Archive for May 2015

Ghana’s Economy May Hit 9% Growth in 4 Years. Are DONORS needed?

From Bloomberg, May 20, 2015:

Ghana’s economic growth “will probably rebound to as much as 9 percent within four years as the West African nation reduces its budget deficit” according to an estimate by Finance Minister Seth Terkper.


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German rail freight costs “to rise 20% by 2020” | International Railway Journal

For more technical observations on the missed European rail freight market opportunities, see my Facebook posting.

The headline report says that REGULATORY pressures on Europe’s largest rail freight market could drive up operating costs by as much as 20 percent over the next five years, according to a study by the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV).

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BNSF Customer Notifications – Customer Letters: Shale Crude Transportation Update on tank car safety

May 19th Progressive Railroading has provided direct access to BNSF revised decision on its previous year announced tank car acquisitions.

There are important leadership points in this announced BNSF revised business strategy.

Included are important facts on their provision of better emergency responder train movement information in the months ahead.

Their letter addresses a number of issues regarding the transportation of crude by rail.

See complete BNSF letter. Some excerpts follow.

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Jim Blaze quoted in State Impact Pennsylvania NPR story on tank cars near Amtrak 188 derailment

NTSB Chairman Sumwalt surveys scene of Amtrak derailment, Philadelphia

Jim was quoted in Susan Phillips report for State Impact Pennsylvania, a National Public Radio project, about the tank cars narrowly missed by the locomotive of Amtrak #188 during the recent tragic derailment near Frankford Junction in Philadelphia.


Business lessons for rail planners // BNSF Kansas City logistics park is the site of the Journal of Commerce commerce report.

One developer is betting big on BNSF Railway’s Kansas City logistics park. NorthPoint Development recently announced the construction of a 822,104-square-foot speculative building at the park.

Highlights of the report include:

The BNSF Logistics Park Kansas City is built around a 433-acre intermodal terminal — opened in 2013. Today, the terminal is capable of handling 500,000 shipping containers annually. But that total could triple.

NorthPoint is BNSF’s park development partner. They provide warehousing and buildings for shippers at the location. The park offers shippers modern heavy haul rail access. BNSF Railway earlier this year said it plans to invest another $103 million in the logistics park and its Kansas rail operations.

Bloomberg: Canadian Crude Strengthens as Enbridge Fills Pipeline

"Industrial" by woodleywonderworks from via Creative Commons License

Heavy Western Canadian Select crude’s discount to West Texas Intermediate shrank to the least since 2012 as a new pipeline started and production sites were shut for maintenance. To read the entire article, go to

Key observations

Heavy Western Canadian Select discount to the U.S. benchmark narrowed to $8.50 a barrel Monday, the smallest margin since September 2012, according to data from Bloomberg.

The grade’s absolute price rose 3 cents to $50.43, the highest since Dec. 4. WTI futures were $58.93 in New York.

The Enbridge Company reported that it filled a new 570,000-barrel-a-day pipeline last month. In part the pipeline adds to the inventory (in motion) storage. The Enbridge line will raise the amount of crude that can be shipped from Edmonton, in northern Alberta, south to the storage terminals located at Hardisty, Alberta. From Hardisty, crude can move by unit crude oil trains either south to the upper Midwest or to the southern US state refineries. Or west towards markets along the Pacific Ocean coast or for export to Asia.


Tuesday’s tragic PHL area Amtrak Derailment highlights Amtrak funding issue

NTSB Chairman Sumwalt surveys scene of Amtrak derailment, Philadelphia

A word of silence for the souls of those killed and injured in the derailment of northbound Amtrak train #188, a train I have ridden about a half dozen times.

The issue of “why” is in part related to the question of our collective owners as taxpayers of the Northeast Corridor infrastructure and “nominal shareholders” of the Amtrak operating company.

This “who is responsible issue” is addressed in this news report.

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On Oil Train Safety, the Railroad Industry Needs to Lead, Or It Might Be Pushed Out of the Way

Response crews for the West Virginia train derailment continue to monitor the burning of the derailed rail cars near Mount Carbon next to the Kanawha River, Feb. 18, 2015. The West Virginia Train Derailment Unified Command continues to work with federal, state and local agencies on the response efforts for the train derailment that occurred near Mount Carbon, Feb. 15, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier)

I have been puzzling about how long it has been – more than 650 days – since the Quebec oil train explosion accident, with little substantive progress in making the transport of these trains safer.

Is it too explosive to handle? Are the trains too dangerous at any speed? Is it not worth the market effort, as some suggest? I’m still wondering about both the economics and the safety issues, and worrying about the safety of emergency first responders like my uncle and grandfather.

What’s missing in the railroad industry today?

Someone who says “the buck stops here!”

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Jim Blaze interviewed on NPR regarding Amtrak accident

Jim was interviewed on National Public Radio’s Here and Now program this afternoon about the possible causes of the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia. You can listen to the interview with Jim in the player below.

Bloomberg: India Fails to Get India Coal Trains Running…

Coal Field Express by Smeet Chowdhury, on Flickr

From Bloomberg, May 3, 2015: Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s plans to shift India’s economy toward manufacturing and away from agriculture and services are being held up by a coal shortage. Caused by the continued inability of the railroad to move the coal market “demanded” by its customers.

To read the entire article, go to


The railway simply does not have its service marketing act together yet. Promises are made, but progress is agonizingly slow. As a result, coal may actually be imported to get around the problems of poor rail service.

Critical points from Bloomberg report include these.

Actually, there’s plenty of coal, just not enough trains to get it to the power plants. While about 200 railway convoys arrive every day at Coal India Ltd.’s depots, Technical Director Nagendra Kumar said the company needs 230 of them.

“The (railway) infrastructure bottlenecks are stopping Coal India from rising to its full potential,” Choksey said.

Coal generates about 60 percent of India’s electricity. With output climbing at Coal India — and poor rail service — the fuel is piling up at the mines.

At the same time, slumping global prices mean customers are turning to imports from the likes of Glencore Plc, BHP Billiton Ltd. and Indonesia’s PT Bumi Resources. India’s coal imports jumped 33.5 percent to 242.4 million metric tons in the year ended March 31, according to data from Mjunction Services Ltd., a Kolkata. The figure may reach 260 million tons this year.

Power plants near ports often bring in imports by truck, unable to find enough railway cars. Dependence on coal imports is unjustified, as India has “huge” reserves of the fuel, Piyush Goyal, minister for coal, power and renewable energy, said in March. But it is the government that invests or does not invest in the necessary railways. Coal India has also called for the construction of three new railway lines that will help open new mines that can produce 300 million tons of the fuel every year.

Rail Giant Indian Railways, which has been in operation for 162 years, may be big, but it is not agile at modernizing its freight services.

“The logistical difficulties are a reason to worry,” said Debasish Mishra, a senior director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. in Mumbai. “My fear is we don’t have a quick solution to the (railway) problem.”