Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

LSL Getting Business Class Service

October 22, 2016

Business class will be offered aboard Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited starting on Oct. 24.

Amtrak Lake Shore LimitedThe service will be available between Chicago and Albany-Rensselaer and Boston. Amtrak said passengers in business class will have reserved seating in a car dedicated to business class.

Other amenities for business class passengers will include complimentary coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic beverages; access to digital newspapers on AmtrakConnect; Amtrak Guest Rewards® Business Class bonus points; access to Chicago Union Station’s Metropolitan Lounge; and a fully refundable ticket if canceled prior to departure.

The service will begin with Train 48/448 originating in Chicago on Oct. 24 and on Train 49/449 originating at Boston and Albany-Rensselaer on Oct. 26.

The service is not available between New York and Albany-Rensselaer.

Track Works Disrupts Maple Leaf Route

October 22, 2016

Scheduled track work will disrupt Amtrak’s New York-Toronto Maple Leaf on Oct. 24, 25 and 26.

Amtrak logoTrain No. 63 will terminate on all three days at Niagara Falls, Ontario. Bus service will be provided to Toronto and at all intermediate stations.

Train No. 64 will originate at Buffalo Exchange Street station on Oct. 25 and 26 with bus service provided from Toronto to Buffalo, stopping at all intermediate stations.

Amtrak Set 2016 Ridership, Revenue Records

October 22, 2016

Low gasoline prices did not prevent Amtrak from breaking revenue and ridership records fiscal year 2016.

Amtrak logoThe passenger carrier hosted about 31.2 million passengers, up 1.3 percent from 2015, and generated $2.2 billion in ticket revenue, up 0.03 percent.

Former Amtrak President Joseph Boardman had earlier this year imposed various cost-cutting measures, saying that Amtrak faced a $167.3-million ticket revenue shortfall compared with the amount originally budgeted.

However, the carrier’s actual performance exceeded the revised downward forecast by 3.3 percent even as it was 4.3 percent off the original FY 2016 projection.

The California Zephyr posted an 11.2 percent increase in ridership and 6.2 percent in revenue.

The removal of full-service dining cars and meals included in sleeping car fares on the Silver Star led to a 5 percent decline in passengers and 11.6 percent in ticket revenue.

The Auto Train lost more than 12 percent of its riders and almost 8 percent of its revenue.

Among state-supported corridor trains, a push to complete infrastructure improvements to create higher speed service depressed ridership and revenue of Wolverine Service and Lincoln Service trains due to service cancellations.

The quad-weekly Hoosier State carried about as many passengers in 2016 as it did the previous year, but revenue increased by about $250,000 or 36 percent.

The offering of premium business class service by operator Iowa Pacific was credited with the increase in revenue.

Although Amtrak’s ridership and revenue data do not show passenger mile or revenue per-train mile comparisons, the 15 long-distance trains generated slightly more ticket revenue carrying less than 32 percent of the passengers of the state-supported trains.

This is partly  because the long-distance trains offer such higher-price services as sleeping car accommodations.

New River Train Marks 50th Anniversary

October 22, 2016

Chartered trains through West Virginia’s New River Gorge marked their 50th anniversary this month.

West VirginiaThe trains are sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society and operated this year between Huntington and Hinton on the third and fourth weekends of the month.

Past years have seen such steam locomotives as the Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Milwaukee Road No. 261 and Pere Marquette No. 1225 pull the trains, but these days the motive power is Amtrak P40DC and P42DC locomotives.

The trains travel over the Kanawha and New River subdivisions of CSX.

For the 2016 trips, Amtrak assigned heritage units  822 and 156 to the 30-car trains, which included 24 private cars.

Among the private varnish in the consist this year was: Passaic River, Powhatan Arrow, St. Augustine, Wenonah, Nokomis, Lake Pepin, Alexander Hamilton, Wisconsin Valley, Super, Dome, Dover Harbor, Prairie View, Scenic View, Braddock Inn, New York Central 38, New York Central 43, Morris County, Birken Diner, New York Central 448 Diner, Kitchi Gammi Club, J. Pickney Henderson, Berlin, Moonlight Dome, Silver Lariat, and Dearing.

Amtrak OIG Urges Budgeting for PTC

October 22, 2016

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General is urging the passenger carriers to budget for the installation of positive train control.

Amtrak logoIn a report, the OIG, said that although Amtrak has has made strides in implementing automated braking technology, it still has several tasks to complete before it reaches full implementation before the end of the federally-mandated deadline of 2018

The report said Amtrak still needs to complete 33 percent of its planned trackside installations, submit a safety plan to the Federal Railroad Administration, resolve potential radio frequency spectrum issues and install onboard systems in its locomotives.

The OIG report said Amtrak has not properly accounted for the full cost of PTC technology. Those costs may be “millions more than is currently budgeted.”

Amtrak had spent about $183 million on PTC implementation through June 30 and plans to spend about another $35 million through 2018.

But those estimates are “incomplete” and don’t include other potential contingency costs, the OIG report concluded.

The OIG encouraged Amtrak to update its costs estimates in order to ensure that sufficient funds are available for the project and to enhance project schedules to better track the completion of key events and remaining tasks and clarify the roles of managers who are responsible for PTC implementation.

The report said that Amtrak management agreed with all three recommendations.

Challenges of Establishing New Amtrak Station in Buffalo Addressed During Public Hearing

October 22, 2016

Building a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, will take some time and it won’t come cheap.

But those pushing for a new station are optimistic that it will be built.

Amtrak 4That was the consensus at a recent public meeting to discuss what needs to be done to get a depot to replace the current Exchange Street station.

That facility closed last month after its ceiling caved in following heavy rains.

Amtrak’s Empire Service and Maple Leaf continue to stop at Exchange Street.

For now, the only open station building in Buffalo is in suburban Depew, which is also served by the Lake Shore Limited.

Among the options for a new station are building in Canalside or restoring Buffalo Central Terminal, which has not hosted scheduled passenger trains since 1979.

Speakers at the hearing said that before a station can be built, the region needs to undertake a study, obtain funding and gain the support of political officials.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said it remains to be seen if if the city or the state should guide the process.

“The key is finding the right agency or government organization to take the lead,” Becker said. “The City of Buffalo would be a natural to do that because it’s in the City of Buffalo, and would benefit the City of Buffalo. But somebody has to say, ‘I’m going to step up because this is important.’ ”

An advantage of using Central Terminal is that it would be able to serve all Amtrak trains passing through Buffalo.

Niagara Falls Senior Planner Tom DeSantis said his city spent nearly two decades planning and constructing a new station that Amtrak still has not agreed to use.

“You’re in a much better place. The state is in a much better place. And I think your experience with this is going to be a lot quicker,” he said. “It won’t probably be any less contentious, but it should go a lot quicker, arriving at kind of A-OK, we’ve gone over all of the options. We’ve weighed all of the alternatives. We think we know what we want.”

The Niagara Falls station cost $43 million.

Becker said rehabilitating Central Terminal would be a more complex project than was constructing the station in Niagara Falls.

“We all know the topic of Buffalo Central Terminal is on the table and needs to be fully explored, but certainly I think realists would agree that that means in conjunction with redevelopment of that landmark,” Becker said. “A new train station cannot be that sole redevelopment. It needs an overall project because that’s a huge undertaking.”

The challenge of renovating the existing Exchange Street Station is that it is in a less than ideal location and is not handicapped accessible. The station, the platform and the tracks have different ownership.

Capitol Limited Stowaway Charged With Using Vouchers Bought With Stolen Credit Card

October 21, 2016

Police arrested a man in Pittsburgh who authorities said stowed away aboard Amtrak’s Capitol Limited using travel vouchers acquired with a stolen credit card.

amtrak-capitol-limitedAmtrak police arrested Javon Damian Jones who appeared before a judge in Pittsburgh on Oct. 19.

Police are unsure of Jones’ hometown, but said the last place they were able to determine that he lived was in a community shelter in Cleveland.

Although police have yet to disclose details about why Jones was detained, authorities said they had been watching him as part of a continuing criminal investigation.

Jones is alleged to have used nearly $7,000 in vouchers that he acquired with a stolen credit card.

Police said Jones traveled alone Chicago and Washington without luggage in a sleeping car room.

Jones was charged with receiving stolen property and being a stowaway. Police said additional charges are pending.

Cracked Tank Shell Eyed as Leading Cause of W.Va. Rail Tank Car Clorine Leak Last August

October 21, 2016

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary finding that a cracked tank shell was the leading cause of a chlorine-gas tank car leak at a West Virginia chemical facility in August.

NTSBThe NTSB said the DOT-105-type tank car experienced a sudden tank shell crack shortly after being filled with liquefied compressed chlorine at a Axiall Corporation railcar loading facility in New Martinsville.

The 90 tons of chlorine began leaking two hours after the crack developed, forming a cloud that drifted from the railcar facility located on the Ohio River.

Five Axiall employees and three contractors were treated for exposure to the toxic gas and plants and trees in the cloud’s path were damaged.

The NTSB report said the car in question was built in 1981 by ACF Industries and had a water capacity of 17,380 gallons.

The type of ACF-manufactured under frame on the car had been identified by the Federal Railroad Administration as being linked to developing cracks and shell buckling.

A five-year inspection conducted on the car in January 2016 by Rescar, a railcar maintenance and leasing company, found numerous corrosion pits in the bottom section of the tank shell.

Repair work done on the car at that time included interior cleaning, ultrasonic thickness testing, removing internal corrosion, welds buildup, and post-weld stress-relief heat treatments.

Following the leak, investigators determined that the car had experienced buckling in the tank shell between the end of the stub sill reinforcing tab and other adjacent weld spots.

Other areas of repair to the tank car shell measured below the minimum allowed thickness of 0.748 inch.

Amtrak Adding Extra Service on Wolverine, Pere Marquette Routes for Thanksgiving Travel Period

October 21, 2016

Amtrak will offer extra trains between Chicago and points in Michigan during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

Amtrak logo

The Wolverine Service Extra trains will depart Chicago at 9:30 a.m. and arrive in Ann Arbor at 3:10 p.m., operating as No. 356. Intermediate stops will be made at New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson.

No. 359 will depart Ann Arbor at 4:05 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 7:47 p.m., making the same intermediate stops as No. 356.

There will no change in schedules for other Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The extra service will operate on Nov. 23, 26 and 27

The Pere Marquette Extra will depart Chicago at 10 a.m., operating as No. 372, and arrive in Holland at 2:11 p.m. It will make all intermediate stops served by the regular Pere Marquette. No. 373 will depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:27 p.m.

There will be no change in the schedule of the daily Pere Marquette. The extra trains will operate on Nov. 23 and 27.

Amtrak said that during the holiday travel period it will operate every available passenger car in its fleet.

CSX Profits Fell 10% in 3rd Quarter

October 20, 2016

Falling traffic led to CSX posting a 10 percent decline in profits for the third quarter of 2016.

CSX logo 1CSX reported net earnings of $455 million, or 48 cents per share, down from $507 million in the third quarter of 2015.

However, the results still exceeded Wall Street analyst expectations of 45 cents per share. Revenue for the quarter fell 8 percent, the same as its decline in overall traffic volume.

Trains magazine said CSX experienced the largest traffic decline among Class I railroads.

The carrier saw a 21 percent decline in coal, a 13 percent drop in metals and equipment, and a 10 percent decline in agricultural and food products. CSX realized gains in automotive (6 percent) and fertilizers (1 percent).

Although intermodal volume fell by 7 percent, CSX said the bulk of its domestic intermodal business remained strong, reflecting the success of the railroad’s highway-to-rail conversion program. International intermodal volume fell 12 percent due to the loss of a contract to NS as well as weaker global trade.

The operating ratio was up a tick at 69 percent compared with 68.3 percent in the third quarter of 2015.

“CSX continues to drive strong cost performance and efficiency in this dynamic market environment while meeting or exceeding customer expectations,” CEO Michael Ward said in a statement.

The railroad expects fourth-quarter traffic volume to be about even with last year, Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro said during a conference call.

During the third quarter this year, CSX said its expenses improved 7 percent and that it expects efficiency gains and cost savings of $400 million for the year, up from the $350 million target management provided during the second quarter.

However, Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn said CSX won’t be able to duplicate this “extraordinary” savings pace next year.

“We’ll see a more normal year next year, but we’re not leaving anything on the table,” she said.
CSX expects efficiency gains of $150 million in 2017.

On-time performance, terminal dwell time and system velocity all fell slightly compared with the second quarter of this year.