Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Extra Amtrak Trains Set for Midwest Thanksgiving Travel

November 15, 2018

Amtrak will operate additional trains in the Midwest between Nov. 20-25 to accommodate an expected surge of Thanksgiving holiday travelers.

Other Midwest corridor trains are expected to operate with increased capacity.

During the holiday travel period, reservations will be required for travel aboard the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains.

Holders of monthly or 10-ride tickets are exempt from the reservations requirement, but seating is not guarantee.

On the Wolverine Service corridor, additional trains will operate on Nov. 21, 24 and 25 between Chicago and Ann Arbor, Michigan, with intermediate stops in the Michigan cities of New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson.

Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago at 9 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor at 2:25 p.m. It will depart Ann Arbor at 4:28 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 8:04 p.m.

On the Pere Marquette route, extra No. 372 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10 a.m. and arrive in Holland, Michigan, at 2:11 p.m. with intermediate stops in St. Joseph and Bangor, Michigan.

No. 373 is scheduled to depart Holland at 3:10 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:27 p.m. These trains will operate on Nov. 21 and 25.

An extra section of the Carl Sandburg will operate between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

No. 385 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 11:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Quincy, where it is set to arrive at 3:53 p.m.

No. 384 is scheduled to depart Quincy at 1 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:22 p.m.

On the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, extra Lincoln Service trains will operate between Chicago and Normal, Illinois, on Nov. 21 and 25.

Extra No. 309 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and make all scheduled intermediate stops en route to Normal-Bloomington, where it is set to arrive at 12:58 p.m.

No. 308 is set to depart Normal at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:41 p.m.

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Increased Holiday Capacity Set for Pa. Trains

November 15, 2018

Amtrak will increase capacity of its Keystone Service trains as well as the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian to accommodate an expected increase in Thanksgiving week travel.

The carrier said all passengers traveling on those trains will need to make reservations for travel between Nov. 20-25.

Reservations will not be required for monthly and ten-ride ticket holders.

On Thanksgiving Day, Keystone Service trains will operate on a Saturday schedule.

CN to Return Some Leased Locomotives

November 14, 2018

Canadian National said this week it has completed a $400 million project to improve network capacity and plans to return two dozen of the oldest and least reliable of the 130 locomotives it leased this year.

However, it will hang on to the rest of its leased units to ensure that he has enough motive power during cold weather when train lengths are reduced in size and traffic must move on additional trains.

Next spring CN plans to return more leased locomotives. The Montreal-based Class 1 railroad will take delivery of 60 new General Electric units this year.

By next March it will also receive the first 70 units of 140 GE locomotives on order for 2019.

CN Chief Financial Officer Ghislain Houle said completion of the expansion in the western regions of its system has resulted in improvements in key operating metrics and reduced costs.

Trains are moving faster and cars are spending less time in yards.

NS Honored as Military Friendly

November 14, 2018

Norfolk Southern was among five railroads honored as military friendly employers by G.I. Jobs magazine.

NS won a bronze award in the air and rail transportation category for companies with annual revenue over $1 billion.

Other railroads lauded included Union Pacific (gold) and Canadian Pacific (silver). Also cited were BNSF and Amtrak.

The magazine each year recognizes organizations that offer military veterans opportunities for education and careers. Companies are evaluated using public and governmental data sources, and an employer survey developed by an independent research firm.

Criteria evaluated includes veteran recruiting and sourcing; career opportunities and advancement; culture and commitment; military support and retention; and military employee policies and compliance.

PSR To Help NS Close Gaps With CSX

November 13, 2018

A Norfolk Southern executive said recently that moving toward the precision scheduled railroading operating model is expected to enable the carrier to close productivity and operating ratio gaps it has with CSX, its primary competitor.

Speaking at a financial conference, NS Chief Financial Officer Cynthia Earhart said the Class 1 carrier will approach implementation of PSR with a much slower timetable that will avoid the type of disruptive change that occurred when CSX moved to PSR in 2017.

NS is using a process it has described as “clean sheeting” to redesign local service at yards and terminals that will make better use of locomotives, cars and operating crews.

Once that is completed sometime in 2019, the carrier will then turn its attention to a new systemwide service plan for  road trains that will be implemented gradually to minimize the potential for service problems.

“The biggest difference for us is we’re really trying to communicate very closely with our customers so that they understand what the changes are going to be and give them time to plan,” Earhart said.

She said there will be a lot of change to the way NS operates and that will affect shippers. NS officials have said they will provide more details of the plan to move to PSR during an investor day to be held next February.

Since switching to PSX, CSX has lowered its operating ratio by more than 10 points to 58.7 percent.

The NS operating ratio in the third quarter of 2018 was 65.4 percent. The operating ratio shows how much of revenue is devoted to expenses.

South Shore Gets OK on Double Track Project

November 13, 2018

The South Shore line received federal approval last week to continue to develop double track between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana.

The Federal Transit Administration issued a finding of no significant impact for the $312 million project, which includes realigning the track in parts of Michigan City, closing 21 grade crossings and upgrading various stations.

The FTA, which conducted an environmental assessment of the project, is expected to fund half of the project cost through grants.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, the state of Indiana and local communities will fund the other cots.

The South Shore is overseen by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

NS Eyes Building HQ Building in Midtown Atlanta

November 13, 2018

Norfolk Southern has proposed building a new headquarters bulding in Midtown Atlanta.

Documents released by Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, show that NS is considering creating a facility of 750,000 square feet of office space and a daycare center for employees’ children.

The cost of the building was put at $575 million. NS, which has operational headquarters in Atlanta, said relocating its corporate headquarters from Norfolk, Virginia, would create 850 new jobs to go with the 2,025 employees it already has in Atlanta.

The building would be located at West Peachtree Street at Ponce de Leon Avenue and Third Street.

The Atlanta City Council has approved up to $1.9 million in public financing to CIM Group, a California developer, to redevelop an area known as the Gulch area of downtown Atlanta.

NS owns 16 acres in the Gulch, which consists of parking lots and rail lines and it selling its Gulch properties to CIM Group and using the proceeds to invest in its new headquarters.

Class 1 Traffic Up 2.6% in October

November 10, 2018

Class 1 railroad freight traffic was up 2.6 percent in October over the same month in 2018, the Association of American Railroads recently reported.

The AAR report said crude oil shipments surged during the period but U.S. trade policies have begun to slow exports of agricultural products

U.S. railroads originated 1,338,037 carloads in October, up 1 percent from October 2017, and 1,443,914 containers and trailers, up 4.2 percent.

The cCombined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in October were 2,781,951 units, up 2.6 percent from the same month a year ago.

Thirteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR posted gains last month, including petroleum, 28.4 percent, and primary metal products, 9.8 percent. Coal shipments rose 1.6 percent.

Traffic fell in the commodities of coke, 9.9 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, 9.6 percent, and grain, 4.8 percent.

“U.S. rail traffic in October was mixed. On the negative side, changing market conditions for frac sand caused lower rail carloads of crushed stone, sand, and gravel, while uncertainties in export markets helped keep grain carloads down,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement.

Gray said that coal traffic rose last month for the first time in five months and intermodal traffic posted its second-best month ever.

“All in all, we expect most rail traffic categories to continue to benefit from what we hope will be continued solid economic growth,” Gray said.

Excluding coal, carloads grew 0.6 percent in October from a year ago. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were 1.5 percent better.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 10 months of 2018 was 11,586,596 carloads, up 1.9 percent on-year, and 12,275,918 intermodal units, up 5.8 percent.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 44 weeks of 2018 was 23,862,514 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.8 percent from 2017.

Kentucky Awards $1.3M in Crossing Project Funds

November 10, 2018

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans to award $1.3 million in grants to improve multimodal freight transportation as part of the state’s Rail Crossing Improvement Program.

In a news release, the cabinet said the grants are matching funds used to maintain and improve local and regional railroads.

Winning award were the Paducah & Louisville, R.J. Corman Railroad Group, the Louisville and Jefferson County Riverport Authority, KYTC Highway District 3/Glasgow Railroad Company. and KYTC Highway District 10/CSX.

The grants will be used for 21 projects, affecting 17 crossings and four signals.
The awards were determined on the basis of crash history, vehicle, train and truck traffic, physical condition, project cost and the federal railroad crossing score.

Most projects will involve rebuilding crossing surfaces, including pavement, ballast, ties and rail replacements.

Amtrak OIG Calls for More Hiring Scrutiny

November 10, 2018

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General has concluded that although the carrier has strengthened its process of checking the backgrounds of potential employees there are still “significant management control weaknesses” in the hiring process that result in “waste and operational risk.”

The OIG said that the background check process has improved but “some inefficiencies and gaps persist.”

Amtrak could improve its process by holding the vendor that conducts the background checks accountable for complying with established guidance and clarifying which department is responsible for ensuring that contractors have completed the required background checks on employees they provide to Amtrak.

The OIG review also found:
• Background checks are generally completed before new employees start work.
• Criminal history reviews of potential workers have been strengthened.
• Education and employment history reviews are inefficient.
• Amtrak does not ensure that contractors conduct background checks.

“The company [Amtrak] will continue to be exposed to potential risks from employees that contractors provide to the company until it establishes controls for contractors to self-certify they have completed checks on their employees working for the company, confirms this through random audits of these contractors and clarifies its policy requiring that the company establish an approved vendor list for contractors to use when conducting these checks,” the report concluded.