Archive for Courage leadership

Competition. Gaining competitive advantages as the new player.

Lessons for railroaders in fighting against trucks for freight market share. i

Weaker player can often win.

By innovation that changes the rules, the smaller force can more than ofen win.

The lesson is from a close reading of the competition phenomenon in a book authored by  Malcolm Gladwell in 2013.  Titled: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Suppose you were to total up all the wars over the past two hundred years that occurred between very large and very small countries. Let’s say that one side has to be at least ten times larger in population and armed might than the other.

How often do you think the bigger side wins?

Most of us, I think, would put that number at close to 100 percent for the big guys. A tenfold difference is a lot.

But he found that the larger force only won about two-thirds to three quarters of the time.

A political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft did the calculation a few years ago. His big versus little sample came up with was 71.5 percent of the time the big guys won.

Still– about a third of the time, the weaker country won.

INCREASING THE ODDS

Arreguín-Toft then asked the question slightly differently. What happens in wars between the strong and the weak when the weak side … refuses to fight the way the bigger side wants to fight.

Perhaps like the American revolutionary generals, they used a lot of unconventional or tactics. (Read more about that in the book First Salute).

CHANGE TACTICS, and the weaker party’s winning percentage climbed from less than a third to about two thirds (63.6 percent for those who want more precision).

Railroads in North America in the past won in select markets by changing their tactics against more numerous highway network and numbers of trucks.

Longer, heavier axle loading and double stacked container train TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION converted the Chicago-LA 2,000 mile long origin/destination 70% truck market share for high value truck load commodities to a 70% rail share over about a decade.

Want proof?  Check my calculations by reviewing ICC footnotes in railroad merger cases back in 1992 period.

The western railroads worked selectively to change its intermodal business model between 1984 1990.  It worked. The change was largely technology driven.  some culture change too.

Meanwhile, the European rail industry so far has not followed this model change.  Three decades after the North Americans took on the bigger truckers by changing the rules, the Europeans and South African railroads have not yet learned the lesson.

Smaller market size railroads can win more than half of the time.  But it takes innovative leaders to do it.

Another story of how during good times so little due diligence is done on projects

 

THE REST OF THE STORY?  This railway due diligence alert is from the Middle East.

Previous sound second opinion advise  ABOUT THIS ETIHAD Railroad project from David Burns was apparently “dismissed”.Instaed, a huge capital cost project was approved.

Today, the same project he warned about is “in economic limbo”.

David participated in the early on market analysis for this railway and made the mistake at an important meeting of saying, in front of several “big guns”, that there might be a maret sizing issue.  Fo example, this then proposed railway might have a chance of being viable if it built inexpensively and with second hand locomotives and rolling stock.

That due diligence alert did not go over well.   Times were economically good back then. Why rock the boat?

Basically the only traffic on the railway is aggregate and that could go by water.

It appears that they are now realizing it.

Today’s headline is that Etihad Rail suspends Stage 2 tendering.  In a news report circulating in January 2016 and Written by Keith Barrow

ETIHAD Rail confirmed on January 26 that it has suspended tendering for the construction of the second phase of the UAE’s national railway network in a move which is likely to deal a significant blow to the GCC Railway project.

Stage 2 involves the construction of 628km of new lines, encompassing the line from Ghweifat on the Saudi border to the Omani frontier near Al Ain together with links to the UAE’s three principal ports at Khalifa, Jebel Ali near Dubai and Mussafah.

The project has an estimated price tag of around $US 11 billion.

Etihad Rail says it has informed bidders that tendering will be suspended while it reviews “the most appropriate options for the timing and delivery of this phase of the project.”

“Etihad Rail is one of the biggest and most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UAE,” says Etihad Rail chariman HE Nasser Alsowaidi.

In December the UAE’s Federal Transport Authority (FTA) granted Etihad Rail final safety authorization for Stage 1

The 264km Shah – Habshan – Ruwais line, clearing the way for the start of commercial operations on the first phase of the network. Etihad Rail says the decision to suspend tendering for Stage 2 will not have any impact on its preparations for the launch of operations on the first phase.

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It appears that they are now finally realizing that Mr Bruns rendered sound due diligence counsel.  Other project leaders should take note.  Always get and at least consider a second opinion.

Restructuring Overview // opinion column from India on India Railways

Bravo!

A gutsy but professionally focused opinion column points out why modernizing the vast but bureaucratic Indian Railways may be a hopeless task.

It’s about politics and the self preservation of jobs and management roles while facing objections from other land users. It is not just a technology fix that is needed.

Here are just a few points that illustrate the issues.

1) BROKEN MARKETING TACTICS

The government has so far lacked the will to increase passenger fares because it is an unpopular suggestion. Instead, they hike up the cost of freight transport to subsidize passenger rides. What India gets as a result is a vicious cycle: Companies (shippers) choose to transport goods via highways because doing so by train has become too expensive and inefficient. That results in a lack of the expected cash flow freight subsidy funding needed to make rail improvements for passenger rail. And to the extent possible by bus or auto, the rail commuters leave the railways for highways.

2) CUT UP THE RAILWAY INTO MORE BUT SEPARATE ORGANIZATIONS

One ever popular policy suggestion is to minimize the Ministry of Railways power by making the Indian Railways two independent organizations—one responsible for the track and infrastructure and another for operating the trains. But some do not see that restructuring happening anytime soon. Furthermore, it did not work out well when tried in the UK. Why would it work in India?

It might be better to just fire everyone in charge today and hire an all new monopoly provider.

3) TAKING FOREVER

“If nothing changes, it will take them 100 years just to build the Dedicated Freight Corridor,” say some professional observers. For example, the government hasn’t even started looking at people and land relocation plans in urban area for an alternative, high-speed railway network.

Heck, the Dedicated Freight Corridor execution is already about a decade delayed. That is about the professional in charge lifetime of the current leadership generation (at about 10 to 15 years as the top people in an organization).

TICK TICK TICK The clock is ticking.

So little is happening.

Read the column at: www.citylab.com/commute/2015/10/what-it-will-really-take-to-fix-indias-railways/408664/ Sent from my iPad

Interesting leadership observations offered to the railroad industry

Those who were at the keynote Railway Interchange 2015 address by retired Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill heard this leadership message.

Mr O’Neill held the crowd’s attention with his humor and stories of war, including headline making raids that resulted in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in April 2009…

His message to attendees about the topic of success & leadership was one that translates from the theater of war to the operations of an office or a railroad:

Never quit. That is his personal mantra.

O’Neill touched on several main points when developing a “never quit” attitude. 1) developing people skills, 2) knowing the difference between over planning versus being prepared, and 3) removing emotion from the decision-making process.

His advice — to keep moving forward through challenges

To recognize that all stress is self-induced

To recognize that failure is a great learning tool.

He also noted that keeping a sense of humor helps.

Lessons there for all of us

Update on Ethiopia’s Light Rail System as it starts operating // Sept 2015

Multiple reports confirm the start of light rail service in the capital of Ethiopia on 20 September 2015.  The start of service on Line #1 is actually relatively close to the promised service date.  Funding approved in 2011 assumed a two year construction timeline.

The 16.9 km north-south Line 1 line links Minelik Square with Kality and has 23 stations. A 17.4 km east-west line from Ayat to Tor Hailoch is also due to open soon. The two routes share a 2.7 km section between Lideta and Stadium.

This light rail service which includes elevated sections and tunnels, runs from Addis Ababa’s main industrial area on its southern fringe, through the trading district of Merkato to the historic center of Piazza.

I had a chance to review the affidavit Addis Ababa light rail construction process in the capital back in the summer of 2013.  Project construction and the logistics handling of imported rail materials was well organized by the Chinese company.  The track ballast section and some early rail laying were substantial as to the engineering design and initial construction delivery of product in the field.

One of the tunnel projects was a huge physical undertaking.  Well done when I inspected it.  No question that the Chinese companies can build rail projects very well according to plans.

PLANTING THE C”AN DO” FLAG IN FRONT OF AFRICAN RAIL PLANNERS

The east-west light rail line skirts the African Union’s headquarters.  This location marks a great advertising opportunity of the Chinese capabilities with this line placement in front of the African wide headquarters.

Both light rail lines are built by China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC).

CNR Changchun (now part of CRRC Corporation) has supplied a fleet of 41 low-floor vehicles, which have a maximum speed of 70km/h.

DEAL FINANCING TERMS

China is financing 85% of the $US 475 million project. It is a loan. Not a grant.

The government agreed to borrow the funds in June 2011 from the Export-Import Bank of China.  The to be paid back rate was at the 6-month Libor interest rate plus 2.6 percent and a grace period of three years.  This from Ethiopian Finance Ministry data.

State-owned contractor China Railway Engineering Corp. was the recipient of the export financing.

The financing of the remaining 15% is arranged from other sources by the Ethiopian government.

ON-GOING MAINTENANCE

The 39-station network will be maintained by CREC and Shenzhen Metro Group under a $US 116m five-year contract.

The Ethiopian client for the continuing rail service is the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC).  The ERC rail company is a government corporation with a very small staff.

TRAIN OPERATIONS

The first three to five years of light rail train operation will also be by the Chinese and not the ERC.

At one point back in 2013 the Ethiopians sent out a global request for a  consultant team to build up the Ethiopian internal organization into becoming a world class operating management team.  Then they could take on train operations management themselves.  But that internal skill building process so far appears to not have happened.

Instead of internal managers inside the  Ethiopian Railways Corp, the light rail service will be run day to day by Shenzhen Metro Group.  For at least five years.

LIGHT RAIL TRAFFIC FORECAST

The light rail total system may eventually carry 60,000 passengers an hour, according to project manager Behailu Sintayehu.

Passenger FARES will be subsidized

The maximum one-way fare on the network is about $US 0.29 to $0.30 (cents).

The light rail line operating costs is projected to be about 1.5 billion birr a year to run. Fare box revenues will not cover all of that annual operating cost.

“The government is subsidizing this transportation system. This is not for commercial purpose, it’s for the public” said a local official source to reporters.

Sources also reported that the subsidy to allow such low passenger fares will in the long term have to come out of “expected” freight operating profits from the not yet completed new standard gauge international railroad line.

This cross subsidy practice might be a logical strategy if trucking companies subsidized the passenger buses on highways But they do not.  In the long term of daily rail to truck competition, this creates an advantage for truckers.  It is incredible how state planners historically are blind to this integrated transportation fact of competition economics.  The Ethiopians are no exception to such economic flaws in policy thinking. As the become better trained in economics, this may change their thinking.

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MORE INTEL about this light rail system

THE LONG DISTANCE LINE

The freight and intercity passenger train new railway construction underway will connect the Ethiopia capital city with the port of neighboring Djibouti.

Service there may begin sometime in 2016 say current reports from Bloomberg.

Trains on this inter-nation line might also be operated by a Chinese contractor instead of by the local Ethiopia rail organization.  Too early to tell yet. There is no published report on the success or timeline of building such skills inside the Ethiopian Rail Corp organization.

The long distance line will be standard gauge (1435mm) track.  But not 33 metric ton or doublestack container train capable.

The Ethiopians have settled for a lesser freight train capacity that they received from the Chinese builders rather than adopting the North American commercial and engineering big train technology standards — and having the Chinese contract companies modify their engineering build to standards. The result will give the Ethiopian rail company a rail freight haulage capability equivalent to a 40 to 50 year old post WW-2 North American operating performance. This means missing their chance to become the best of class within the African world of freight railroads.

POWER SUPPLY

Electric power to supply these light rail and intercity train sets in a more dependable manner is to come from the Chinese financed Gibe III hydropower dam’s reservoir set for operation in 2016.  The reservoir has started filling, with its 1,870 megawatts capable of almost doubling Ethiopia’s generating capacity. This will presumably allow for a dependable service day to day performance using straight electric locomotives rather then modern diesel-electric locomotives.

MISSED DOUBLESTACK CONTAINER OPPORTUNITY

With electric power from overhead wires catenary systems, the overhead clearance for doublestack container trains could be restricted.  This overhead wire electric system as currently designed as to height above the top of the rails is another rail marketing (commercial business competition) flaw that could have improved.  How? By increasing the wire height to more than 6.7 meters above the top of the rail.  That would allow doublestacking container trains to have a far superior cost per container advantage in direct competition with highway trucking.  In the US that rail rate advantage can be as large as 50 cents to $1.40 per container moved kilometer.

These simple manmade engineering design changes would have given the resulting rail line a superior economic advantage against long haul trucking.

S. Africa Rail Gauge Conversion Policy Change Announced by Government

Sep 22, 2015 report…

South Africa now has a government transport policy to plan out a widening of the country’s existing railway tracks to international standard gauge. The geographic scope covers as much as 20,000 kilometers (12,427 miles) of track just in South Africa.

This scope would take decades to physically complete. It might cost as much as 1.5 trillion rand ($110 billion),

Cape Gauge existing track width between the inner sides of two rails is 1067mm as a design. Standard gauge design width is 1435mm.

South Africa Transport Minister Dipuo Peters announced the policy to reporters on Tuesday. The gauge conversion would bring the network in line with about 60 percent of other countries, boost capacity and reduce transportation costs, she said.

In response, Transnet Acting Chief Executive Officer Siyabonga Gama said that while the company supports a move to standard gauge, the policy “needs further investigation” to determine its viability. “We did an assessment and we found out that if we had to create 15,000 kilometers of track, we would need up to 1.5 trillion rand,” he said in an interview after the announcement. “It would be a very expensive exercise.”

STRATEGIC FLAW

The assumption is so far that almost all tracks would be converted to 1435mm. Economically, it is more likely that only the strategic high traffic volume density routes and some feeder lines would financially justify the expense of conversion. .

The economic benefits come from more stable train operating wagon movements and possible high clearance doublestack container train economics. Containers stack two high on rail cars cut the expense by as much as 35% to 45%. Stack container trains have been operating successfully in the United States for 30 years. Two decades!

Stack trains cannot physically be operated on Cape Gauge or Meter gauge tracks.

Regardless of the eventual network size, the project could take decades to fully complete. A place to start might logically be between one of South Africa’s premier container sea ports and the Johannesburg regional market.

Meanwhile, much of Africa’s rail planning is already focused on standard gauge 1435mm track for all new railway projects. Ethiopia and Kenya just as two eastern African examples.

Minister Dipuo Peters strategic announcement is simply acknowledging a prudent rail modernization approach for South Africa.

Bravo!

To read the entire article, go to http://bloom.bg/1KxjCiS Sent from the Bloomberg iPad application.

Technical hurdles as CSX pushes towards intermodal growth with No U.S. Master Rail Plan

An 11 year plan. 7 years just to get permitting and financing in place. ====================

The Virginia Avenue Tunnel in Washington DC. is a $400 million project. CSX broke ground on in May.

The Virginia Avenue Tunnel is a critical project in the CSX broader $850 million National Gateway initiative. It is a public-private partnership between CSX, six states and the nation’s capital city. National Gateway is in effect a multiphase, 11-year undertaking to move more freight by rail between selective East Coast ports and the Midwest states. CSX is the plan developer and leading champion.

The entire Gateway Project involves double-tracking some CSX existing routes and increasing the vertical clearance for some tunnels and bridges. A CNBC report by Morgan Brennan for CNBC points out that seven of those years have been dedicated to permitting and complying with regulations. (@MorganLBrennan)

Interestingly, this is a private rail company strategic plan. The government agencies are helping finance and modify or delay the project with regulations and permits. But the government is not the leader.

WHY? CSX is looking to quadruple its rail freight carrying capacity in the 110-year-old single-lane Virginia freight rail tunnel. The tunnel is about one mile long underneath part of the city of Washington, D.C. Technically, a second parallel track will be added to allow two trains to pass at the same time. The vertical clearance height will also be increased to allow for double stacked container trains. To increase the vertical height, the tracks will actually be lowered. Today, CSX trains are restricted to the less efficient single-level intermodal train operations.

A change to double stack can have a 35% or better productivity. Reports indicate that the most challenging part of this engineering feat will be to construct these changes while the tunnel continues to allow some two dozen trains to pass per day.

The entire $850 million National Gateway initiative mirrors a similar bold move completed earlier by the Norfolk Southern for 1) its Norfolk to Ohio double stack corridor project and 2) its Shenandoah Corridor public-private partnership plan.

IN CONTRAST

In much of the rest of the world, these kind of plans are created by the government. In the U.S. business model, it is the reverse process. Private investor lead companies are the lead champions.

The entire North American double stack container train revolution was initiated in 1983 by a commercial deal between American Presidents Lines the ocean carrier and the Union Pacific railroad. Later on, various state and local governments joined in with the private railroads to expand the stack train network.

The federal government has also gotten involved. But there is no giant federal and state government master plan at work. And yet, more than 20% of the U.S. network is today stack capable.

Even without a government master plan, the United States (and Canada) are the world leaders in modern doublestack container train movements.

Blue Skies in Beijing! All because Steel Mills Face Curbs as city prepares for a Parade

From Bloomberg, Jul 30, 2015

 

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard at Tiananmen Square under crimson clouds at sunset in Beijing, China. Photographer: Feng Li/Getty Images

Beijing airport under clear skies

Steel output in China will be disrupted next month and September as mills around Beijing are ordered to curb production to ensure clean air and blue skies for a parade to mark World War II and sports event, hurting iron ore demand.

Look for more falling ore and met coal and scrap prices to follow as a result.

Steel output in China will be disrupted next month and September as mills around Beijing are ordered to curb production to ensure clean air and blue skies. Why? All for a parade to mark World War II and sports event. Impact Example As much as 6 million metric tons may be cut, more than was lost last year when similar curbs were used for a global summit…  says Xu Xiangchun, chief analyst at Mysteel Research. He was citing talks with policy makers and mills. The government plans measures to ensure the air quality, according to an official at the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

IN THE LONG TERM

Over a longer period, the capital’s air pollution may drive the government more quickly towards far less polluting steel manufacturing processes.  Look for a shift towards more scrap charged oxygen plants and mini mills to substitute fro fully integrated ore and met coal steel plants.  This shift will affect railway traffic volumes both in China and in far away raw materials nations like Mongolia and South Africa.

To read the entire news report, go to http://bloom.bg/1IO3gHX

Ocean container carrriers contintinue to ignore business over capacity lessons learned decades ago by N. A. freight railroads

http://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/165836/drewry-ordering-big-ships-starting-to-backfire/

https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=147538&trk=my_groups-tile-flipgrp

Also see report in the JOC

A toxic mixture of overcapacity, weak demand and aggressive commercial pricing is threatening liner shipping industry profitability for the rest of 2015, according to global shipping consultancy Drewry.  The report is published in multiple news sources, includingvLinkedin.

Drewry’s forecast that container shipping carriers might record profits of up to USD 8 billion in 2015, has been revised. The  consultancy believes that they should be lucky to break even this year with some lines expected to return to red by the end of 2015.

Drewry estimates that this year average global freight rates will decline at their fastest pace since 2011, when the fall in industry unit revenue was as great as 10%.

It points out that second quarter spot rates in the four main East-West head haul trades have been falling by 32% year-on-year.

Neil Dekker, Drewry’s director of container shipping research said: “There are not enough good homes for ships of over 8,000 teu where they can be placed without doing some damage to the supply/demand balance.”

The orderbook is starting to get out of control, with another 1.14 million teu added since January.   … investment pans backfire as ” virtually all major head haul trades are plagued by overcapacity”.

Gary Indiana is not alone… Chicago South Works review of economic loss as a Case Study // & a Philadelphia rebirth case

The US Steel South Works economic story by  Jacob Kaplan illustrates economic decay even when surrounded by great infrastructure like rail and roads and waterways.

A long Lake Michigan on the Southeast Side of Chicago lies a huge empty tract of land. Probably the largest vacant parcel of land in the city,.

It was formerly home to the U. S. Steel South Works.  Almost 20,000 people were once employed where empty fields of concrete and rubble now sit. First opened in 1882 as the North Chicago Railway Mill Company, the placement of the steel mill at the mouth of the Calumet River at Lake Michigan made for easy transport of goods and raw materials.

The South Works began a long period of downsizing beginning in the 1970s. Finally, on April 10, 1992, the doors closed for good. The mill that once produced steel beams for most of Chicago’s skyscrapers and jobs for thousands of area residents was now gone, and with it went the prosperity of South Chicago.   Like in Gary, the neighborhood became more and more economically depressed.

See review at http://forgottenchicago.com/articles/south-works/

US Steel South Works completely GONE by early 1992 US Steel Chicgo South Works at its zenith

 

SUCESSFUL URBAN CORE INDUSTRY  REINVENTION —  a Philadelphia Case Study

 Sunday, July 12, 2015 in Philadelphia Inquirer 

Ten years after the Navy Yard’s first new offices opened, plans to transform the site from a symbol of the city’s lapsed industrial might into a vibrant new neighborhood are hitting their stride.

The roughly 12,000 workers at the yard now outnumber the 10,000 or so ship workers and others employed there when it closed as a military base in 1996. The yard is estimated to have generated $77 million in local and state taxes in 2012, when its managers conducted their last economic study.

Liberty Property Trust, the yard’s main developer, recently broke ground on its 14th new office building at the site, designed by the architect behind Two World Trade Center, and expects to start two or three more offices this year.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/real_estate/commercial/20150712_Navy_Yard_hits_10-year_mark_in_stride.html#HdmulBMvWjSuvPJz.99