Oct 24, 2014

Head-to-Head: Canadian Pacific Railway Limited vs. Canadian National Railway Company

Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (TSX: CP)(NYSE: CP) and Canadian National Railway Company (TSX: CNR)(NYSE: CNI) have delivered excellent results so far this year. However, that is now history and investors should consider which company offers the best investment prospects.

Operational performance: CN Rail still has the edge

The operating ratio, which measures operating expenses as a portion of revenues, is a key indicator of how well the railroad company can control its expenses relative to the revenue. CN Rail has an industry-leading operating ratio, which averaged 63% over the past five years.

Under the new management team, CP Rail has improved its ratio considerably over the past two years to 66% in the first nine months of 2014. According to CP Rail management, this could still improve further, but at the moment CN Rail is clearly the more efficient operator.

Financial performance: CN Rail is well ahead

CP Rail improved its profitability dramatically over the past three years with earnings per share jumping by more than 150% between 2011 and 2014 (as expected for the full year). CN Rail only managed about a third of that growth as the base was already much higher. However, with fewer cost-saving opportunities now available to CP Rail, the growth trajectory should in future be more similar.

The cash flow of CN Rail remains extraordinary strong with 36% of revenues currently being converted into operating cash. CP Rail lags considerably with 30% of revenues currently being converted to operating cash.

CN Rail has an excellent dividend payment track record, having increased the dividend every year and on average by 16% per year since going public 18 years ago. In addition, the company regularly buys shares back and has managed to reduce the share count by 10% since 2011 and intends to by another 3.9% of the outstanding shares by October 2015. CP Rail also has a sound dividend-paying track record having increased the dividend on average by 13% per year over the past 13 years. The company also has a share repurchase program in place, but the share count is currently still higher than in 2011.

Longer-term prospects: Both are good

Both companies have excellent and almost irreplaceable infrastructure, with CN Rail covering 20,000 route miles that span Canada and mid-America, reaching the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf Coast. CP Rail has 13,700 route miles that span Canada and include the industrial areas of Chicago and Detroit. CN Rail, however, again has the edge as its lines are able to bypass the congested Chicago hub, saving valuable travel time.

The business mix for both companies is well diversified with intermodal, grain, and petroleum products the most important categories.

CP Rail recently announced ambitious goals until 2018. Most importantly they expect to double the earnings per share based on revenue growth of 10% per year and an operating ratio moving down to around 60%.

Whether these objectives will be met, only time will tell; however, the growth profile and prospects to increase revenues seem to be rather similar for both companies. CP Rail may be able to push its operating ratio down further and in the process grow profits somewhat faster than CN Rail over the next few years.

Valuation: CN Rail has the easier valuation

Based on consensus forecasts, the price-to-earnings ratio for CN Rail for the 2014 financial year is 20 times and 18 times for 2015. This represents a premium of 10% to its peers and a 25% premium to its own valuation history.

Again based on consensus forecasts, CP Rail’s P/E ratio for the 2014 financial year is 27 times and 20 times for 2015, a premium of more than 25% to its peers and a 45% premium to its own valuation history.

CN Rail is probably the better investment today

Neither company is, in my view, a bargain at current prices. However, CN Rail is a high-quality operator with a superior rail network, excellent cash flow generation, reasonable growth prospects, and a more attractive valuation.

If the railroad stock valuations are too rich for you, please make sure to read the report on our TOP PICK for 2014 and beyond

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Labour's hypocrisy on rail franchise exposed

The SNP has condemned Labour’s ‘transparent hypocrisy’ on the rail franchise today, after Transport Minister Keith Brown highlighted the glaring anomaly between the party’s recent public rhetoric and the reality of the powers they called for in their submission to the Smith Commission.

Writing to Labour’s Mark Griffin, Cara Hilton, Cathy Jamieson and Katy Clark, Transport Minister Keith Brown has highlighted the discrepancies in Labour’s public pronouncements urging the Scottish Government to allow public sector bidders to compete for the rail franchise – whilst failing to call for powers to allow this to be devolved in their submission to the Smith Commission.

The Scottish Government’s submission to the Smith Commission makes clear that “Full responsibility for rail transport would enable public sector bids and non-for-profit models, more integrated railway services and services designed to meet local needs” – while Labour’s proposals are completely silent on the powers needed to allow public sector bids. 

Commenting, SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn said:

“Labour’s attitude towards the rail franchise is nothing more than transparent hypocrisy – while publicly demanding that the Scottish Government allow public sector bids they haven’t even bothered to include the powers needed to do this in their proposal to the Smith Commission.

“Yet again Labour have been caught out talking a good game while doing absolutely nothing to deliver the powers we need – their strong words stand in stark contrast to their incredibly weak actions.

“The Scottish Government submission to the Smith Commission called for the powers to allow public sector bids while Labour’s was silent on the issue – either they aren’t interested in giving Scotland the powers we need or they have been overruled by the party’s bosses in London. Either way they are letting the people of Scotland down.

“And while Labour engage in shameless hypocrisy, what shouldn’t be ignored is the fact that the new ScotRail franchise is a good deal for customers and staff – delivering at least 100 new apprentices, a guarantee of at least the living wage for all staff and better services for customers. 

“While the SNP is delivering for Scotland it couldn’t be clearer that Labour under Johann Lamont are only interested in playing party political games and can’t be taken seriously – which is one of the reasons their support continues to slip away.”

Iran signals new welcome to European rail tourists

A steam engine pulls the Golden Eagle Danube Express after its departure from Budapest on 15 October, en route to Tehran. Photograph: Zoltan Mathe/EPA

A long-distance luxury train, operating in the style of the Orient Express, arrived in the Iranian city of Zanjan from Budapest on Thursday, in a rare private rail visit to the Islamic republic.

Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism organisation said some 96 passengers from at least 14 different countries were aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express, according to the semi-official Isna news agency. “It arrived in Zanjan at 17.30 local time,” Gholamreza Najafloo, a spokesperson, told Iranian reporters.

The Cheshire-based Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, which has organised the Jewels of Persia tour, said it marked the first time a European private train had been permitted to enter Iranian territory.

To observe Iranian requirements, alcoholic drinks are not being served during the entire section of the tour in Iran.

The train, which departed Budapest’s Nyugati terminus in mid-October, travelled through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey prior to the Iranian leg of the journey. Its final destination is the capital, Tehran.

Since the election of the moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, last year, Iran has invested more in its tourism industry, opening doors to a larger number of foreign visitors.

This was facilitated by the appointment of Mohammad-Ali Najafi, a western-educated Iranian politicain, as the country’s vice-president for tourism.

Najafi told the Guardian last October that Iran was overhauling its strict immigration rules to ease or abolish visa requirements for most foreign visitors. He has since stepped down from his position but taken another job with the government.

Iran is home to some of the world’s most magnificent historical and archaeological sites. Relics of a proud ancient civilisation include: Persepolis, the capital of the largest empire that the world has ever seen; the city of Isfahan; Shiraz, the city of love and poetry; and Hamadan, where Avicenna, the father of early modern medicine, is buried.

Unesco has declared 16 world heritage sites in Iran, which was historically referred to as Persia in the west until the 20th century.

Apart from Zanjan, where guests are visiting the Unesco-listed, 13th-century Soltaniyeh mausoleum, the Golden Eagle train will stop in the ancient city of Yazd, Isfahan, Shiraz and finally Tehran.

“We felt that many of our clients would be greatly drawn to the excitement of Iran for its fascinating culture,” said Ian Lomas, of Golden Eagle. “An emerging tourism market, Iran is now returning to travellers’ bucket lists. We are experiencing a significant demand for the 2015 and 2016 departures – indeed, our inaugural journey sold out within three weeks of launch date.”

Prices for the two-week tour range from £8,695 to £13,995 per person.
Source-.the guardian

Kochi Metro Rail Limited, Kerala issues recruitment notification

The Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), Kochi (Kerala) has published an employment notification for the recruitment of various manager posts . KMRL's aim is to provide a reliable, safe, efficient, viable and customer friendly rapid transit system for the greater Kochi area that is environmentally sustainable.


Total posts: 9

Name of the posts: 

General Manager (Finance & Accounts) - 1

General Manager (Operation & Maintenance) - 1

General Manager (Power & Traction) - 1

Dy. General Manager (Signalling & Telecommunications) - 1

Manager (Operations) - 1

Manager (Depot) - 1

Asst. Manager (Electrical & Maintenance) - 1

Asst. Manager (Signal) - 1

Asst. Manager (Telecom) - 1

Pay Scale: Candidates are required to refer to the official notification for post-wise pay scale details.


Educational Qualification: Candidates are required to refer to the official notification for postwise educational qualification details.

Selection Procedure: An interview would be conducted to shortlist candidates.

How to apply: Candidates are required to download the application form from the online website and send the completed form along with all relevant documents to 'The Manager (HR & Training), Kochi Metro Rail Ltd., 8th Floor, Revenue Tower, Park Avenue, Kochi - 682011'.

Important Dates: The last date for submission of application forms is November 12, 2014.
Source-india today

Crowded out on the Calder Valley rail line

Concerns have been raised about overcrowding on the Calder Valley line, as it is revealed that passenger growth has increased by “more than 50 per cent” since 2004.

Rail groups and councillors discussed growing issues on the busy commuting line, at the Calder Ward forum held at Hebden Bridge Town Hall on Tuesday, that runs direct routes to Manchester, Blackpool and Leeds.

Pete Myers, Head of Service Quality for Northern Rail, was in agreement about the concerns of overcrowding and said that the lack of trains, the size and the amount of carriages is adding to the ongoing problem.

“Overcrowding is our biggest problem and it has to be resolved. There is more than 50 per cent extra people on the train line since 2004.”

The Calder Valley line was franchised to Northern Rail in 2004 and since last September, had been expected to run the rail lines as they did at the start of the contract - not allowing for the growth in passengers.

Nina Smith, secretary of the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance Sustainable Transport Group, said that “there is not enough railway carriages” in West Yorkshire.

“National Rail operate in difficult circumstances. They are expected to run railway services the same as they did in 2004 but since then, passenger load has increased dramatically in Hebden Bridge.

“The whole way the railway is run is chaotic. We need money to get extra carriages, as there is not enough trains.

“The fault is the Government’s and the previous Government for not investing in the railway and for not seeing how the growth is affecting services.”

Stephen Waring, chair of the Halifax and District Rail Action Group, said: “I travelled from Halifax to Leeds last Monday morning at peak time and it was overcrowded the whole way. People are paying the peak rates and should be getting the services.

“Overcrowding is a problem right across the north of England. We need more modern trains.

“We need to see Northern Rail, the Government, local authorities and other train groups delivering on the promises to improve train times on the line and deliver more affective services.”

A report released earlier this year by Passenger Focus provided results of customer satisfaction in Autumn 2013.

On the Northern Rail line, there was a noticed decrease in customer satisfaction in providing sufficient room for passengers to sit or stand.

Metro Chairman Coun James Lewis said: “There is severe overcrowding on the rail services in West Yorkshire.

“It is a clear issue in the area and it is about the quality of the services on the trains.

“There has been around a 50 per cent growth of passengers in the past ten or 12 years.”

Rhythmic Rail Shooter Cosmophony Arriving In Europe & The Americas on 30th October

Fallen goddess

Last month it was revealed that Bento Studio’s musical rail shooter, Cosmophony, would be adapted and ported to the Wii U by Moving Player. Now, the latest announcement has revealed the upcoming Wii U eShop release will be arriving in both Europe and the Americas on 30th October, for the price of £3.49, €3.99 & $3.99 respectively.

Cosmophony, originally announced in 2012 for rival platforms, has players take control of the heart of a fallen goddess. In this intense experience, players will test their reflexes and listening skills, with the levels built around Drum & Bass beats.

The rhythmic rail shooter will be presented in full 1080p, at a silky smooth 60 FPS. Adding to the visual splendour is the 100% DnB soundtrack courtesy of DJ Salaryman, and a juke-box mode where gamers can relax and listen to the hard earned tracks.

View the teaser trailer of Cosmophony below and let us know if you’ll be downloading this Wii U eShop title on release.
Source-nin ten do life

Paddington's London, New Zealand from the air, and new Portugal rail pass: Travel agenda

1. Kiwi fliers

Discover the World has launched a series of new ways to enjoy New Zealand, including a unique aerial tour of the South Island, with the option to self-fly. The trip is for sightseers, pilots, or pilots-to-be, using small Piper Archer or Piper Warrior aircraft.

2. Peak form

Snow bunnies who want to get in shape before hitting the slopes need look no further than their phones. Neil Maclean-Martin, a Chamonix-based physiotherapist and clinical therapist, has launched a new video-based app. SkiFit offers exercises that can be done at home or in the gym.

3. Saving Grace

Grace Hotel's latest venture opened its doors in Panama City this week. Occupying the ground floor and upper six floors of the "Twist Tower" in the Obarrio District, it expects to attract both business and leisure travellers and has 60 rooms and suites, many of which enjoy sweeping views. Doubles start at US$160 (£100), room only

New ad attacks urban rail through comedy act

AUSTIN -- A new attack against the billion-dollar bond on Austin's ballot is taking a much different approach on TV.

The organization behind the latest ad, Citizens Against Rail Taxes (CART) is poking fun at the cost of the urban rail project.

New ad attacks urban rail through comedy act KVUE

The commercial by advertising agency KC Strategies featuring local comedian Kevin Miller is making waves with its comments on urban rail.

In the ad, Miller says in front of a mock stage audience, "Over a billion dollars for 9.5 miles of rail? That's over $27,000 per foot. I'm sure it'll be made of fine Italian marble so don't worry too much"

CART was founded by Jim Skaggs, who said he wanted to make the commercial to counter the numbers set forth by supporters of the urban rail.

"The opposition is taking such absurd positions and presenting absurd numbers, that it was kind of a joke," said Skaggs.

The ad's claim that the rail would cost $27,000 per foot is under fire by rail supporters like John Langmore, a former board member of Capital Metro.

"They took $1.38 billion when we are only paying $600 million of it locally. The other $600 million is coming from the federal government. By the way, that's money we've already paid to the federal government," said Langmore.

"The number that they're presenting, $600 million, is not what it's going to cost. That doesn't count the interest; it doesn't count the gap between $1.2 billion and $1.38 billion," Skaggs said.

In the ad, Miller jokes, "They say it'll move about 9,000 Austinites a day. You know where you can take 9,000 Austinites for over a billion dollars? Outer space."

Langmore said that logic is misleading.

"They took a figure at a single point in time and act as though that's the maximum capacity, the most the system will ever carry. It can grow five times that amount," he said, referring to ridership estimates.

The ad ends with Miller saying, "It's $150,000 per rider. Tell you what, give me $150,000, and I'll sit at home and watch sports center and not take my car."

In response to that number, Langmore said, "You are taking the entire capital cost of that system that will last that long [50 years] and amortizing it over a single days ridership. That is absurd."

Langmore said the commercial confuses voters, but Miller, who stars in the commercial, said he believes the message is clear.

"I have the unusual position of being in favor of a light rail, but I think this particular one is terrible. A billion dollars to move a few thousand Austinites and they will benefit greatly, but the rest of us will be paying for it," said Miller

With 12 more days until the election on Nov. 4, Skaggs said to expect to see more ads against the bond on TV.

Rail workers seconds from death

Nine rail workers were just seconds from death after being given no warning that an 80mph passenger train was bearing down on them, rail accident investigators have said.

The track workers, operating on a small bridge on the West Coast main line in Lancashire, were reliant on getting visual and audible warnings of approaching trains as their view was restricted by the curvature of the track.

But they received no advance warning that an Edinburgh to Manchester Airport train was approaching.

Mongolia Embraces China With Railway to Lower Transport Costs

Mongolia’s parliament adopted for the first time a rail gauge compatible with China, to ease transport of its second-biggest export, coal, to its largest customer.

The landlocked nation’s 1900-kilometer (1,200 mile) rail network was built with help from the Soviet Union in the last century, as Mongolia looked westward for markets and political support. Constructing the 240-kilometer railway from the Tavan Tolgoi coal basin using China’s standard gauge will save on transportation costs, and helps draw a line under Mongolia’s historical mistrust of its southern neighbor, now the world’s largest energy consumer.

The Chinese gauge was adopted for two routes to the border with 84 percent of votes in favor, according to the parliament’s website. The passage follows years of discussion.

“With this debate now put to rest, investors are likely feeling a sense of relief,” Chris MacDougall, managing director of Ulaanbaatar-based Mongolia Investment Business Group, said in an e-mail.

Winners from the change will include the operator of projects at Tavan Tolgoi, Mongolia’s largest coal deposit with 6.4 billion metric tons of reserves, including Hong Kong-listed Mongolian Mining Corp. and state-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC.
Track Contract

South Korea’s Samsung C&T Corp. was awarded a $483 million contract in May 2013 to build the tracks. Securing power and building signaling and maintenance depots will increase the costs of the project to $820 million.

In May, Mongolia Railway, the state-owned company overseeing the line, said construction was slated for completion in late 2016, according to Zorig Alimaa, the head of the project department at the time.

Using standard gauge rail instead of the broad gauge used elsewhere in the country will reduce the cost of transporting coal to China by $2 a ton to $4 a ton, Zorig said. Broad gauge adds costs because of the need to unload and reload coal before it reaches China, he said.

Imperial Russia adopted a gauge of 1,524 millimeters in 1842 for military purposes, as a way to slow down an invasion by rail. The gauge was built across the Soviet Union and many of its allies, including Mongolia. Standard gauge, used in China, is 85 millimeters narrower.

In April, a consortium of four companies established the Gashuunsuukhait Railway joint venture, which is planning to build and operate an 18-kilometer standard gauge railway to straddle the Chinese-Mongolian frontier. The 240-kilometer railway from Tavan Tolgoi will connect with this trans-border line. The shorter line didn’t require parliamentary approval.
Source-bloom berg

China’s Rail Ambitions Route to Lasting Growth

When the going gets tough, the tough make tracks. Railroad tracks.

At least in China, that is. As officials in Beijing struggle to keep economic growth from slowing, they’ve been accelerating investment in new railways, a trend that’s likely to boost earnings at the handful of mainland companies that build them and the trains that ply them.

China’s railroad building spree isn’t likely to stop once Beijing’s stimulus does, either. Its railway network is still far smaller than in industrialized countries. Railways are also part of a strategic push to build shortcuts over land to markets in Europe and South Asia that bypass territorial squabbles in the South China Sea and the mighty U.S. Navy. And railway building is key to China’s efforts to promote development of its poor, politically restive, western hinterland.

“Whenever you’ve had these kind of big railroad initiatives or road initiatives, it’s always had a phenomenal impact in the regions it’s reached,” said Markus Rosgen, a strategist at Citigroup in Hong Kong. “It also allows you as a government to integrate those areas more into your core and make them more dependent on you.”

The list of investable companies is a short one – four state-controlled companies, all listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Two Chinese companies build railways: China Railway Group ( 390.HK, 601390.CH) and China Railway Construction ( 1186.HK, 601186.CH). And two Chinese companies build locomotives and rolling stock: CSR ( 1766.HK,601766.CH) and China CNR ( 6199.HK, 601299.CH). A fifth company, CSR-subsidiary Zhuzhou CSR, also makes train systems. Analysts say the two most worthy of investor attention are China Railway Construction, or CRCC, and CSR.

CRCC, is China’s second-largest railway builder, and is 61% state-owned. With roughly 45% share of the domestic market, it offers investors a purer play on railways than China Railway Group, as CRCC hasn’t diversified as heavily into developing property, prices for which are falling in many Chinese cities. CRCC counts on building railroads for more than three-quarters of its gross profits, compared with 64% at China Railway Group. Analysts at Citigroup also prefer its stronger balance sheet.

CSR, formerly known as the China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corp. Ltd., is 57% government-owned and has a roughly 50% market share, according to Citigroup.

In September, CRCC said its first half net profits rose 4.8% on year to 5 billion yuan ($812.9 million), on a 10.9% increase in revenue. New contracts for building railways jumped 72.6% and contracts for urban rail transit rose 60.5%.

CSR appears to be having an even better year. Its first-half net rose 41% to RMB2 billion on a 36.6% increase in revenue. Sales of those self-propelled carriages, known as multiple units, or MUs, almost trebled.

Not surprisingly, CSR’s share price has already responded, rising 7.4% so far this year and outperforming other China shares listed in Hong Kong. Its stock was also helped by a report in September that the government is considering merging CSR with rival, China CNR. That has pushed CSR’s price-to-earnings ratio to 14.8 times estimated 2014 earnings, according to Thomson Reuters, compared to the 7.3 average for the companies on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index.

CRCC, by contrast, has fallen 8.4%, leaving its shares trading at just 6.11 times estimated earnings, a discount to the market. CRCC and CSR’s Shanghai-listed shares are cheaper by contrast, so analysts say interested investors may want to consider looking at shares there once direct trading on Shanghai’s exchange from Hong Kong becomes available under a program called Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect due to start in late-October.

Analysts remain bullish on both companies, however, thanks to China’s plans to push forward spending on railways around the country. Along with public housing and clean energy, building railways is one of Beijing’s favored weapons for staving off economic slowdown.

China raised its railway construction budget this year to RMB800 billion, up from RMB630 billion in 2013. In its “mini-stimulus” package unveiled in April, China said that in addition to tax cuts, it would add 6,600 kilometers of new railways across China, 1,000 kilometers more than it built in 2013.

By the end of June, though, China had only managed to spend a little more than RMB200 billion on railways, meaning it has another RMB600 billion to burn through before the end of the year. As a result, it’s been shoveling out cash to rail companies at an ever faster pace. Railway spending in August rose 20.6% on year, up from a 20% increase in July. BNP Paribas, Barclays and Citigroup all expect railway spending to keep accelerating into the year-end.

Even if all that stimulus works and China’s railway budgets go back to normal next year, China’s railroad bill is likely to keep rising, according to economists at BNP Paribas. Beijing’s plan to promote urbanization includes building rapid transit systems in every city with more than 500,000 people and standard city trains for every city with more than 200,000 people by 2020. That means at least five more years of big outlays to China’s railway builders.

And because equipment purchases tend to lag railway construction, Nomura strategist Wendy Liu prefers CSR to any other company in the sector. As more lines are completed and rail travel gains in popularity, she says, CSR is likely to see more demand for its carriages. “Urban traffic congestion has driven more to take the subway and intercity light rail to the extent they are available,” Liu said. “High-speed railway tickets are much, much harder to secure than airline tickets in China.”

China’s railway companies have one major sore spot: high debt and receivables. Because they share a single customer – China’s 100% state-owned China Railway Corp. – they tend not to worry about collecting bills right away.

CRCC’s receivables last year fell to 95% of quarterly revenues, according to Jefferies, from 114% the year before. CSR’s dropped from 194% of quarterly revenue to 146%. Investors who believe Beijing is good for the money won’t be bothered by that.

But it does mean that, in order to keep building while letting the government slide, China’s railway companies taken on lots of debt. The companies have ample cash to cover their interest payments, but if rates rise in China, it would eat into profit margins.

That’s where CRCC and CSR have an edge over rivals. China Railway Group’s debt-equity ratio has climbed to 2.4 times, according to Reuters, compared to 2 times at CRCC. China CNR’s is down to 0.79 from 0.86, but that’s still higher than CSR’s 0.7.

There’s not much the companies can do to diversify their customer base at home. But thanks to China’s geopolitical ambitions, they are rapidly gaining new customers abroad.

China is busily trying to expand rail links to Europe and India. Goods shipped by rail to Europe would cut at least 10 days off the time it now takes to ship them around Asia and through the Suez Canal. Before they get there, they have to pass through the South China Sea, where China is pressing territorial claims that have riled neighbors and drawn them closer to the United States, whose military maintains a near-constant presence in Singapore at the mouth of the Malacca Strait.

China and Kazakhstan recently opened a second cross-border rail link that can move goods from western China to Europe in about two weeks. The route would be even faster, but the cars have to be stopped and adjusted or the cargo transferred to different cars at the border because Kazakhstan and other former members of the Soviet Union use a different size track than Europe and China. China’s official press has reported that Beijing is negotiating to build more rail links through Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan in a bid to create a modern version of the Silk Road.

Such links also stand to bring new economic activity to China’s poor, western provinces, like Xinjiang, where China has been trying to quell ethnic violence among the province’s largely Muslim, Uighur population.

Foreign sales are therefore one of the fastest-growing sources of growth for China’s railway companies. CRCC said its overseas sales rose by a third in the first half, representing just 4% of total revenue but 25% of new contracts, including a $13 billion contract announced in May to build a high-speed railway in Nigeria.

CSR’s overseas sales more than doubled in the first half, and now account for roughly 9% of its overall revenue. When China’s president, Xi Jinping, went to India in September, he left with a deal for China to help upgrade India’s railway networks, including high-speed railways and a RMB300 million contract for CSR to supply cars and maintenance to Mumbai’s subway system.

With Xi as their traveling salesman, China’s railway companies are likely to see those kind of big-ticket contracts keep rolling in.

Dubai Metro kick starts 30,000 km of railway tracks in Middle East

Dubai has set the example in the Middle East region with its success story of Dubai Metro, noted Ed James, Director of Analysis at Meed Projects.

In an era considered the golden years of the railway industry, the example of Dubai Metro has also been dubbed ‘the Dubai metro effect’.

“Where Dubai leads, others follow,” he pointed out at the ongoing MENA Rail & Metro Summit held by Meed.

Billions of dollars are invested in rail network systems all over the Middle East. Countries where currently no rail network exists have mega projects in the rail sector planned. Metro as well as train networks are not only set to connect cities, but countries in the region.

The Red Line and Green Line of Dubai Metro formed two of the most costly rail projects undertaken in the last decade. Both at a value of USD3,811 million, these metro connections ranked 5th and 6th in the top ten most valuable rail projects over the last ten years, according to Meed. 

However, with the incentive of the anticipated success of a well-developed rail network, these rankings are soon to change. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman Kuwait, Bahrein and Qatar have joined ranks as the major spenders in the industry.

The UAE will continue to be part of the rail sector boom. The Abu Dhabi metro project is a major contributor, ranking 12th on the top 15 of future projects, according to the latest figures of Meed. In the procurement stage contracts valued at USD5100 million are expected to be awarded.

Further, contracts for the second phase of the Etihad Rail projects are expected to be awarded soon, which will cover the connection between the major ports and cities in the country, and links to Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Dubai Metro’s existing lines will be extended by 2020, and new metro lines are in the pipeline in a long-term project expected to be completed by 2030. A total of USD30,000 million is expected to be invested in the railway industry, said the figures.

At the same time, major projects are underway in Saudi Arabia, which is clearly leading the industry. With more than USD110,000 million to be injected in the railway sector, many of the major projects are undertaken in the neighbouring country, such as Riyadh Metro, Mecca Metro and the GCC railway network eventually connecting to the UAE in Ghuweifat.

On the eastside, a rail network plan is starting to take shape in Oman. With currently no railway system in place, the country is expected to see a major transformation with its connection to the GCC Railway network. Once completed, a total length of 2,244km in railway tracks will connect the countries’ main cities, and form a link to the UAE at Buraimi/Al Ain and Khatmat Milaha/Fujeirah.

Currently, no railway networks exist in Qatar, Bahrein and Yemen, countries which have pledged to be part of the wider GCC network. Projects in these countries are now in full fledge. “Doha awarded USD40 billion in contracts last year alone,” said James.

In total, the Arab region is expected to be covered by 30,000km of railway network, which will costs USD90 billion to be completed, pointed out Meed.

Last year, the railway industry accounted for 28 per cent of the construction and infrastructure contracts awarded, which amounted to USD129 billion. The majority of these contracts were awarded in the GCC region, summing up a total value of nearly USD36 billion.

Rail line becomes lightning rod for tensions in Jerusalem

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Jerusalem police officer stands guard at the site of an attack on commuters near Ammunition Hill light rail station

It is 8pm and the train on Jerusalem’s Light Rail service is rolling uphill from the city’s Jewish, western city centre, skirting the invisible Green Line as it heads towards the mostly Arab-populated east.

The carriages are packed, mostly with Jewish passengers, until the train stops at Ammunition Hill before heading into Palestinian neighbourhoods that for more than three months have seen regular night-time skirmishes between rioters and police. Nearly everyone gets off; a security guard wearing a black fleece and an earpiece boards and the near-empty train passes through two darkened and disused stations that were vandalised during rioting in July.

Greenlight Pinellas opponents argue Denver light rail is a failure

No Tax For Tracks, the grassroots group opposing the Greenlight Pinellas mass transit initiative, says it has plenty of evidence light rail isn’t worth the cost. Just look at Denver, they say.

Spokesperson Barb Haselden presented a series of photos during a debate with Greenlight’s Kyle Parks at the Stetson University College of Law on Sept. 29 (starting in the video at 27:40). The images showed a nearly deserted transit station, empty rail cars and a parking lot with almost no cars.

"I went to Denver for a transportation conference; they opened their light rail line 16 months ago. … When I got out and walked up to the front door to the brand new transit hub, nobody was there," she said, clicking onto an image of glass doors.

"I walked in the door that you just saw, main concourse at 10:30 Friday morning, nobody was there." Empty staircases.

"Ticket windows: Nobody’s there. A few people waiting on a train." Ticket windows without buyers. About a half-dozen people waiting on a platform.

"I got on the train, I quickly turned to the right to take a picture, and then I turned to the left." A couple of passengers, then no passengers.

"But people say, well gee, maybe this is because it’s 10:30 and they had all gone to work," she said. "Here’s the Park-n-Ride lot. Empty." 

No Tax For Tracks is using this as proof that Greenlight Pinellas is a boondoggle, despite the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Greenlight boosters crying foul. The whole thing made PolitiFact Florida wonder, was her presentation truly worth a few thousand fares?

On the FasTracks

Haselden and No Tax For Tracks didn’t return our messages, but we figured out she attended the American Dream Conference from Sept. 19-21, 2014, sponsored by the American Dream Coalition, a vocal opponent of mass transit.

Speakers conducted presentations with titles like "Sustainable Suburban Development Can Defeat Social Engineering," "Stopping Wasteful Projects Through Citizen Advocacy" and "Fighting Southern Florida’s Seven-50 Plan," referring to apublic-private urban planning initiative in southeast Florida.

The conference started with a tour on Sept. 19, including taking a train from downtown Denver’s Union Station to Golden on the region’s newest light rail line, the West line on the project called FasTracks.

The public began using it in April 2013. It’s the first light rail line in the transit expansion approved by voters in 2004. The plan instituted a new 4/10 of a percent sales tax to add six new rail lines and bus rapid transit to the four lines in service since October 1994.

The project was originally projected to cost $4.7 billion, but grew to more than $6 billion. These points are highlighted in a No Tax For Tracks video from the conference in which Natalie Menten, an elected board member for the Denver area’s Regional Transportation District and outspoken opponent of government spending, calls the entire project "a failure, from start to finish."

Menten says the RTD public relations department would say the project came in under budget and ahead of schedule, and that wasn’t true.

So we asked the district’s PR department. That’s not quite what they told us.

Fare vs. fair

It should be noted that yes, the FasTracks project’s budget did increase significantly.

Several things occurred to (ahem) derail initial estimates. Pauletta Tonilas, senior public relations manager for the RTD, said some engineering and environmental solutions ended up being more complex than planned. There also was a spike in construction costs, as the prices for concrete, steel, diesel fuel, copper and the like went up. 

The Great Recession also disrupted the project, cutting into sales tax revenue after 2008. Another snag was a recent change by the Federal Railroad Administration requiring the use of bigger, stronger light rail cars on lines that moved along freight corridors, Tonilas said.

With some creative financing and planning, the RTD finished the first phase, the 12-mile West line, eight months ahead of the working schedule.

The West line averages about 14,000 trips per day -- that is, one person buying a ticket -- and should grow when other FasTracks lines open in 2016, Tonilas said. That accounts for about 17 percent of the 84,000 or so trips she said the entire light rail system gets per day, although that varies from month to month. The whole RTD system, including bus, rail and shuttle service, averages about 350,000 trips per day.

To put that in perspective, Denver’s light rail consistently ranks in the top 10 light rail systems in the country, in terms of ridership. San Francisco’s streetcars get some 220,000 trips per day and Charlotte gets about 16,000, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Tampa’s streetcar system nets somewhere around 7,000 trips per day.

Current projections for the 24-mile Greenlight Pinellas light rail line from St. Petersburg to Clearwater scheduled to open in 2024 estimate it will cost $1.87 billion to build, with about 17,000 riders per day by 2035.

Back to the negatives

Now, let’s get back to Haselden’s presentation, because there are some holes in it.

First, the empty concourse. Scott Reed, assistant general manager for RTD communications, told us that was not a light rail station. It’s the renovated Union Station bus concourse, an underground station with light rail platforms above it.

It’s still pretty empty, but that’s because ridership generally follows normal commuting times, Reed said. It’s no surprise the bus concourse and rail platforms were relatively empty at 10:30 on a Friday morning. Also, this was a westbound train headed to the suburbs in the morning, the opposite of normal commuting patterns.

Haselden said no one was at the Park-n-Ride lot, but there’s a good reason for that, too: That was a parking lot for the Pepsi Center, the arena where the city’s professional hockey and basketball teams play, Reed said. It wouldn’t normally be filled on a Friday morning. Union Station doesn’t have a Park-n-Ride lot, Reed said, because it’s downtown.

On at least one occasion, during an interview with Fox 13, Haselden was told the parking lot belonged to the arena, and the station said she had apologized.

Our ruling

No Tax For Tracks gave a presentation with photos they said prove the Denver light rail system has low ridership.

After examining the presentation and Denver’s light rail system, we found the opposite. Not only are the photos misrepresenting the city’s mass transit, but statistics show the Mile High city has one of the more successful systems in the country.

No Tax For Tracks may not approve of how rail is funded or operated, but using photos of one thing and saying it’s another nullifies the argument. We rate the statement False.
Source-politi fact

Kenyan judge halts major east African rail project for two weeks

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's High Court halted work on a major rail line between Mombasa and Nairobi on Thursday, threatening to delay a government flagship project after a lawmaker raised objections over how landowners are compensated.

Construction of the 447.5 billion shilling ($5 billion) standard gauge rail line, which is backed by China, was launched earlier this year by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other east African leaders.

The project, which was due to be completed in March 2018, will eventually link the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa to Nairobi and then to neighbouring states.

The existing 19th century narrow gauge railway in Kenya only runs to Uganda whereas the faster new line is designed to go on to Rwanda and South Sudan and is aimed at cutting the hefty costs of trade between east African nations.

Justice Charles Kariuki ordered that construction halt until Nov. 6, according to court papers.

The order came in response to a lawsuit filed by Patrick Musimba, a member of the Kenyan Parliament from northeast Kenya, against the National Land Commission, Kenya Railway Corporation and others. Musimba had asked the court to block the project pending a hearing.

The Nairobi to Mombasa stage of the railway will cost $3.6 billion, with China covering 90 percent of the financing, the Kenyan presidency said in May. Kenya will fund 10 percent.

In May, East African leaders and China formally signed agreements on Sunday related to the construction of a new multi-billion dollar railway to run from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to Nairobi and on to neighbouring states.

China Road and Bridge Corporation, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company, has been appointed to construct the initial Kenyan leg of the new line, despite criticism there was no competitive tendering for the work.

Kenyan officials said there was no public bidding because that was a condition of securing Chinese financing, but some lawmakers said the deal was overpriced.





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