PACIFICA INC, owned by the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, has won a contract to assemble five Talgo Pendular trainsets in the state of Washington. Three will be used in the Pacific Northwest rail corridor; two are being purchased by Washington and one by Amtrak at $10m each.Gustavo Gonzalez, Executive Vice-President & CEO of Talgo Inc, the US subsidiary of Patentes Talgo SA of Spain,says the company has decided to build two speculative extra sets and market them elsewhere in the USA. Washington’s Secretary of Transportation Sid Morrison called the initiative ’not only a commitment to the future of passenger rail in the US, but also a valuable investment in the local economy.’The first three sets are due to enter service between Eugene, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver during the summer of 1998, under the brand name Cascades, replacing two Talgos currently leased by Washington. However the Portland – Eugene leg will end on June 30 this year unless funding is extended by the Oregon legislature.Amtrak West President Gil Mallery says ’the Cascade service will look and feel like no other passenger train service currently offered in the USA.’ The 12-car trains will have a custom designed green and white livery, and will be hauled by matching new F59PH diesel locos.The interior decor will also be distinctive. Each set will have 206 reserved Coach Class seats arranged 2+2, plus 45 Custom Class seats laid out as 2+1; wheelchair accessibility will be provided in both classes. On-train amenities include public telephones, video and audio programmes, electric power for computers and reclining seats with footrests. Custom Class will offer greater legroom, complimentary beverages, newspapers and access to Amtrak’s first-class lounge in Portland. There will be a bistro car serving light snacks and beverages, a 30-seat dining car offering fresh, local foods and a baggage car with bicycle racks. A service car will supply electrical power. o
The European pensions industry has taken a dim view of recent news the European Commission is planning to submit IORPs to stress tests as early as next year.Earlier this week, IPE revealed that the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) is preparing stress tests for institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORPs) for some time in 2015, according to Patrick Darlap, chairman of EIOPA’s Financial Stability Committee.James Walsh, EU and international policy lead at the UK National Association of Pension Funds, said EIOPA’s plan to begin stress tests in 2015 risked imposing “new and unnecessary burdens on schemes without strengthening protection for members”.“The UK has just introduced a revised approach to the regulation of DB schemes funding, and we have a range of initiatives underway to ensure quality in DC schemes,” he said. “It is difficult to see what value EIOPA stress tests would add, or what mandate EIOPA has for this project.”The Finnish Pension Alliance (TELA) said EIOPA should hold off on aiming for early stress tests, and that EU regulation should be changed to take account of the social aspects of pension funds.Ilkka Geitlin, legal counsel at TELA, said: “Instead of aiming for the stress tests, EIOPA should wait and see what direction economic development will take and what the new Commission will look like.”He said that, having reviewed the recent draft of the Shareholder Directive and IORP II, he questioned whether EIOPA and European Commission completely understood the social and labour dimensions of IORPs.“There seems to be an ambition to regulate these actors as if they were asset managers, banks or investment funds, which is troublesome since IORPs manage social pension security, not asset management per se, although managing the funded parts of pensions is necessary for actual payments,” he said.A spokesman at EIOPA confirmed to IPE that the main objective of the stress test is to “assess the resilience of IORPs to adverse market developments”, such as a prolonged low-interest-rate environment.He said the stress test would cover a “representative sample” of all types of IORPs in the EU, including defined benefit, defined contribution and hybrid schemes.The spokesman pointed out that the test was part of the regulator’s remit to “conduct regular stress tests for IORPs and insurance undertakings”, and that there was “no relation with the review of the IORP Directive” scheduled for 2018.Helmut Aden, chairman at the VFPK, Germany’s association for company pension funds, said the stress tests would reveal EIOPA’s hand on which method it preferred for calculating additional capital requirements.He said “all signs pointed to the introduction of such requirements for IORPs in future”, but he questioned the use of stress tests in the current market environment.“It is more than questionable to talk about a mark-to-market approach when the market is massively manipulated by politics,” he said.Germany’s other pension fund association, the aba, also called on the European watchdog to apply the stress tests “responsibly”.Klaus Stiefermann, managing director of the association, warned that pension funds needed money and resources for the tests, and argued that they should only be put in place if the results provided valuable information.He also pointed to the “major political impact” of such tests and called on EIOPA to make use of them “as responsibly as possible”.The Dutch Pensions Federation said it was not surprised EIOPA wanted to link a stress test to a second quantitative impact study (QIS), as this would “make the conditions comparable”.But the industry organisation said it expected any second QIS would again conclude that quantitative demands at European level were “complex”, and that the introduction of the holistic balance sheet (HBS) would “prove difficult”.It also reiterated its view that the pensions industry would require “ample time to thoroughly map out the impact of the HBS”.
UW head coach Bret Bielema praised Garrett Graham for his strong play in the Badgers\’ 34-31 win over Fresno State Saturday.[/media-credit]Coming off the Badgers’ double overtime 34-31 victory over Fresno State Saturday, UW football head coach Bret Bielema was pleased with his team’s performance.According to Bielema, the overall attitude of his team and the play of his seniors were the biggest contributors down the stretch.“A lot of positives out there … as I mentioned after the game the way they persevered and battled out there,” he said.“Anytime your seniors are playing the best football of their careers you can feel good about the way the season’s going and them individually,” he continued. “It has a huge effect on the team.”Bielema gave special recognition to a few of his star seniors, including linebacker O’Brien Schofield, tight end Garrett Graham, and safety Chris Maragos.“[Garrett Graham], Saturday, played as good as he’s played in all phases,” Bielema said. “Chris Maragos to make two plays like that at the end of the game … something put Chris Maragos in position. I just knew he was just going to knock it down, but he makes a fingertip grab, and wins the game.”John Clay earns next startEven with a lot of the success being put on the shoulders of the seniors, sophomore running back John Clay still found his chunk of the spotlight. Bielema noted Clay’s 73-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter on Saturday, which gave the Badgers a lead at the time.“That play from an offensive conceptual standpoint was as pretty as can be,” Bielema said. “It looked great. It was as good as good can get. … That’s what we needed to see.”Clay’s performance allowed him to jump starter Zach Brown on the depth chart due to his ability to gain positive momentum for the team. Bielema hopes the sophomore’s strong play continues into Saturday’s game against Wofford.“What we’d like to do is see John and how he takes the reins and see where he goes,” Bielema said. “The part I shared with John was, ‘Hey, you know, you got energized, the offense got energized, our defense went out and played with great energy.’”Few concerns regarding FCS opponent WoffordAs the Badgers prepare for FCS opponent Wofford, Bielema explained the significance of playing teams from a lower division. He defended the staff’s reasoning for scheduling a game with an opponent in the FCS for the third straight year.“[Wofford is a] very successful team in their division, and has had some success against some opponents in the non-conference scheduling,” Bielema said. “They played South Carolina a year ago. It’s just another example of a very good, well-coached football team that will come in here and give us their best shot, and another opportunity for the Badgers to improve and move forward.”Swine flu still lingering in practiceAnother concern facing the Badgers and coach Bielema is the wave of H1N1 virus making its way through the team. While the coaching staff thought the swine flu had passed through the Badger roster, two new players were diagnosed with the illness after the Fresno State game.“The flu, I think, is through us, but on the same account we had two new guys pop up yesterday, so we’re kind of just going off what our medical staff and trainers have told us to, you know, handle when it comes up. … Hopefully the worst is behind us.”However, despite the coaching staff’s concerns, Bielema addressed the importance of taking on these challenges and moving forward.“It’s not what happens, it’s how you respond to what happens,” Bielema said. “That’s the part I get excited about.”