamic and increasingly important part of the nation’s transportation network,” said Darr. “They are owned by entrepreneurs who are risk-takers in the very best sense of the word and I am looking forward to helping them be as successful as possible.”

Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) President Ed Hamberger applauded the choice. “I have known and worked with Linda over many years,” said Hamberger. “She is a smart, energetic leader with a wealth of experience in the transportation industry. I look forward to maintaining the strong partnership we have enjoyed with ASLRRA under Rich Timmons’ leadership,” said Hamberger.

Darr is a graduate of the University of Maryland and has done post-graduate work at the University of Virginia and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Her current and past professional affiliations include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100 Top Association Executives, serving as an instructor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School on the topic of association management and lobbying, working as an advisor to the Eno Transportation Foundation, actively participating in the Transportation Research Board, and serving as a Board Member of the U.S. – Mexico Chamber of Commerce. She will be the first female ASLRRA President in the Association’s 101 year history.

railyard, train yard; trainsWASHINGTON –U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation, respectively, June 17 introduced a bill that would authorize a new Short Line Rail Safety Institute to enhance the safety practices and culture of short line railroads. There are 550 short line railroad companies that operate over 50,000 miles of track, or nearly one third of the national railroad network. The tracks can be as short as two miles or up to more than 1,000 miles long.

The legislation introduced by Sens. Collins and Murray would authorize funding to support grants for research, development, evaluation, and training efforts.

“Whether a train is carrying crude oil on a major rail line or on a short, local route through small towns across America, we need to make sure everyone is safe, both on the train and near the tracks,” Senator Murray said. “We need to have the right policies in place to prevent accidents and respond to emergencies wherever they happen, and establishing a Short Line Rail Safety Institute is a strong step in the right direction.”

“The horrific derailment that occurred in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last year – just 30 miles from the Maine border – brought to light the importance of ensuring the safe transportation of energy products,” Senator Collins said. “We must ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to prevent another Lac-Megantic, while not overburdening an industry that has a proven track record of safety.”

The new Short Line Rail Safety Institute would:

  • Assess the operations and safety programs of short line railroads;
  • Develop best practices and work with short lines to implement these practices;
  • Provide professional on-site safety training for short line employees;
  • Purchase and utilize safety training assets (such as locomotive simulators);
  • Assist FRA in implementing its railroad R&D and outreach programs, and tailor such programs for short line railroad operations; and
  • Help improve safety culture, including a reduction in the frequency and severity of injuries and incidents, as well as improved compliance with regulatory requirements.

On May 15, the two senators sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx expressing support for the creation of such an institution.

“As we discussed when you testified before our Subcommittee, there is no silver bullet to improving rail safety. It is a complicated multi-faceted issue involving prevention, mitigation, and response aspects,” the Senators wrote in the May 15 letter. “The proposed Short Line Railroad Safety Institute could be an important part of the larger solution and would help improve the safe transportation of crude oil and other hazardous materials.”

The bill follows an April hearing held by Murray and Collins to specifically focus on safety issues related to rail shipment of crude oil. Secretary Foxx, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, Director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management Barb Graff, and Rangeley, Maine, Fire Chief Tim Pellerin, who led emergency response efforts after a train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in 2013, each testified at that hearing.

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) officials on April 24 introduced a safety initiative they characterized as the association’s largest-ever undertaking.

To launch in January 2015, the initiative will help make the short line industry the safest industry in the world, ASLRRA officials said during the association’s 101st annual meeting held in San Diego late last week. In cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and the University of Connecticut (UConn), ASLRRA plans to develop large libraries of training tools, technical materials and other educational resources to assist small railroads in instilling a good safety culture in their organization in addition to complying with all required safety regulations.

Read the complete story at Progressive Railroading.

SMART Transportation Division-represented train and engine workers employed by Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad Company have ratified a new five-year agreement by an overwhelming 89 percent majority.

The agreement provides for substantial wage increases equal to the 2011 national UTU agreement, including percentage increases to crew consist payments, full back-pay and increases in training pay.

The agreement also provides improved bereavement leave, establishes a Rule-G bypass agreement and establishes a health and welfare benefit package that replicates the National Health and Welfare package, including the Early Retirement Major Medical Benefit Plan.

SMART TD International Vice President Dave Wier, who assisted with the negotiations, congratulates International Organizer W.W. Lain, General Chairperson Dan Beckman and committee members John Hytinen, Tim Thomas and Jake Sinclair for “the effort put forth in bringing the members concerns’ to the bargaining table and negotiating an agreement with substantial improvements in wages and working conditions.”

Lake Superior & Ishpeming’s primary business is the transportation of iron ore over a 16-mile short line from the Empire-Tilden Mine, operated by Cliffs Natural Resources, south of Ishpeming, to Lake Superior for transport.

The Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railway was organized in 1893 as a subsidiary of Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (now Cliffs Natural Resources), the iron ore mining company. From its beginning, the railroad’s primary business was the transport of iron ore from the Marquette Iron Range, west of Marquette, to docks on Lake Superior, from which the ore could be shipped to steel mills on the lower Great Lakes.