Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Ticket Agent Hours Cut in Jackson

September 19, 2017

Amtrak has reduced ticket agent service in Jackson, Michigan.

The changes, which became effective on Aug. 29, means the ticket office will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Amtrak has hired a caretaker to open and close the station on those days. Ticket office hours on other days of the week will be 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that Tuesday and Wednesday are typically the lowest travel days in the Midwest.

He also said that many Amtrak passengers are printing their tickets at home or having them scanned on their smart phones aboard the train.

“Overwhelmingly, our passengers choose electronic ticketing,” Magliari said. “Most people are using the eTicketing and a lot of people are doing it without talking to a human.”

Magliari also quipped that “the days of people pushing coins and folded dollars across the counter to a ticket agent with a big stamping machine are pretty well gone. It’s all through automated systems.”

Jackson lacks any Quik-Trak Self-Service Ticketing Kiosks and Magliari said those are being phased out anyway.

At the present time, Amtrak has no plans to remove its ticket agent from Jackson, Magliari said.

Jackson is served by six Wolverine Service trains a day between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).


Ann Arbor Station Cost Rises to $80M

September 15, 2017

Ann Arbor City Council members got an unexpected surprise this week when they learned that the price tag for a new Amtrak station has shot up by $25 million.

The station, which has been in the talking and planning stages for more than 10 years, was to have cost $65 million, but now it is expected to cost $80 million.

Furthermore, the city will need to find additional funding sources to pay for design and construction work once an environmental assessment is completed.

The news came at a session at which the city’s chief financial officer said there isn’t enough money to do all of the capital projects that council has discussed.

The current Amtrak station on Depot Street is small and the city has been eyeing sites for a new station along that street or on Fuller Road near the University of Michigan Hospital.

In response to a question by Council Member Jane Lumm of how the project had ballooned in cost, city chief financial officer Tom Crawford had few details.

“This is not intended to be a project update,” Crawford said. “I just grabbed something that I saw and threw it in.”

City Administrator Howard Lazarus said discussions are continuing with the Federal Railroad Administration and that the environmental assessment package could be available for public review as early as next week.

Lazarus acknowledged that schedule estimates on releasing the report have been notoriously unreliable, “but I think we’re pretty close to the end.”

The city is still assuming that 80 percent of the money for the station will come from the federal government and 20 percent will be local funds.

Some Trains Canceled During NKP 765 Visit

September 15, 2017

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad will not offer its third loop trips of the National Park Scenic during the weeks of Sept. 12, 17 and 24.

Departure times of the Scenic during those weeks will be as follows:

Tuesday through Thursday, trains will depart Rockside Road at 9 a.m. and 12:50 p.m.; depart Peninsula at  9:50 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.; and depart Akron at 10:55 a.m.

Friday through Sunday trains will depart Rockside Road at 9 a.m., 12:50 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.; Peninsula at 9:50 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 3:40 p.m.; and Akron at 10:55 a.m. and 2:50 p.m.

Amtrak Launches New Marketing Campaign

September 15, 2017

Amtrak has launched a new marketing campaign focused on the experience of riding a train.

The campaign’s theme is “Break the Travel Quo”

In a news release, Amtrak said its approach is to take “a lighthearted approach to push against the realities of air and car travel that have become par for the course, juxtaposing commonplace scenarios against the comfort and convenience of Amtrak.

“Not only does Amtrak boast one of the most generous baggage policies in the travel industry – allowing passengers to bring up to four pieces of luggage for free – but the rail company also offers free Wi-Fi, the freedom to use phones and electronic devices at all times, the ability to travel with small pets on many trains, large spacious seats with ample leg room, and no middle seat.”

The marketing campaign is being produced by Amtrak’s ad agency, FCB New York, and began on Thursday.

The campaign is oriented toward local and long distance travel and generally aimed at adults 35 years and older.

However, the campaign also has demographic oriented messages targeting Hispanic, African American, LGBTQ, and Chinese audiences.

The advertising will occur on multiple media platforms and vary regionally, with different messages for certain regions.

Some of the advertisements will be placed in social media and on websites rather than on network or local TV.

Above all Amtrak is seeking to get travelers to think of rail travel as an alternative.

Amtrak has established a website in support of the campaign:

NS Resumes Service in Southeast

September 15, 2017

Norfolk Southern said on Thursday that it has restored service on mainline track throughout Georgia and Florida.

However,  the railroad said that in the wake of damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma last weekend it continues to “meter in traffic” to Savannah and Brunswick, George.; Jacksonville, Florida.; and the surrounding areas.

In a service update, NS said it is working with customers in area affected by the hurricane to identify switching needs and communicate service plans.

“Customers should continue to expect delays of 48 to 72 hours for traffic moving through and to impacted areas as NS works through congestion caused from the storm’s service interruptions,” railroad officials said.

In related news, Florida East Coast Railway has resumed full rail service across its network between Jacksonville and Miami, although it said that for safety reasons trains are operating at slower speeds than normal.

More Potatoes Coming to ‘Salad Shooter’

September 14, 2017

The westbound Cold Connect train passes through Conneaut on CSX rails.

One of CSX’s most distinct trains may be adding some more business.

Dubbed by some railroad crew members and railfans as the “salad shooter,” the dedicated train of perishables from the West Coast has been seeing its business grow.

Union Pacific and the East Idaho Railroad (owned by Watco Companies) are upgrading facilities used to move Idaho potatoes to eastern markets.

The East Idaho has seen an 18 percent growth in potato shipments this year and is leasing 20 refrigerated cars that will be outfitted with special racks and rollers to help move the produce.

Officially known as Cold Connect – a name change from the Food Train – the service begins on UP in Wallaula, Washington, with refrigerated cars of produce.

The train picks up the potatoes from the East Idaho in Pocatello, Idaho. UP interchanges the train to CSX at Chicago where the cars are transported to Syracuse, New York, and Rotterdam, New York.

The planned improvements in Idaho are designed to make Cold Connect more competitive with trucking and enable the service to increase in operations to four or five trains per week.

Some cars are being interchanged to Norfolk Southern in Chicago and routed to other destinations.

CVSR to Run Fall Foliage Specials

September 14, 2017

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad plans to operate two-hour fall foliage trains in October in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The trains will depart from Rockside Road station and run nonstop to Indigo Lake before reversing direction and returning to Rockside.

The specials will operate on Saturdays and Sundays and consist of coach, ADA and dining car seating. Snacks, drinks and merchandise will be available for purchase in the concession car.

Tickets will be $20 for coach and $25 for deluxe seating at tables in the dining car

All passengers ages 3 and over require a ticket. Passengers ages 2 and under do not require a ticket, but must sit on a parent’s or guardian’s lap.

2 South Shore Projects to Get FTA Review

September 14, 2017

The Federal Transit Administration has agreed to review two projects being undertaken by the South Shore Line.

These include the proposed West Lake Corridor and double-tracking existing South Shore tracks in Northwest Indiana.

After the review, the FTA will issue a rating that would allow the projects to proceed to the engineering segment of the agency’s capital investment grants program. To advance for further review the projects must earn a “medium high” rating.

South Shore President Michael Noland expects the West Lake project to rate a “medium high” score while expecting the double-tracking project to come in with a “high” rating.”

South Shore is seeking federal funding for 50 percent of the cost of each project.

The West Lake Corridor project cost has been put at $615 million. It involves building a 9-mile branch from the South Shore mainline that would terminate in Dyer, Indiana. Trains to and from Dyer would also serve Chicago.

The second track project involves 25 miles of now single track between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana. It is expected to cost $290 million.

INRD Expanding Container Capacity

September 12, 2017

Representatives of the Indiana Rail Road participated in a ceremony last month to mark the completion of the expansion of an increase in capacity of a West Coast port.

INRD interchanges container with Canadian National that are transported to and from the port at Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Eric Powell, INRD manager, business development said in statement that “the Port of Prince Rupert can now handle almost 1.4M TEUs per year, double the capacity of just a year ago, thanks to the addition of a second ship berth, four Super Post-Panamax cranes and on-dock rail. For [our customers], this means the same fast, reliable Asian service with room to grow and, soon, more ocean service options.”

Powell said the port is the closest North American port to Asia and has an ice-free, deep-water harbor that can handle ships of any size.

In the meantime, INRD is adding a second crane to its Indianapolis ramp along with new stadium light.

“Our Indiana intermodal business to/from Asia and Europe has grown an average of 37 percent year-over-year since we opened in 2013,” Powell said.

He said the new lights and crane are expected to go into service no later than Nov. 15.

CN Again Makes Sustainability Index

September 12, 2017

Canadian National has made the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the sixth consecutive year.

The Montreal-based railroad also made the North American Index for the ninth consecutive year.

In a news release, CN said that it was the only Canadian company listed in the transportation and transportation infrastructure sector.

The DJSI surveys sustainability leaders from each industry and analyzes economic, environmental and social performance on issues such as corporate governance, risk management, climate change mitigation, supply chain standards, stakeholder engagement and labor practices.

It then selects the top 10 percent of the 2,500 largest companies in the S&P Global Broad Market Index from each sector based on their sustainability scores.

“At CN, running a safe and sustainable railroad is at the core of our business culture and community spirit. It touches every aspect of what we do, enabling us to build a strong future for our customers, employees and the communities in which we operate,” said CN President and Chief Executive Officer Luc Jobin in a statement.