Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Third Rail Union Ratifies New Contract

September 29, 2022

Members of a third railroad labor union have ratified a tentative labor contract.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents railroad management, said on Wednesday that the union was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Ratification voting remains in progress at nine other unions. Based on statements issued by those unions that process is expected to last through mid November.

The IBEW represents nearly 6,000 rail workers and had announced on Sept. 1 that it had reached a tentative agreement with the NCCC.

IAM Reaches Another Tentative Contract

September 28, 2022

A railroad union whose members rejected an earlier tentative new labor contract has reached a second agreement.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Division 19 said the latest pact is stronger than the contract rejected by its members. The union represents railroad mechanics.

The second agreement was reached through negotiations with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management, after talks began Sept. 26.

The union said the latest agreement provides a cap on healthcare costs of no more than $398.97 through 2025 until a new agreement is reached.

It also included new language providing single room occupancy for railroads to provide roadway mechanics with their own sleeping rooms while traveling on company business.

The carriers also agreed to negotiate with the union over travel expenses and per diem within 60 days of the ratification of the contract.

Also in the contract is an agreement by the carriers to conduct a joint study with the union of overtime, forced overtime policies and overtime meal options.

In a statement, the union said the latest contract agreement includes provisions from the earlier rejected contract as to wages, including a 24 percent compounded general wage increase; a $5,000 service recognition bonus; full retroactive pay, within 60 days of contract ratification, amounting up to $11,950, based on average pay hours (overtime and straight time); an additional paid day off for all members including a paid day off for all newly hired employees hired before Sept. 30 of each year; enhanced hearing benefits, and added coverage for diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The union and NCCC agreed not to conduct any work stoppages through Dec. 9 to give union members time to vote on ratification of the contract

The IAM agreement means that all 12 railroad labor unions have either ratified or are in ratification process regarding tentative contract agreements with the NCCC.

CSX to Run Santa Train After All

September 28, 2022

CSX has decided to run its Clinchfield Santa Train after all.

It will operate on Nov. 19 from Shelby Yard in Pikeville, Kentucky, to Kingsport, Tennessee.

The Class 1 railroad had earlier cited personnel shortages and supply chain issues for its decision not to host the Santa Train this year.

It will be the 80th running of the Clinchfield Santa Train. The train is being co-sponsored by Food City, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Appalachian Power and Souls4Souls.

The Santa Train first ran in 1943 and was operated by CSX predecessor Clinchfield Railroad. It did not operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debris From Mudslide Caused CSX Derailment

September 27, 2022

Federal investigators said a 2020 CSX derailment in Kentucky was likely caused by debris on  the track after a mudslide.

The derailment occurred on Feb. 13, 2020, near Draffin, Kentucky, on a route that is wedged between the Russel Fork River and a hillside.

The mudslide occurred following several weeks of rain, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released last week.

Investigators said the area had received more than 300 percent of its normal rainfall in the two weeks before the derailment occurred.

Three locomotives, a buffer car and four tank cars derailed. Two of the tank cars released 38,400 gallons of denatured ethanol.

The report said the spilled ethanol combined with diesel fuel from the locomotives and ignited, resulting in a locomotive being destroyed by fire.

The train crew was able to escape through the river and sustained minor injuries.

Although the locomotive engineer applied the train’s emergency brakes, there was not enough time to avoid a collision with the debris on the track.

A weather alert system that CSX relied upon “did not account for the impact of the unusual increases and accumulation of precipitation” over several weeks, and elevated temperatures in the month before the derailment, the NTSB report said.

The NTSB said the severity of the derailment might have been reduced had the two tank cars that spilled ethanol been placed further toward the rear of the train.

The cars were of the USDOT-111 type. The NTSB has in earlier reports made a similar recommendation about the placement of that class of tank cars.

Coal Mines Complain About Shoddy Rail Service

September 27, 2022

Add coal shippers to the list of disgruntled railroad shippers.

The National Mining Association has written to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to complain about erratic rail service being provided by CSX and Norfolk Southern.

The letter said some mines have curtailed production due to poor rail service that’s only getting worse even as demand for coal rises.

“While mines are running full speed ahead, the same cannot be said for rail, and our members desperately need relief,” the group said in the letter, which said empty coal hoppers are arriving hours or days late.

In some instances, mining companies have used third parties to handle the switching and loading of coal trains on their property.

The letter was based on results of a survey sent to the trade association’s members.

For their part, the two Class 1 railroads cited crew shortages that they said they are working to address.

Contract Voting to Last Through Mid-November

September 24, 2022

The ratification process of the tentative railroad labor contract is expected to drag on into mid-November.

Trains magazine reported Friday on its website that the two largest railroad labor unions, the SMART Transportation Division, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, have provided their members a timeline for how the ratification process will play out.

The timeline includes a question-and-answer period in which members are being invited to pose questions about the contract agreement.

As part of that Q&A process, the unions said they might need to return to the negotiating table with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management, to clarify the meaning of certain contract provisions and how they will be implemented in practice.

BLET and SMART-TD represent about half of the 125,000 union railroad workers affected by the recent contract talks. Those workers are represented by 12 unions.

Under the timelines released by BLET and SMART-TD, voting would begin in mid-October with results announced in mid-November.

That would effectively put off a potential work stoppage until after the mid-term elections.

The Trains report also indicated that negotiations continue between the NCCC and the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 19, whose members voted down a tentative contract earlier this month.

A memo sent to members from the union, which represents mechanics, said the talks are making progress.

Members of two railroad labor unions have voted to ratify tentative agreements while the ratification process is ongoing with other unions.

One reason for the Q&A sessions is because some rail workers say they want more concrete details about the changes in sick leave and assigned days off that were agreed to in the tentative pact announced early on the morning of Sept. 15, less than 24 hours before a potential national rail work stoppage.

The Hill, a website devoted to covering the federal government and politics, said some rail workers are wondering how strong the contract language is.

Earlier this week leaders of BLET and SMART-TD told their members that some of the language was still being written and reviewed by attorneys representing both sides of the talks.

Ron Kaminkow, an organizer at Railroad Workers United, told The Hill there’s “a lot of anger, confusion and hostility” toward the new agreement because workers believe what they have been told thus far has been intentionally vague.

In an interview with The Hill, Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, predicted workers eventually will ratify the agreements but there will be a “sizeable number of ‘no’ votes.”

Bruno said it may be that union negotiating committees “misread what the rank and file would support.”

He said many of the “no” votes will be motivated by rail workers who feel they’ve been abused.

“Usually, there’s a way to kind of figure out money,” Bruno said. “It’s very often issues that go to respect and go to treatment, working autonomy, worker ability to have some control over their life. I think it reflects just how much power employers can have, even under a collective bargaining agreement.”

The Hill report also indicated that many rail workers dread the prospect of Congress imposing new contract terms on rail workers.

That might occur because elected officials fear a railroad work stoppage would disrupt the economy by keeping shipments of food, fuel and other key commodities from moving.

Quoting an unnamed Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer, The Hill report said workers believe that that gives them leverage in getting what they want from railroad management, particularly in terms of work rules.

Checked Bag Service Suspended on 2 Trains

September 24, 2022

Amtrak is suspending checked baggage service on two medium-distance trains through mid-November.

In a service advisory, the carrier cited a lack of equipment for suspending checked baggage service on the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and the New York-Charlotte Carolinian. The move also affects checked bicycle service.

The suspension of checked baggage service will begin on the Pennsylvanian on Oct. 3. No date was given for when checked baggage service will be suspended for the Carolinian.

Amtrak said it expects to resume checked baggage service and trainside checked bike services on or about Nov. 17.

“We will continue to re-assess equipment plans and update the plan for the winter,” the notice said.

The Rail Passengers Association said Amtrak’s notice doesn’t answer some questions, including whether it was prompted by the need for major maintenance of Viewliner baggage cars, a shortage of mechanical department workers, or having to re-assign equipment to other routes where the host railroad has imposed minimum axle counts.

On some corridor routes that have minimum axle counts requirements imposed by Canadian National, Viewliner baggage cars have been used to meet the axle count requirements.

Amtrak Overhauling Interiors of Passenger Cars

September 24, 2022

Amtrak has launched a media campaign to tout a $28 million project to overhaul the interiors of Superliner and Viewliner cars used by long-distance trains.

Some of the renovated cars are being placed in service this month.

The first overhauls are being made to Superliner cars with Viewliner sleeping cars expected to be overhauled next.

The project involves giving the cars new seat cushions and upholstery; carpeting; curtains; LED lighting; tables; bedding, linens, and pillows; towels; and updated toiletry dispensers with eco-friendly body wash, conditioner, shampoo and soap.

Algoma Canyon Excursions Have Resumed

September 23, 2022

The fabled Agawa Canyon excursion train resumed operations last month between Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Agawa Canyon Park.

The 113-mile excursions are now operated by short line holding company Watco, which earlier this year acquired the former Algoma Central route from Canadian National.

The Agawa Canyon train was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and made a limited number of trips in fall 2021. The first 2022 train ran on Aug. 1.

The 10-hour excursion passes lakes, rivers and splendid scenery as it traverses more than 800 curves in the Canadian wilderness.

The trip includes a 90-minute layover in Agawa Canyon Park.

Amtrak Seeks Net Zero Emissions by 2045

September 23, 2022

Amtrak said this week it will seek to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

The passenger carrier said key components of this plan include reducing the amount of diesel fuel it consumes in its locomotives and making more use of such technologies as fuel cells and hydrogen batteries. 

By 2030 Amtrak said it plans to use only 100 percent carbon-free electricity that was not created through the use of coal and similar fuels.

The Amtrak pledge is similar to those made by various other railroads to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.