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November 2010

Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Message sending in the age of surface scratching, Mexico's rail traffic recovery (and more) and the League of Railway Industry Women's 'Outstanding Woman of the Year' — by Pat Foran (Context, November 2010)


— by Pat Foran, Editor

Message Sending In The Age Of Surface Scratching

Like all Class Is — check that, like every other business entity on the planet — Norfolk Southern Railway continues to tap technology to drive efficiencies, reduce costs, improve service and simply get better at this thing called "railroading," as NS senior execs told Managing Editor Jeff Stagl during a recent visit to Norfolk. And, again, like every other entity bent on becoming or remaining a successful enterprise, NS is just beginning to scratch the techno-logic surface.

If you're a railroader, you know this: Rail is a high-tech industry. It goes without saying. But that's not necessarily so outside the rail realm.

This month's NS story and contributor Julie Sneider's workforce development piece (see article) reminded me of conversations I had this spring with Class I information technology execs. They're competing with the Apples and Microsofts for top talent, so they're always stating rail's high-tech case. They must articulate what railroads do and why, and what they will be able to do (and do better) as the technology evolution continues.

IT recruiters aren't the only ones fine-tuning that message. Recruiters from all rail departments are working on it. Is the message sinking in? "We're just scratching the surface," the message senders tell us. We'll continue to note the surface scratching as it surfaces.

In Mexico, Recovery Beyond Rail Traffic

In addition to serving as something of an idea "swap" meet, our annual RailTrends summit — this year's iteration was held Sept. 28-29 (see article) — affords an opportunity to see long-time friends and meet new ones. Among the former: Emilio Sacristán Roy, general director of the Asociación Mexicana de Ferrocariles A.C. (AMF). He told me that Mexico's railroads have more than weathered the economic storm.

"The recovery of traffic from the Depression has been spectacular — [better] than in the U.S. and Canada," he told me. (For context, check out the traffic totals.)

In Mexico, there's also been a rail association recovery, of sorts. In June 2008, Ferrocarril Mexicano S.A. de C.V. (Ferromex) and Ferrosur S.A. de C.V. pulled out of AMF, citing differences with rival Kansas City Southern de México S.A. de C.V. (KCSM). Ferromex and KCSM had been haggling over trackage rights and other competitive issues for 10 years.

Earlier this year, Ferromex and KCSM finally inked a trackage rights agreement. KCSM also agreed not to oppose a Ferromex-Ferrosur merger that had been in limbo since 2005. In July, Hurricane Alex hit Ferromex and KCSM hard; the roads collaborated to keep rail traffic moving. That same month, Ferromex and Ferrosur returned to the AMF fold.

"We are now complete," said Sacristán, who's headed AMF since its 2004 inception.

Here's to completeness, storm-weathering and, well, friends.

LRIW names CP's Frankenberg 'Woman of the Year'

The League of Railway Industry Women (LRIW) has named Cathryn Frankenberg, Canadian Pacific's AVP of labor relations and human resources (U.S.), as the 2010 recipient of the "Outstanding Woman of the Year Award." Sponsored by Progressive Railroading, the award recognizes an individual's dedication, commitment and contribution to the rail industry.

Frankenberg joined the Soo Line Railroad Co. — a Class I that is wholly owned by CP — as a transportation planning analyst in 1973. After stints as an assistant trainmaster, operations control supervisor, terminal transportation supervisor and intermodal manager, she was named assistant director of labor relations in 1983. By 1997, Frankenberg was named AVP of labor relations and human resources.

In nominating Frankenberg for the LRIW honor, Vern Graham, CP's VP of U.S. operations and president of the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad (DM&E), cited the role she played in helping CP navigate the "change management" and "reorganization" issues involved in bringing the DM&E into the CP family of U.S. railroads. He also lauded her work with DM&E class and craft employees as they pursued their union representation decision, and her contract negotiation work with the 14 unions that represent Soo Line and Delaware & Hudson Railway employees. "Her drive, innovative results and thoughtful, proactive communication with all stakeholders has delivered a proven record of industry success that is worthy of recognition, and a model for others in railroading," Graham wrote.

Frankenberg received the award during the LRIW's 13th annual luncheon, which was held Oct. 25 at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Urbana-Champaign, Ill.


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