Mar 15, 2014

Transport chaos as high winds batter Sweden

Trains services were suspended in much of southern Sweden on Saturday as high winds battered the region while containers full with Norwegian salmon were left scattered along the tracks in the north after a derailment.
Swedish weather agency SMHI had warned of storm force winds and the forecast proved its veracity on Saturday morning.

The speed limit on the Öresund bridge was cut and wind-sensitive vehicles were instructed to delay their journeys across the sound as winds tested the safety limit of 25 metres/second.

Rail services across Skåne had been cancelled because of the weather warning with replacement buses deployed. The affected services include routes between Malmö and Simrishamn, Helsingborg and Teckomatorp and between Hässleholm and Helsingborg.

Services on the west coast line between Helsingborg and Ängelholm were also cancelled and replaced with buses.

After a burst of spring highs, the weather turned cold across the country on Friday with new snowfalls and high winds spreading down from the north.

"There's a really deep low pressure located near Lofoten. This means that it gets really windy, especially in the mountains," said Linnea Rehn, meteorologist at SMHI.

Mountain roads in Norrbotten, including the crossing to Norway, remained closed on Saturday because of the harsh weather and very strong winds. The closures also affected road 95 between Arjeplog and Bodo, and the E10 between Kiruna and Narvik.

Rail services were also suspended following the derailment of a goods train on the line between Kiruna and Narvik. Ten containers loaded with Norwegian salmon were left scattered along the tracks, according to the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).

Both the railway and electricity lines were damaged in the derailment. Work to repair the route and salvage the containers is expected to be finished on Thursday with disruptions ensuing as a result.

The Poor Writer’s Life, Now With Free Travel … and Free Houses

Colorado Scenics

Yes, free travel and free housing are possible for writers thanks to with two new residency programs. This isn’t a open-ended free-for-all, however: Note that the free travel comes via Amtrak, and the free houses being given away are in Detroit.

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A couple dozen writers’ dreams may come true, courtesy of … Amtrak? America’s national rail service recently introduced the #AmtrakResidency program, in which up to 24 writers will be granted a free round trip on one of Amtrak’s long-distance routes. “Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration,” the application form explains. In exchange for a rail journey valued at up to $900, the writer is expected to, well, write while on board, in long form (blog posts, poetry, maybe a few chapters in a novel) and short form (Twitter) alike. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis through the end of March.
As a post on The Wire summed up in late February, the writer-in-residency idea is one that popped up and evolved over the course of several months. In an interview in December, the author Alexander Chee mentioned his love of writing on trains, and that he wished “Amtrak had residencies for writers.” The comment kicked off tons of discussion—and similar yearnings—by writers on Twitter, and eventually Amtrak reached out to one of these writers, Jessica Gross, to see if she’d be interested in a train writer-in-residency test run. Of course, she was “on board,” and the results can be seen partially in a piece published by The Paris Review, in which Gross ruminates on (of course) train travel, among other things. A brief excerpt:
Train time is found time. My main job is to be transported; any reading or writing is extracurricular. The looming pressure of expectation dissolves. And the movement of a train conjures the ultimate sense of protection—being a baby, rocked in a bassinet.

(MORE: College Offers to Pay Students to Take a Year Off)

Apparently the test run was considered a success, because Amtrak opened the residency program up to the masses last week. Understandably, Chee, the program’s unintentional visionary, was overjoyed. “It’s one thing to dream about these things. It’s another thing to try to create them,” Chee said in an NPR interview. “And usually when people try to create residencies for artists and writers, you have to go through so much red tape.”

Amtrak haters, on the other hand, are using the residency program as an excuse for criticizing the rail operation, which has a very long history of losing money. In a letter sent to Amtrak’s president (and the media), U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), wrote of the residency program, “Given Amtrak’s prodigious annual taxpayer subsidies, this plan raises multiple red flags.”

In Detroit, meanwhile, a program offers writers a lot more than just a train trip. Various artist colonies welcome writers-in-residences to free lodging for a year or some other specified period of time. But the non-profit Write a House project stands out because if a participating writer fulfills the program’s requirements—including living in a rehabbed Detroit home and writing about the experience for two years—the house is his or hers to keep. Three houses are up for grabs, and project organizers are in the process of raising money and renovating them.

“People who move here will have to be prepared for some boarded-up houses on their blocks,” Sarah Cox, co-founder of Write a House, explained to the New Yorker. “But you’ll get the opportunity to be part of a community, own a house, and see real change happening.”

Applications will start being accepted this spring.

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Other kinds of artists aren’t entirely left out of such freebie-barter arrangements. As pointed out recently while highlighting Amtrak’s new residency program, Canada’s Via Rail service grants free food and long-haul trips to singers and musicians in exchange for performances in the economy-class lounge car.
“It’s such a charming place to play music, and it’s a captive audience to say the least,” one musician said to the Globe and Mail of his experience playing on the train. “There’s not that much space for an audience, in the tens of people for sure. So it is really intimate.”

Oil mars Ala. swamp months after crude train crash

John Wathen, an environmentalist with the Waterkeeper Alliance, gestures at the site of a train derailment and oil spill near Aliceville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

ALICEVILLE, Ala. — Environmental regulators promised an aggressive cleanup after a tanker train hauling 2.9 million gallons of crude oil derailed and burned in a west Alabama swamp in early November amid a string of North American oil train crashes.

So why is dark, smelly crude oil still oozing into the water four months later?

The isolated wetland smelled like a garage when a reporter from The Associated visited last week, and the charred skeletons of burned trees rose out of water covered with an iridescent sheen and swirling, weathered oil. A snake and a few minnows were some of the few signs of life.

An environmental group now says it has found ominous traces of oil moving downstream along an unnamed tributary toward a big creek and the Tombigbee River, less than 3 miles away. And the mayor of a North Dakota town where a similar crash occurred in December fears ongoing oil pollution problems in his community, too.

As the nation considers new means of transporting fuel over long distances, critics of crude oil trains have cited the Alabama derailment as an example of what can go wrong when tanker cars carrying millions of gallons of so-called Bakken crude leave the tracks. Questions about the effectiveness of the Alabama cleanup come as the National Transportation Safety Board considers tighter rules for the rail transportation of Bakken oil, which is produced mainly by the fracking process in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana. Oil production is increasing there, boosting the amount of oil being transported across the country.

Environmentalist John Wathen, who has conducted tests and monitored the Alabama site for months for Waterkeeper Alliance, said Genesee & Wyoming railroad and regulators did the bare minimum to spruce up an isolated, rural site and left once the tracks were repaired so trains could run again.

“I believe they really thought that because it’s out of sight, out of mind, out in the middle of a swamp, that nobody was going to pay attention,” said Wathen.

Regulators and the company deny any such thing occurred, however.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, which oversaw the cleanup, say more than 10,700 gallons of oil were skimmed from the water after the derailment, and workers collected about 203,000 gallons of oil from damaged rail cars using pumps. Another 290 cubic yards of oily dirt was excavated with heavy equipment, or enough to cover a basketball court with soil nearly 2 feet deep.

Yet four months later, officials still say no one knows exactly how much oil was spilled. That’s mainly because an unknown amount of oil burned in a series of explosions and a huge fire that lasted for hours after the crash. Since no one knows how much oil burned, officials also can’t say how much oil may be in the swamp.

About a month after the crash, the head of Alabama’s environmental agency, Lance LeFleur, promised “aggressive recovery operations” in a written assessment for a state oversight commission. He said the oil had been contained in a “timely” manner and none had left the wetlands.

Michael Williams, a spokesman for the Connecticut-based Genesee & Wyoming, which owns the short-line Alabama & Gulf Coast Railway line where the crash occurred, said the company is still monitoring the site closely and maintaining a system of barriers meant to keep oil from spreading. The work is continuous, he said.

But regulators and the railroad confirm one of Wathen’s worst fears: That environmental agencies let the railroad repair the badly damaged rail bed and lay new tracks before all the spilled oil was removed. Wathen calls the move a mistake that’s behind the continuing seepage of oil into the water.

“I do agree that they needed to get the rail cars out. But there were other ways to do it,” said Wathen. “Those would have been more expensive.”

James Pinkney, an EPA spokesman in Atlanta, said the rail line had to be fixed quickly to remove oil and damaged rail cars that still contained crude from the wetland.

Agencies are now working with the company and its contractors to recover the remaining oil trapped in the rail bed, but it’s unclear when or how that might happen.

“The EPA and ADEM are continuing to work together to insure all recoverable oil is removed from the site,” Pinkney in a written response to questions.

Ed Overton, an environmental sciences professor at Louisiana State University, said spilled crude can linger at a site indefinitely if it’s buried in the ground. Depending on the amount of oil that remains, he said, containment devices may be needed in the swamp for at least a couple of years.

But Bakken crude evaporates quickly once exposed to air because of its composition, said Overton, so the fact that oil remains in the swamp isn’t “the end of the world.”

“It’s going to look bad for awhile,” he said. “It’s amazing how quickly Mother Nature can handle such things, but it will take time.”

The cause of the derailment — which happened at a wooden trestle that was destroyed by the flames and since has been replaced by buried culverts that let water flow underneath the tracks — remains under investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The crash site appears in better shape now than right after the derailment, partly because burned tanker cars misshapen by explosions are gone. Much of the water surrounding the site appears clear, and the odor from the site isn’t bad enough to reach the home of Leila Hudgins, just a few hundred yards away.

“I haven’t smelled anything,” said Hudgins. “They did a good job. They hauled off truckload after truckload.”

The crash site, located off an old dirt road and a new one that was built during the response, is accessible both by car and foot, but Hudgins said she hasn’t looked closely at the spot where it happened.

The railroad said testing hasn’t detected any groundwater contamination, and EPA said air monitoring ended about a month after the crash when it became apparent there were no airborne health hazards.

Still, questions linger. Wathen said he has been taking water samples several hundred yards downstream from the crash site and has detected the chemical fingerprint of so-called Bakken crude, which the train was carrying with it derailed.

“There’s no question it is outside their containment area, and I think it’s even further away,” said Wathen. “This is an environmental disaster that could go on for years.”

The Alabama train was on a southbound run when it derailed less than 3 miles south of Aliceville, a town of about 2,400 people near the Mississippi line. Another oil train derailed and burned in December at Casselton, N.D., and 47 people died in July when a train carrying Bakken oil exploded and burned in Quebec.

The mayor of Casselton, Ed McConnell said he has been keeping up with the Alabama cleanup because spilled oil also was buried under the rebuilt railroad tracks near his town of 2,400 people. He worries that oil will reappear on the ground at Casselton as the spring thaw begins in coming weeks.

“It’s still in the ground here, too,” said McConnell. “They’ve hauled a lot of dirt and stuff out. But they covered up the (oily) dirt before getting it all up and rebuilt the track to get it going.”

Alabama’s environmental agency said it still regularly visits the wreck site, which is encircled with the same sort of absorbent fencing, oil-snaring pom-poms and plastic barriers that were used on the Gulf Coast after the BP well blowout in 2010.

Once the “emergency” phase ends, the state environmental agency will install wells to monitor groundwater, said spokesman Jerome Hand.

Government regulators will approve any plans for removing remaining oil from the site, he said.

Fire crews taking part in controlled landslip at Dawlish

Fire crews are taking part in a controlled landslip at Dawlish

Fire crews have been pumping sea water on to a cliff at Dawlish to bring down more than 350,000 tonnes in a controlled landslip.

The fire service was called in yesterday to prevent a potentially “catastrophic” collapse that could have posed a risk to workers repairing the line.

Network Rail had requested the assistance of the fire service after workers noticed a large area of soil and rock above the main line had slumped during the previous 48 hours.

Fire crews from Teignmouth, Middlemoor and Dawlish were on site throughout the night pumping water into the fracture line.

A meeting has taken place on site this morning to assess any movement in the landslip site overnight, as well as consider the pumping strategy for the next 24hrs, with the incident potentially lasting up to seven days.

Group commander Andy Rowse said today that crews had been at the scene overnight and the cliff face had slumped further. Two crews remain this afternoon as the pumping operation continues.

Cmmdr Rowse said the plan was for the loose material to be brought down over the rail line then moved by Network Rail out to sea so the line could be reinstated.

The line at Dawlish was destroyed during storms at the beginning of February svering the main rail link from the Westcountry.

Although the landslip has prevented work taking place beneath the affected area, Network Rail have said it is unlikely to have an impact on its April 4 completion date.

A spokesman said: “To safely clear the failing land mass, high pressure water - a similar technique used in clay mining - has been deployed to saturate the land and create a controlled erosion.

"This will enable the cliff material to be taken down in a planned and controlled manner to minimise damage to the infrastructure."
Source-westernmorning news

MP Dan Rogerson canvasses support for rail campaign in Bude

Hundreds of residents have signed a petition to bring back railway services to North Cornwall.

The petition, launched by North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson, calls for Network Rail to provide a route through North Cornwall, which could act as an alternative route out of the county, after the mainline through Dawlish was destroyed by storms.

North Cornwall MP, Dan Rogerson door-knocking for rail campaign

Thousands of residents and businesses have backed Mr Rogerson’s calls for the Okehampton line to be extended via Tavistock across the Tamar and into north and east Cornwall.

Mr Rogerson said: “Many people fondly remember getting the train from and to Bude, Whitstone, Holsworthy and Okehampton – but sadly many more people can’t remember a time when the railways served our area following their closure in the 1960’s.

“Thousands of local businesses, residents and community organisations have said that they think bringing the railway closer to Bude would be a fantastic boost for the town and the surrounding areas.”

Mr Rogerson went door-knocking in Bude to rally support for the campaign.

He said: “The support on the doorsteps in Bude was fantastic – every extra signature on the petition is another step towards convincing Network Rail that a new line to Okehampton is vital for our area, and that there is support from local people for extending the line to north Cornwall.”

The petition is online at
Source-cornish guardian

South Central Railway Awarded with Rajbhasha Trophy

South Central Railway, the zone situated in "C" region of Indian Railways has been awarded with Rail Mantri Rajbhasha Trophy for meritorious work in Official Language Hindi.

In a meeting held at Railway Board, Shri Arunendra Kumar, Chairman, Railway Board, New Delhi has awarded the trophy to Shri Mahesh Chandra, Mukkya Rajbhasha Adhikari & Controller of Stores and Shri Laxman Shivhare, Senior Rajbhasha Adhikari, South Central Railway received the trophy.

Vijayawada Division of South Central Railway was awarded with Acharya Raghuveer Chal Vyjayanti Shield for Best Division, which was received by Shri Pradeep Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager, Vijayawada Division, SCR and Shri S.Chiranjivi, Rajbhasha Adhikari, Vijayawada Division, SCR.

Shri P.K.Srivastava, General Manager, South Central Railway, has congragulated the staff and officers of Hindi Section for the honour.

Shri Mahesh Chandra, Mukhya Rajbhasha Adhikari, SCR expressed that this is an honour for South Central Railway and should take it as a responsibility to maintain the honour by doing work in Rajbhasha and avail the benefits of various schemes.
Source - (K.Sambasiva Rao)
Chief Public Relations Officer, SCR

Light Rail Cafe holding fundraiser tomorrow seeking $25 gift cards for fire victims

A fundraiser for the families displaced by a 4-alarm blaze on Grant Avenue last week will be held at the Lite Rail Cafe in Jersey City tomorrow. Organizers of the event are asking that attendees donate a $25 gift card from the store of their choice. The restaurant is located at 237 Randolph Ave. and the event runs from 3 to 6 p.m.

The March 6 blaze claimed the lives of four people and damaged six multifamily homes.

At least 35 people were displaced by the fire.

8 Weeks Of Rail Disruptions Start In Southampton

Southampton Central train station

A 20 million pound project replacing worn out tracks at Southampton Central train station starts today.

It'll mean disruption to thousands of passengers every weekend for the next 8 weeks and passangers travelling to and through Southampton are reminded to check before they travel between now and May 4th.

Network Rail say the £20m improvements to the railway will improve the reliability of trains through Southampton and the surrounding areas. However, in order to carry out the work, there will be disruption to trains using Southampton Central station over eight weekends, including the Easter bank holiday weekend, starting March 15 and finishing on May 4. These include services from South West Trains, Cross Country, Southern and First Great Western.

Replacement buses will be in operation every weekend where work is taking place. Passengers are reminded to allow extra time for their journeys as times may be extended by up to 60 minutes.

Jim Morgan, infrastructure director for the Network Rail / South West Trains Alliance, said: "This is a vital programme of investment to improve the reliability of train services for Southampton and the surrounding region. The work takes place on weekends from March 15 until early May, with each weekend seeing different service changes on lines to and from Southampton Central.

"Please make sure that you check before you travel and alert friends, family and visitors who might want to use train services over these weekends that they will need to check for specific changes and leave extra time for their journeys.

"We recognise that this is not ideal and we are sorry for the inevitable disruption that will be caused to our passengers. We have sought to keep disruption to a minimum whilst we undertake this essential work.

"There will be replacement bus services through Southampton over those weekends, and we will have customer service staff available at stations to help everyone get where they are going."

Southampton has seen a huge increase in trains and passenger demand in the last ten years, putting the infrastructure under increasing pressure. Journeys on the South West main line have increasing by 22% since 2008. More than 6m people use the station each year, up 1.5m on a decade ago.

The new equipment is needed to improve the reliability of train services to and from Southampton.

Almost 40,000 man-hours of round-the-clock work and 32 engineering trains of materials will be required to undertake the project, which will see more than 30 sets of points and associated equipment replaced over the five weekends.

Routes affected are:

March 15: Southampton to Brockenhurst

March 16: All lines to/from Southampton

March 22 and 23: All lines to/from Southampton

March 29 and 30: All lines to/from Southampton

April 5 and 6: All lines to/from Southampton

April 12 and 13: All lines to/from Southampton

Easter weekend, April 18-21: All lines to/from Southampton

April 27, All lines to/from Southampton

May 4: All lines to/from Southampton

Mega storm hits Sydney delaying football, cancelling races and causing chaos on the rail network

GWS Giants v Sydney Swans
LIGHTENING strikes caused a shut down at the races, delayed a football game, chaos on the rail network and reports of hail.

The final two races were delayed at Randwick Racecourse when visible lightning strikes were seen by stewards at about 4.30pm before race eight.

Lightning strike in Sydney during an afternoon storm. Source: Supplied

Storm clouds gather Source: Supplied, Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United at Parramatta Stadium Source: News Corp Australia
Lightning strike in Sydney during an afternoon storm.
Lightning strike in Sydney during an afternoon storm. Source: Supplied

Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United at Parramatta Stadium
“There is a lot of lightening at the moment,” a spokesman for the Australian Turf Club said.

“We have to wait until the storm passes and the lightening moves because the stewards,” he said.

The day of races was ended without race eight or nine being run.

Cloud formations as a storm passes over Maroubra. Source: Supplied

The Battle of the Bridge between the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants was delayed at quarter time because of thunder and lightening.

Chris Webb, forecaster from the Bureau of Meteorology, said there was hale in Penrith as well as rain and thunderstorms across Sydney.

Storm clouds gather over Sydney Source: Supplied

“We are getting short and sharp burst of rain, 16mm fell in ten minutes and North Parra 5.10pm to 5.20pm,” he said.

“A line of storms just moved off the Blue Mountains and intensive over the Sydney basin as well as near Wollongong,” he said.

A thunderstorm moves over Eastlake Golf Club, Kingscord. Picture Anthony Reginato Source: News Corp Australia

“There was quite a heavy fall at Erskine Park, there was 10 millimetres in ten minutes about 4.40pm.”

Lightning strikes affected signals at Granville causing delays on the western and Blue Mountains lines, inner west and south lines, and Bankstown line.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United at Parramatta Stadium Source: News Corp Australia

MSA students invited to nationals in Colorado

WEST DOVER -- All six riders from Mount Snow Academy’s snowboarding program were invited to one of the biggest competitions of the year.

"We are excited for these final two weeks here, training in the best terrain parks in the east," said coach Tom Anderson. "Carinthia will be our training grounds for the big show coming up."

From March 29 to April 8, these students will be competing at the 25th United States of America Snowboarding and Freeski Association’s National Championships at Copper Mountain in Colorado.

Successful scores from events run by the association throughout the year put the students in a position to get invitations. Most of the events were part of the Southern Vermont Series.

Max Lyons was ranked first place in rail jams and 12th in halfpipe for the open class pro division. For the youth women division of ages 14 to 15, Ali Hsueh made first place in slopestyle, third in halfpipe and 12th in rail jams. Competing in men’s junior division for ages 16 and 17, David McCarthy was ranked first place in halfpipe and fifth in slopestyle, while Ryan Gormley was 18th in halfpipe and 39th in slopestyle. Bradley Harper was ranked fifth in rail jams, 40th in slopestyle and 63rd in halfpipe for men ages 14 and 15. Alex Atno ranked 11th in slopestyle and 31st in rail jam for boys ages 12 and 13.

Although their rankings determined which events they were invited to, there still remains an opportunity for the students to get invited to other events. It depends upon whether other competitors accept their invitations.

"The riders are all healthy and raring to polish the maneuvers they currently have and hopeful for adding to their bag of tricks," said Anderson.

For the first week of training, he told the Reformer that the riders’ focus will be on adding new tricks. Then they will be working towards consistency and preparing runs for their respective events.

"This pilgrimage that 30 some regions make to Copper this spring will be well represented by southern Vermont and especially our crew here at MSA," concluded Anderson. "We return with two defending champs, McCarthy in halfpipe and Lyons in rail jam."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.





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