Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia’

MARC West Virginia Service Saved

March 20, 2018

Commuter trains operated by Maryland Rail Commuter will continue to serve West Virginia after that state’s governor signed the fiscal year 2019 budget.

The $4.38 billion budget contains authority to allow the transfer of $1.5 million from the securities division in the state auditor’s office to the West Virginia Commuter Rail Access Fund.

MARC had threatened to end the service between Washington and Harpers Ferry and Martinsville, West Virginia, as early as summer if a new funding arrangement was not worked out. The new funding agreement will last for a year.

MARC trains to West Virginia use the same CSX (former Baltimore & Ohio) route used by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.


W.Va. Mulls Support for MARC Service

February 28, 2018

West Virginia policymakers are eyeing a range of options to continue Maryland Rail Commuter service operating in their state.

This includes a fare hike of $4 and increasing state funding of the service.

MARC recently said that if a new contract is not reached that it would end service as early as this summer to Martinsburg, Duffields and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, from Washington.

Maryland has demanded that West Virginia pay $3.2 million to keep MARC trains running to the Mountain State.

The proposed fare increase is expected to generate $600,000 a year.

West Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Tom Smith said about $500,000 in funding could be taken from the state budget negotiations, which would still leave a funding gap of $2.1 million.

Smith said other funding sources could include federal funding and private sector support.

West Virginia Frac Terminal Sold

September 26, 2017

Twin Eagle Sand Logistics has acquired a frac sand terminal near Bridgeport, West Virginia, from Process Transloading Bridgeport.

The terminal serves the southern Utica and Marcellus sand logistics markets with more than 130 rail-car spots and 20,000 tons of flat and silo storage, Twin Eagle officials said in a news release.

Twin Eagle is among the largest frac sand terminal developers and operators in the United States, with assets in the Eagle Ford, Permian, DJ and Powder River basins.

The Bridgeport terminal marks Twin Eagle’s entry into the Northeast sand logistics market, company officials said.

NS Track Workers Hurt in Collision

August 30, 2017

Five Norfolk Southern track workers were taken to a hospital after a pair of maintenance-of-way machines collided on Monday in southern West Virginia.

Four of the injured were treated and released while a fifth was admitted to the hospital in Bluefield, West Virginia.

Two of the workers were NS employees while the others worked for a contractor.

The incident occurred about noon east of Bluefield on the Christiansburg District mainline, a former Norfolk & Western route.

NS officials are continuing to investigate the incident.

Coal Traffic is Up, but Reports Project Stable Future

August 14, 2017

Coal traffic has increased this year and two reports examining that trend attribute it to an unexpected demand for exports and an easing of the prices of pollution control equipment.

Both reports see the coal market stabilizing in coming years. However, a report issued by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business & Economic Research still projects that the decline of the coal industry in the state is inevitable.

Railroad industry analyst Tony Hatch also sees positive signs for coal traffic in the intermediate term. Writing in Progressive Railroading, Hatch said, “the intermediate term outlook for U.S. domestic utility coal transportation must be revised upward. Not the five-straight months of double-digit growth, up 19 percent YTD (year to date) through April kind of ‘upward,’ but I had been looking for a flat/stable outlook over the next five-plus years.”

Hatch said much of the increase in coal traffic can be attributed to highly profitable export coal, which he said, “distorts the broader picture similar to the way the U.S. export coal strength at the end of the commodity ‘super cycle’ in 2010-2013 — and its margin-fueled boost to coal revenues in total — disguised the secular drop in U.S. domestic utility coal.”

The demand for export coal rose early this year after Cyclone Debbie disrupted Australia’s coal mines and export facilities in late March and early April.

That in turn prompted China to rely on U.S. coal while Australia’s coal export infrastructure was being rebuilt.

Hatch believes the burst of coal traffic that CSX and Norfolk Southern enjoyed this year is unsustainable and in the scheme of things the increase in export coal is insignificant because 93 percent of U.S. coal goes for domestic energy consumption.

The WVU report noted that the state’s coal production hit rock bottom in 2016 but is expected to increase by 11 percent this year to 89 million short tons.

But the rising tide is expected to crest and begin falling in 2018 when slightly more than 87 million tons are expected to be mined as metallurgical coal exports fall to normal levels and other domestic, coal-fired power plants reduce their intake of thermal coal, the report said.

Beyond 2022, the WVU report predicts that coal production in the state will steadily decline from the mid-80 million-ton range in 2025 to around 78 million tons by 2040.

The report said the wild cards in coal’s future include regulatory unknowns and natural gas pricing.

In recent years the costs of installing utility smokestack scrubbers or systems that remove sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other components has fallen, which has meant that utility companies can burn lower cost coal mined in northern West Virginia and the Illinois Basin that still meets federal regulations on power plant emissions.

The WVU report indicated that there is underway a shift in the Mountain State of where most coal is being minded.

At present, the northern and southern regions of West Virginia are producing equivalent levels of coal tonnage, but the long-term forecast expects northern coal operations to outperform southern facilities by 2040.

As for how NS and CSX have been faring in all of this, a CSX spokesman told Trains magazine that the railroad’s coal traffic increased 7 percent in the second quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

“CSX’s export coal volumes increased in the second quarter as global supply levels and pricing conditions extended strong demand for U.S. coal exports, particularly in the metallurgical portfolio,” said CSX’s Rob Doolittle.

Most of the increased coal that CSX carried came from West Virginia came from central Appalachia, which accounted for approximately 25 percent of the railroad’s domestic coal volumes and nearly 50 percent of its export coal volumes.

CSX expects to handle 30 million tons of export coal this year.

NS saw a 32 percent increase in coal revenue in the second quarter of 2017 when compared with the same period of 2017.

The carrier earned $447 million from coal shipments in the second quarter of 2017, compared to $339 million in 2016. Coal outperformed all other NS commodity revenues with the exception of merchandise freight and intermodal shipments.

Doolittle said that CSX continues to see a decline in domestic volumes. “In the second quarter, domestic utility coal declined as the competitive loss of short-haul interchange traffic more than offset underlying growth at existing facilities,” he said.

Hatch wrote in Railway Age that the 2017 coal boom is already showing signs of abating.

U.S. coal volumes were up 18 percent through June but by early July those volumes were closer to being flat.

He cited a reported issued by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy that found that coal is down 25 percent since 2011 due to a drop in U.S. electricity/energy demands, increased use of shale-gas, and the growth of renewable energy.

The Columbia researchers found that under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, domestic coal use would still grow from its low 2016 base to 2020 then decline slowly.

A rollback of Obama administration regulations by the Trump administration is expected by the Columbia researchers to provide a boost to the use of coal for domestic energy needs.

Under the Obama administration rules, the use of coal for domestic energy was expected to be 704 million short tons by 2025 compared with about 750 million short tons in 2016.

The actions by the Trump administration are projected to increase domestic energy coal use to 815 million short tons by 2020 and 834 million short tons by 2010.

Those figures would still be well below the 1 billion short tons of coal used in domestic energy production in 2014 and the peak of 1.1 billion short tons used in 2008.

Hatch wrote that changes in environmental policy in regards to coal are, in a vacuum, good for rail at least in the intermediate term.

Plans Set for Annual New River Train

August 10, 2017

Plans have been announced for the annual New River Train, which will roll on Oct. 21, 22, 28, and 29 between Huntington, West Virginia, and Hinton, West Virginia, through the New River Gorge.

New this year will be a consist of all heritage cars from private owners.

Gone are the Amtrak Amfleet and Horizon  coaches that have characterized the makeup of past trains.

All of the 30 cars on the New River Train will come from private owners. Three Amtrak P42DC locomotives will pull the train.

Some of the passenger cars expected to be in the consist include California Zephyr vista-dome car Silver Solarium, Pullman-built Milwaukee Road Super Dome, Budd-built full-length dome car Summit View, the Overland Trail, a former Southern Pacific barber shop car, and Great Northern full-length dome car Prairie View.

Other cars will include lounge and passenger cars built for the New York Central, Pennsylvania Railroad, Baltimore & Ohio and Central of Georgia Railway

Sponsored by the the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, the 51st running of the New River Train will travel CSX’s Kanawha and New River subdivisions, both of which are former Chesapeake & Ohio.

The train has a capacity of 1,200 passengers per day and usually sells out by early September. Some heritage coach tickets remain at $179 per person.

New Thruway Links Cardinal With W.Va. Cities

July 19, 2017

Amtrak has launched a Thruway bus route to link its Chicago-New York Cardinal with cities in north central West Virginia.

The bus will connect the eastbound Cardinal with Morgantown, Fairmount, Clarksburg/Bridgeport, Weston, Sutton/Flatwoods, and Clendenin.

The bus route will serve the Amtrak station in Charleston, where No 50 stops on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

The bus will depart from Morgantown at 4:50 a.m. on the days that the Cardinal operates to Charleston.

Arriving in Charleston at 8 a.m., the bus is scheduled to return to Morgantown and all intermediate cities at 8:45 a.m. The Cardinal is scheduled to stop in Charleston at 8:21 a.m.

Baron’s Bus lines is operating the service and uses motor coaches equipped with Wi-Fi and electrical outlets.

W.Va. Senate OKs Daily Cardinal Legislation

April 7, 2017

A bill that seeks to promote daily operation of Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal is poised to pass the West Virginia legislature and be sent to Gov. Jim Justice.

The Senate approved the legislation on a 32-1 vote this week without discussion.

HB 2856 had been approved on March 22 on a 95-5 vote by the House of Delegates.

The House must concur in a title amendment to the bill before it reaches the governor’s desk.

The bill has the support of the Justice administration. “I couldn’t be more solidly behind it. It’s integral to tourism to have that train operating daily,” said Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said of the legislation, which does not appropriate any funding for operating expenses of the now tri-weekly train.

Instead, it authorizes the state Tourism commissioner to enter into compact agreements with other states served by the Cardinal, and with Amtrak to improve the quality and frequency of Cardinal service.

The commissioner will be allowed to establish a special revenue account in which funds could be deposited to promote daily Cardinal service.

The Cardinal passes through West Virginia in both directions on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, serving Huntington, Charleston, Hinton, White Sulphur Springs and Prince.

W.Va. Legislature Moves Toward Daily Cardinal

March 24, 2017

One half of the West Virginia legislature is supporting legislation that would permit the state tourism commissioner to work with Amtrak and other states to make the Chicago-New York Cardinal a daily operation.

The House of Delegates approved the bill on a 95-5 vote and it now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would establish a special revenue account that could be used by the state to help fund the outreach effort, but it does not appropriate any funding to help pay the operating costs of the Cardinal.

The Cardinal currently operates tri-weekly, passing through West Virginia westbound on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and eastbound on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Railroads Want W.Va. Taxi Law Modified

March 2, 2017

Railroaders and their employers are taking aim at a West Virginia law that mandates that  only taxi companies regulated by the state’s Public Service Commission may haul train crews.

West VirginiaCSX, Norfolk Southern and railroad labor unions want the state to allow contractors to do the work of moving crews when they are deadheading.

CSX vice president Randy Cheetham told a state legislative committee that railroad crews have safety concerns due to the condition of the taxis and noted that the Mountain State is the only one of 23 served by CSX that does not allow the railroad to contract with companies to provide transportation for its employees.

The legislation that the railroads and union are supporting was passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee this week.

Cheetham said that his company’s contract carriers have newer and safer vehicles.

But a Charleston taxi company, C&H Taxi, said that although transporting railroad crews is just one part of its business, it is the primary revenue for some smaller companies that would lose money if the bill is approved.