Posts Tagged ‘Battle Creek Michigan’

CN Cutting Workforce, Trains During Pandemic

April 3, 2020

Canadian National CEO J.J. Ruest provided a glimpse of how Class 1 railroads are scaling back operations in the wake of a falloff of freight traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CN has furloughed more than a thousand workers and has reduced the number of trains that it operates.

It has closed its yard in Battle Creek, Michigan, because finished vehicle volume has dropped by 50 percent after major automakers closed their plants to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking during a webcast hosted by Citibank analyst Christian Wetherbee, Ruest said CN carload traffic fell 13 percent with automotive traffic, crude oil shipments, and frac sand in particular showing declines.

CN continues to enjoy strong volumes of Canadian grain, Canadian export coal, propane, and domestic intermodal traffic.

Ruest said overall volume will continue to diminish in the coming weeks as factories close or reduce production and consumers cut their spending.

At the same time, Ruest said CN wants to be ready when traffic returns although he said there is much uncertainty over when that will occur.

CN plans to open a sixth dispatching office, which it calls a rail traffic control center, in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 affecting operations.

The Montreal-based carrier has had some difficulty purchasing disinfecting products, Ruest said and has turned to making its own disinfectants in shops as well as having employees of its freight forwarding business in China buy disinfectants and send them to North America via air freight.

Chief Financial Officer Ghislain Houle said during the webcast that CN is likely to reduce capital spending this year but will continue with capacity expansion projects scheduled for its main lines to Vancouver and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, where intermodal and coal traffic are expected to rise.

Ex-CN Signal Maintainer Facing Prison Term After Cutting Crossing Wires in Battle Creek, Michigan

January 11, 2018

A former Canadian National signal maintainer is facing a 20-year prison term after he pleaded guilty in a federal court in Michigan to a felony charge of impairing a railroad safety signal by cutting wires at grade crossings in Battle Creek.

Jeffrey Alan Taylor, who lives in the Upper Peninsula, was captured on video cutting the wires during a 2017 visit to the Battle Creek area.

The result was that the crossing gates went down and stayed down even though no train was approaching. That caused a traffic backup.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Davin Reust told the court that it must reject Taylor’s contention that the result of his action was nothing more than an inconvenience for motorists.

“This argument ignores the obvious; removing one of multiple safety systems cannot make the system safer . . .,” Reust wrote in a memorandum to the court. “Taylor’s argument boils down to one that he should not be held accountable for intentionally creating a safety hazard because no catastrophe occurred here.”

The first two wire-cutting incidents occurred in January 2017. After the second incident, the railroad installed hidden surveillance cameras at Battle Creek crossings.

Taylor was captured on video in June after CN received a report of the gates being down.

The video showed him parking his truck near a crossing, walking to the site and using wire cutters to cut signal wires

He was not employed by CN at the time of the wire cutting incidents, but had worked for the railroad between 1994 and 2009.

William Weise, an attorney representing Taylor, said his client accepted full responsibility and did not bear any ill will toward CN. Nor was this an act of terrorism.

Weise contended that Taylor was suffering from undiagnosed depression at the time of the wire-cutting incidents.

Taylor grew up in Richland, Michigan, and was the owner with his wife of a motel in St. Ignace in the Upper Penisula that was struggling financially. The attorney also said that Taylor had been caring for his mother, who died last February.

“Mr. Taylor believed his actions would be a nuisance to the railroad,” Weise said. “This has been an agonizing experience for Mr. Taylor as he has seen the effect this has had on his family and the community around him.”

MDOT Eyeing 110 mph Speeds on Detroit Route

August 4, 2015

A Michigan Department of Transportation official is predicting that Amtrak trains will be traveling 110 mph near Battle Creek, Michigan, within the next three years.

MDOT Office of Rail Director Tim Hoeffner said a $3.3 million contract for track and signal improvements is being prepared to send out for bidding.

The work will involve tie and rail replacement as well as installation of new ballast.

The completion date for that work is late 2017 when some 30 minutes will be cut from the travel times between Dearborn and Kalamazoo on track now owned by the state of Michigan.

Currently, Amtrak trains are limited to a 79 p.m. top speed between those points.

On Amtrak-owned tracks between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana, trains are already hitting 100 mph on some segments.

MDOT’s goal is to cut the travel time between Chicago and Detroit from 5.5 hours to 4 hours.

“We are trying to increase the frequency and increase the number of trains running between Chicago and Detroit — and increase the reliability,” Hoeffner said. “You really need to do all of those things.”

Nearly 478,000 people rode Wolverine Service trains on the Chicago-Detroit route in 2014. A decade earlier the ridership was 301,000.

Hoeffner said ridership has gone up 50 percent in the past decade while revenue has doubled.

MDOT manages 665 miles of state-owned rail lines. In December 2012, it purchased the 135-mile route between Kalamazoo and Dearborn from Norfolk Southern for $140 million.

In September 2013, the state received $9 million in federal grant money to rebuild the line.

“Whether it be roads or airports or railroads, transit systems are expensive infrastructures,” Hoeffner said. “These are some complicated systems. Really, what we’re doing is upgrading the existing route.”

Patronage of the route ranges from elderly people avoiding driving to young people looking to enjoy Internet access during a trip. There are also families taking their children on a train ride.

“A lot of younger folks today, really it isn’t that they don’t want to drive, they want to be mobile,” Hoeffner said. “But being mobile doesn’t necessarily mean to own or drive a car. Mobile means having access to that smart technology. And being on board the train where you can use it, versus being in the driver’s seat of a car and not having access to that smart technology, is adding into more and more younger folks’ travel decisions.”

Federal funding also helped fund a $3.6 million renovation in 2012 of the Battle Creek Intermodal Transportation Center.

Battle Creek Transportation Director Larry Bowron said the station and rail line rebuilding underscore the importance of passenger rail to the public transportation system.

“People have a choice,” he said. “I think people are going to continue to choose rail.”

“If they improve on-time performance, if they improve the experience — why wouldn’t people take the train?”