EC tries again to revive rail freight

first_imgAS EXPECTED, the EU Council of Transport Ministers backed the Commission’s ’railway package’ when they met in Brussels on December 9 – 10. Even France voted in favour of a circumscribed form of open access; only Portugal abstained. Three draft directives, amending 91/440 and 95/18 and replacing 95/19, are now expected to become law in a matter of months. A proposed directive on interoperability and a paper on bottlenecks affecting Trans-European Networks also got the Council’s blessing.The primary purpose of the draft directives approved last month is to define the Trans-European Rail Freight Network. They also provide a legal platform that will enable railway undertakings to use it with or without the blessing of the incumbent national operator – which in every country except Britain remains state-owned. Maps annexed to 91/440 will show the TERFN trunk routes, along with strategic links to ports and industries where open access is to be permitted.The compromise of limiting open access geographically was a price the Commission had to pay to buy French acquiescence to a principle that had previously been rejected out of hand. SNCF had successfully resisted even the limited open access provisions of the original directive. A seriously over-manned workforce held successive governments in thrall through a constant threat of strikes, with the result that domestic intermodal operator CNC lost 20% of its business in 1998-99, and use of the Channel Tunnel by rail freight has dropped below 3 million tonnes a year. In the light of this experience, we can only wait to see what actually happens when foreign operators attempt – later this year, perhaps – to exercise a right of passage.Not that the hundred flowers of open access that were supposed to bloom after 1991 are conspicuous elsewhere. The crucial difference between rail access and other utilities such as electricity, gas and telecoms, passing an essentially homogeneous product through fixed wires or pipes, lies in the ease with which a hostile infrastructure operator can obstruct unwelcome train operators. The new directives attempt to address this issue in a number of ways.Greater transparency to identify the true cost of infrastructure, freight and passenger operations is one, although actual separation is still optional. Allocation of capacity, the determination of track access charges, and the licensing of open access operators must be in the hands of a body independent of the national railway undertaking. In principle, licences granted to an operator by any member state will be valid throughout the EU, as is already the case with roads and inland waterways. Access charges are supposed to be based on the marginal cost incurred by the infrastructure provider – although nobody can explain how asset renewal, let alone expansion of capacity, is to be funded.It is very commendable that EU governments and the Commission are willing to keep trying to reverse rail’s declining market share (now 14% of tonne-km) in the face of so many disappointments. Whatever became of TERFFs? Several delegates to Intermodal ’99 on December 8 – 10 deplored the chronic inability to deliver reliable service across frontiers. The unified management spanning half a continent which enables US Class I railways to hold market share close to 40% is sorely needed in fragmented Europe. Yet it is hard to see how reverting to vertical integration, as Rob Martinez of Norfolk Southern urged, could help freight where the absolute priority accorded to passengers is part of the problem. Britain’s junior transport minister Keith Hill hit the nail on the head when he observed ruefully ’rail is the only sector still untouched by the single market.’On December 10 Banestyrelsen announced the first award of open access paths for freight and passenger operators in Denmark, to apply from the summer 2000 timetable. The competition has been spurred by the impending opening of the Øresund fixed link, offering a through rail route between Sweden and mainland Europe. Amongst the applications approved, Sønderjylland-based PBS/Eurorail gets rights to run from Padborg to Frederikshavn and Tinglev to København, Sweden’s TGOJ gets three daily freight trains from Malmlast_img read more

LOCAL MSP DEVASTATED BY LANGHOLM AND MOFFAT EDINBURGH WOOLLEN MILL CLOSURES

first_imgAddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to LinkedInLinkedInLinkedInDumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said:“This is devastating news for both the employees at the Langholm and Moffat stores, and the communities themselves. It is now absolutely essential that all support possible is being offered to the local people who are being made redundant. This is the latest in a series of devastating job losses in our region, and it is essential that the Scottish and UK Governments look into the underlying economic difficulties associated with rural areas.”Chair of Dumfries & Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Colin Smyth added:“The Council’s Employability & Skills team have been in contact with Edinburgh Woollen Mill and the staff affected by the closures, and we’ve been clear that we will continue to provide support for these staff members for as long as is required. Unfortunately, despite the UK government’s claims that the economy is thriving, there are clearly problems in some sectors and these cannot continue to go unaddressed.”Langholm branch of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill is due to close this Saturday (28th November). The Moffat branch is expected to close in January 2016.last_img read more

Mike Mussina elected to Baseball Hall-of-Fame

first_imgIn an expected move Tuesday evening, former Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Mike Mussina was voted into the baseball Hall-of-Fame.The question now becomes, “will he go in wearing an Orioles hat?” If the answer is yes, he will join Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. in being inducted as an Oriole.The official Orioles press release is below:MIKE MUSSINA ELECTED TO THENATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAMEMIKE MUSSINA was tonight announced as the 23rdplayer, coach, or front office executive with modern-day ties to the Baltimore Orioles to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.Mussina, 50, played 18 Major League seasons from 1991-2008, including his first 10 seasons with the Orioles. He currently holds the best all-time winning percentage by a qualifying Orioles pitcher with a minimum of 140 decisions (.645), and ranks among the club’s all-time leaders in strikeouts (second, 1,535); wins (third, 147); ERA (fifth, 3.53); starts (fifth, 288); innings pitched (sixth, 2009.2); shutouts (eighth, 15); and complete games (10th, 45).A five-time American League All-Star (all with Baltimore), Mussina won seven Gold Gloves, including four with the Orioles, and finished inside the top six of Cy Young Award voting nine times, seven with Baltimore. As a member of the Orioles, Mussina led the American League with a .783 winning percentage (18-5) in 1992; wins (19); shutouts (four); and walks per 9.0 innings (2.03) in 1995; games started (36) in 1996; and innings pitched (237.2) in 2000. He tossed three one-hitters with the Orioles and struck out 15 batters in a game twice. In six career postseason starts with the Orioles, Mussina went 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA (12 ER/42.2 IP). He was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2012.Mussina ranks 20th all-time in Major League history with 2,813 strikeouts, tied for 32nd in wins (270), 33rd with a .638 winning percentage (270-153), and 34th in games started (536). Mussina, a Williamsport, Pa. native, was originally selected by the Orioles in the first round (No. 20 overall) of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft out of Stanford University.Mussina will be formally inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during the ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y. on Sunday, July 21, at 1:30 p.m. ET.Six Orioles have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame with an official plaque depicting them in an Orioles uniform, including FRANK ROBINSON (elected in 1982), BROOKS ROBINSON (1983), JIM PALMER (1990), EARL WEAVER (1996), EDDIE MURRAY (2003), and CAL RIPKEN, JR. (2007).Mussina joins HAROLD BAINES and LEE SMITH as 2019 inductees to have played for the Orioles. Baines played parts of seven seasons (1993-95 and 1997-2000) with the Orioles, batting .301/.379/.502 (638-for-2121) with 99 doubles, 107 home runs, 304 runs, and 378 RBI over 666 games. In 2,830 career Major League games, he hit .289/.356/.465 with 2,866 hits, 488 doubles, 49 triples, 384 home runs, 1,299 runs, and 1,628 RBI. Smith pitched one season (1994) for the Orioles, going 1-4 with a 3.29 ERA (14 ER/38.1 IP) and a Major League leading 33 saves in 41 appearances, while being named an All-Star. In 1,022 career appearances, he went 71-92 with a 3.03 ERA (434 ER/1289.1 IP), 1,251 strikeouts, and 478 saves. He retired as baseball’s all-time leader in saves, and currently ranks third all-time.Other Hall of Famers with modern-day Orioles ties include ROBIN ROBERTS (1976), GEORGE KELL (1983), LUIS APARICIO (1984), HOYT WILHELM (1985), REGGIE JACKSON (1993), ROBERTO ALOMAR (2011), TIM RAINES, SR. (2017), VLADIMIR GUERRERO (2018), JIM THOME (2018), HAROLD BAINES (2019), and LEE SMITH (2019), managers DICK WILLIAMS (2008) and WHITEY HERZOG (2010), and executives LEE MacPHAIL (1998), PAT GILLICK (2011), and JOHN SCHUERHOLZ (2017).Sixteen others to have played or managed for the Orioles in the early days of Baltimore’s rich baseball heritage are also enshrined in the Hall of Fame including FRANK “HOME RUN” BAKER, CHARLES “CHIEF” BENDER, ROGER BRESNAHAN, DAN BROUTHERS, WILLIAM “CANDY” CUMMINGS, ROBERT “LEFTY” GROVE, EDWARD “NED” HANLON, ROGERS HORNSBY, HUGHIE JENNINGS, WEE WILLIE KEELER, JOE KELLEY, RUBE MARQUARD, JOE “IRON MAN” McGINNITY, JOHN McGRAW, WILBERT ROBINSON, andGEORGE HERMAN “BABE” RUTH.Please follow and like us:last_img read more

SUNDANCE: ‘Morris from America’ is a vibrant, fresh coming-of-age tale

first_imgPARK CITY, Utah | “Morris from America” isn’t your typical coming of age story.The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, focuses on a pair of Americans — a widowed father and son — living in Heidelberg, Germany. The father coaches a soccer team. The 13-year-old son, Morris, is trying to learn the language and make some actual friends. And, to make matters even more trying, they are essentially the only black people in town.The result is delightful.In “Morris From America,” Chad Hartigan, who came to Sundance previously with “This Is Martin Bonner,” avoids both the clichés and banalities of this tired genre and has instead made something entirely fresh. This big-hearted film about that strange time in life when adolescents dip their toes into reckless teenager-dom is not to be missed.Stars Craig Robinson (Curtis) and newcomer Markees Christmas (Morris) bring Hartigan’s vibrant story and script to life with their effortless chemistry and nuanced performances.Curtis isn’t a run-of-the-mill father, and Morris isn’t the prototypical rebellious youth either. They are profane, they are sentimental, they are difficult — they are fully drawn characters with complexities, contradictions and all.Morris isn’t having a great time in Germany until his sweet tutor (Carla Juri) suggests he hang out at a youth center to try to make friends. It doesn’t go very well — one kid gives him a hard time, while the others mostly ignore him. But he does become attached to a beautiful, troubled 15-year-old girl, Katrin (Lina Keller, an ethereal, beguiling Julie Delpy-type), who lets him tag along with her on her increasingly defiant exploits.The film never goes exactly where you’d expect, and Hartigan and his lovely cast keep the energy up and the scenes moving throughout, whether it’s just a language lesson or an awkward talent show.Hartigan also imbues the film with gorgeous cinematic flair that’s always interesting, if not always completely coherent within the language of the film. For example, in one scene, Morris is listening to a hip-hop song while touring a castle and everyone (even the stained glass windows and sculptures) bob their heads along with it. This surreal moment is strangely affecting, but it’s an odd one off, too.Christmas, in particular, is a real discovery. He adeptly handled everything the movie tosses at him — whether freestyle rapping, dancing with a pillow (or at a rave), or shedding a tear. Hartigan heard about the young newbie actor from a friend who’d seen his YouTube videos “Markees Vs.”After the screening, Christmas said he’s now trying to get an agent and a manager and wants to make sure he stays in movies. After a debut like “Morris From America,” that probably won’t be a problem.Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahrlast_img read more