Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Details Set for Amtrak Service Cancellations

January 18, 2022

Amtrak’s service cancellations of long-distance trains that take effect on Jan. 24 will mean that trains will not depart from their terminal of origin on consecutive days, Trains magazine reported on its website on Monday.

The cancellations, which extend through late March, were announced on Jan. 14. At the time Amtrak, cited employee shortages prompted largely by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in large numbers of workers being off work due to being sick or having to quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19

The announcement said 8 percent of departures would be cancelled system wide and 6 percent of its state-supported network trains.

As it turned out in the Midwest the only trains to be affected will be one roundtrip between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, and several Hiawatha Service trips between Chicago and Milwaukee.

All trains in the Chicago-St. Louis; Chicago-Michigan; Chicago-Quincy, Illinois; and St. Louis-Kansas City corridors will continue operating daily as scheduled.

Canceled until March 27 in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor was the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini. The suspension of Nos. 391 and 392 became effective Jan. 18.

The days that long distance trains will cease operating starting Jan. 27 are staggered.

Among western long distance trains the Southwest Chief (Chicago-Los Angeles) will not depart on Monday and Tuesday. The California Zephyr (Chicago-Emeryville, California) will not depart on Sunday and Monday.

The Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle/Portland) will not depart on Thursday and Friday. The Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio) will not depart on Wednesday and Thursday. The Coast Starlight (Seattle-Los Angeles) will not depart on Wednesday and Thursday).

Among eastern long distance trains, the Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington) will not depart on Friday and Saturday. The Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York/Boston) will not depart on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Crescent (New York-New Orleans) will not depart on Tuesday and Wednesday. The City of New Orleans (Chicago-New Orleans) will not depart on Saturday and Sunday.

Unaffected by the cancellations are the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and Cardinal (Chicago-New York), both of which already operate three days a week.

The Silver Star (New York-Miami), Auto Train (Lorton, Virginia-Samford, Florida) and Palmetto (New York-Savannah, Georgia) will continue to operate daily.

The Silver Meteor (New York-Miami) is suspended entirely between Jan. 24 and March 27.

The staggered days of operation mean that for some trains their first day or not operating will occur after Jan. 24.

Cancellations of Hiawatha Service (Chicago-Milwaukee) is as follows: Trains 341 and 342 are cancelled in their entirety starting Jan. 24. Train 329 will operate only on Saturday and Sunday. Train 330 will operate only on Sunday. Train 343 will operate daily except Friday.

All of the service suspensions in the Empire Corridor will occur with trains operating between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York. All trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York, via Buffalo, will continue operating daily.

In Pennsylvania, the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian will continue operating daily and there are no service suspensions planned for Keystone Service trains between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, via Philadelphia.

More information is available in the Trains report at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/analysis-a-closer-look-at-the-impact-of-amtraks-cancellations/

Amtrak Service Returning to Normal

January 18, 2022

Amtrak service to Ohio was expected to return to normal today following several cancellations due to a winter storm that dumped heavy snow in some parts of the nation, including Northeast Ohio.

The Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington) was expected to depart both endpoints for the first time since last Friday.

No. 29 did not depart Washington on Sunday and Monday, and No. 30 did not depart Chicago on Saturday and Sunday.

The tri-weekly Cardinal is also expected to resume normal operations with its late Tuesday afternoon departure from Chicago and early Wednesday morning departure from New York.

Also returning to normal will be the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian. The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited was not affected by the storm and continuing operating throughout the weekend.

Next week, though, service cancellations lasting through late March will be implemented.

The Capitol Limited will not operate through Northeast Ohio on Saturday or Sunday while the Lake Shore Limited will not operate to Cleveland on Wednesday and Thursday.

The service cancellations will begin on Jan. 25 for Nos. 48/49 and on Jan. 28 for Nos. 29 and 30.

Amtrak Cancels More Trains Today

January 17, 2022

Amtrak on Sunday posted more service cancellations for Monday (Jan. 17) due to a winter storm in the eastern United States.

Canceled in both directions is the Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington), making for the third consecutive day that No. 30 has not departed from Chicago. No. 29 last left Washington on Saturday.

The Pennsylvanian from Pittsburgh to New York was canceled as were Keystone Service Nos. 660, 661, 662 and 615 between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and New York. Keystone Service No. 667 will originate in Philadelphia rather than New York.

Also canceled in both directions are the Vermonter (Washington-St. Albans, Vermont) and Piedmont Service Nos. 73 and 74 (Raleigh, North Carolina-Charlotte, North Carolina).

Ethan Allen Express No. 291 (New York-Rutland, Vermont) will terminate at Albany-Rensselaer, New York. Train 290 will originate in Albany-Rensselaer.

On the Northeast Corridor, Northeast Regional train 99 (Boston-Newport News, Virginia) will terminate in Washington. Northeast Regionals 152 and 189 (Washington-New York) are canceled.

Northeast Regional 156 (Roanoke, Virginia-New York) is canceled as is Train 164 (Richmond, Virginia- Boston. Thus far one cancellation has been posted for Tuesday (Jan. 18). Ethan Allen Express No. 290 will originate at Albany-Rensselaer.

Rail Passenger Funding, Running Amtrak on Time, New NS President Didn’t Impress Some Workers

January 17, 2022

Bit and pieces of insights into the workings of railroad world . . .

I recently received in my email inbox a message quoting Evan Stair of the Friends of the Southwest Chief group in which he suggested that the promise of new and expanded service contained in the Amtrak Connects US plan is largely a mirage.

Stair, whose group has been promoting additional Amtrak service along Colorado’s Front Range and extending the Heartland Flyer north of Oklahoma City to connect with the Chief in Kansas, was commenting on a Bloomberg News story in which Amtrak President Stephen Gardner said the plan to add 39 new routes will require state financial support.

Amtrak has estimated the plan will cost $75 billion to implement.

In his interview, Gardner characterized the federal government as the capital partner but the ongoing operating expenses are the responsibility of the states and Amtrak.

And Amtrak has made clear that it’s responsibility to pay operating expenses will only last at best for five years. After that states will be on the hook to pay operating expenses as is the case now with state-supported corridors on the West Coast, in the Midwest and along the East Coast.

“I frankly believe the Amtrak Connects US program will result in few, if any new routes,” Stair wrote. “States are unlikely to commit to long-term operational dollars without some federal operational matches.”

Stair is probably right about that but could have gone even farther. It may not be realistic to think that states that are not now and/or have never paid Amtrak for corridor service will do so in the future even with a short-term Amtrak funding match for operational expenses.

Yes, I’m talking about you, Ohio.

Speaking of Amtrak, Canadian Pacific CEO Keith Creel told a Midwest shippers conference in Chicago last week that he was “proud” of having reached an agreement with the passenger carrier to allow for the prospect of additional passenger service on routes operated by CP and it merger partner Kansas City Southern.

As reported by Trains magazine, Creel also talked about how CP has become one of Amtrak’s best host railroads in dispatching its trains on time. It wasn’t always that way.

“Five years ago, six years ago, we didn’t lead the industry in Amtrak service,” Creel said.

He went on to say that his 30 years as an operating officer taught him that it’s not easy for a freight railroad to coexist with passenger service.

“I understand the conflicts sometimes and the tradeoffs sometimes when you mix high speed passenger rail with what is, in comparative terms, low-speed freight rail,” Creel said. “I understand the track geometry challenges, I understand the speed challenges. But I also understand that if you prioritize right, and there’s tradeoffs, and balance in a partnership, you can succeed. And that’s the approach we’ve taken at CP.”

Creel’s comments suggest that having the right attitude is key to running passenger trains on time and if CP can do it so could the other Class 1 Amtrak host railroads.

Yet CP doesn’t host as many Amtrak trains as its Class 1 brethren and doesn’t host any long-distance trains over thousands of miles.

Perhaps the best that can be expected is that the host railroads could do better than they do, but dispatching is a balancing act and there will be times when a host railroad puts its own interests ahead of avoiding delaying Amtrak for what the host sees as a relatively short period of time.

Speaking at the same shipper’s conference, new Norfolk Southern President Alan Shaw told a story of how on his first day in his new post he decided to go out into the field and meet and greet NS operating employees in Toledo, which is the largest NS crew change point on the system.

 “I wanted to thank [the employees] for their dedication to Norfolk Southern and our customers, and I wanted to get their input into how we fix service and how we continue to improve our productivity,” Shaw said.

As reported by Trains magazine on its website, Shaw said he approached some workers sitting outside the crew room.

He was wearing khakis, boots and a collared shirt and the workers thought he was an operations supervisor.

 “So I walk up and introduce myself. They told me their names, and one of the guys said, ‘Well, what do you do?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m the president’. And he looks at me, and I’m like, ‘Not Joe Biden president, but president of Norfolk Southern.’ And the other dude pulls out his phone, and he’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I see the announcement. Congratulations!

“So that made me feel good. And then the one guy looks at me and says, ‘What craft did you come from?  . . . Were you mechanical, or engineering, or a conductor, or an engineer?’

“And I was like, ‘No, I started in finance.’ He was really not impressed with that. He goes, ‘Man, at some point, we’re going to have a craft employee running the railroad.’

“It is somewhat humbling when you go out there and talk to them, because they’ve got their own expectations.”

Shaw is right about that, but expectations are not reality. It’s possible that a future railroad president might have worked as a craft employee at an early point in his or her railroad career, but it is not realistic to think that C suite executives will be pulled from the ranks of operating or maintenance employees.

If you want to be a railroad president you need to have spent extensive time in such areas as finance, law or marketing and moved up the ranks in those departments.

Operating employees are not the only railroad stakeholders who have expectations and the expectations of some stakeholders carry more weight than those of others.

Shaw told another story about his first conversation with members of the railroad’s board of directors.

 “Their primary message to me was, ‘Don’t mess up,’” Shaw said. “Now, it was a little more forceful than that. I’ll let you use your imagination what the real verb was that they used.”

I think we can easily figure that one out.

Winter Storm Prompts Amtrak Cancellations

January 15, 2022

Amtrak has canceled several trains this weekend due to a winter storm. The service advisory said the move was being made “out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our customers and employees.”

Trains scheduled to depart on Saturday (Jan. 15) that have been canceled include the Crescent in both directions between New York and New Orleans; Silver Star in both directions between New York and Miami; Cardinal from Chicago to New York; Capitol Limited from Chicago to Washington; City of New Orleans in both directions between Chicago and New Orleans; and the Texas Eagle in both directions between Chicago and San Antonio.

Trains scheduled to depart on Sunday (Jan. 16) that have been canceled are the Cardinal from New York to Chicago; Capitol Limited from Washington to Chicago; Crescent in both directions; Northeast Regional 147 from Springfield, Massachusetts, to Roanoke, Virginia; Pennsylvanian from New York to Pittsburgh; Carolinian in both directions between New York and Charlotte, North Carolina; and Piedmonts 73, 74, 75, 76, 77 and 78 between Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Trains scheduled to depart on Monday (Jan. 17) that are canceled are Northeast Regional 156 from Roanoke to New York; Keystone Service trains 660, 661, 662, and 615; Pennsylvanian from Pittsburgh to New York.

Also on Monday Keystone Service 667 will originate in Philadelphia.

Amtrak said it will waive charges for changes to reservations made because of the cancellations.

Amtrak to Reduce Service by 8%

January 15, 2022

Pandemic related staff shortages are prompting Amtrak to curtail service on most routes starting Jan. 24 for most routes and Jan. 18 on state-supported routes.

The service reductions, which Amtrak said will last through March 27, will affect 8 percent of its schedule. The passenger carrier indicated it might be able to restore service sooner on some routes depending on conditions.

In a statement, Amtrak said the service cuts were due to “staffing challenges resulting from Covid-19 pandemic and the highly active Omicron variant.”

Long distance train service frequency will fall to five days a week for the Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Texas Eagle, Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, and City of New Orleans.

The Silver Meteor will be suspended entirely during the 10-week period, but there will be no service reductions for the Silver Star, Palmetto, Auto Train, Cardinal, and Sunset Limited.

Amtrak said capacity will increase as dictated by demand on the Silver Star and Palmetto to offset some of the service cuts being made to the Silver Meteor.

In corridor services, 8 percent of Northeast Regional weekly departures will be suspended while 6 percent of state-supported weekly departures will be suspended.

Trains magazine reported on its website Friday that already some trains have seen spot cancellations.

The Southwest Chief did not depart Los Angles on Jan. 9 or 12 and did not depart Chicago on Jan. 12 and 15. Some trips of the Coast Starlight also have been cancelled.

Specific cancellations have yet to be announced or posted in the Amtrak reservation system as of Friday afternoon.

Amtrak said in a statement it will contact affected passengers and offer to rebook them for travel on remaining frequencies on all routes.

On routes where there are multiple train frequencies Amtrak said it will seek to offer same-day travel alternatives.

Those unable to travel on other days will be offered a full refund of their fare.

The statement said Amtrak has seen a 25 percent drop in bookings due to the surge in COVID-19 cases coupled with seasonal declines in travel.

The statement also said Amtrak is hiring and training new employees to address staffing shortfalls resulting from last year’s furloughs and early retirements.

The Trains report quoted Amtrak sources as saying 97 percent of its employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but the workforce continues to be hit by COVID-19 infections and exposures.

The illness has affected not just on-board personnel but also backshop workers who maintain and get the trains ready for service.

Amtrak Pays $2M in Discrimination Claims

January 14, 2022

The U.S. Department of Justice said this week that Amtrak has paid more than $2 million to more than 1,500 people regarding disability discrimination claims.

The payments were part of a settlement agreement reached last month to resolve a DOJ determination that Amtrak had failed to bring all of its stations into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The claims stemmed from instances in which Amtrak passengers were traveling or attempting to travel by train.

In a news release, DOT said it has been seeking for the past year to identify those who may have suffered discrimination.

Amtrak agreed as part of the settlement to give priority to eliminating barriers to access to its trains at its stations and to train on-board staff on ADA requirements and how to handle ADA complaints.

The settlement gives Amtrak a nine year time frame in which to complete designs to make at least 135 existing stations accessible. There are 90 stations at which construction is underway and 45 at which construction has yet to commence.

Amtrak said in a statement that it has invested more than $489 million in 204 stations in various stages of work to bring them into compliance with ADA standards.

The passenger carrier said it plans to spend more than $143 million this year on accessibility planning and construction to more than 43 stations.

CSX, Amtrak Reach Pact on Pan Am Merger

January 14, 2022

Amtrak and CSX reportedly have reached an agreement that will remove the passenger carrier’s opposition to the freight carrier’s plans to acquire Pan Am Railways.

Although the two railroads have reached agreements on several items, Railfan and Railroad reported on its website that Amtrak said there are still some sticking points.

On Jan. 3 Amtrak had said it would oppose the CSX-Pan Am merger unless it received some specific concessions that deal with existing and potential new intercity rail passenger service in New England.

In the latest development, Amtrak said CSX has accepted six of the conditions Amtrak is seeking.

These include a CSX promise to give priority to Amtrak trains when dispatching; a CSX agreement to cooperate with potential service expansions on the former Boston & Albany line between Worcester, Massachusetts, and Albany, New York; upgrading the current Downeaster route in Maine with positive train control and allowing expanded service; and allowing operation of the new Berkshire Flyer to Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The Flyer would use the B&A route, which also hosts the Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, as part of its trek between Pittsfield and New York City on weekends.

A 1,000-foot siding will be constructed in Pittsfield.  Planning for the Berkshire Flyer has been underway for years but been stymied by lack of an agreement between Amtrak and CSX.

Trains magazine reported that the Flyer could operate as a special service pending construction of the Pittsfield siding.

The Trains report also said CSX agreed to ensure that Norfolk Southern intermodal and automotive trains using the B&A route would not interfere with proposed or existing Amtrak service.

NS trains now use Pan Am Southern tracks between Mechanicville, New York, and Ayer, Massachusetts, but would shift to the B&A after the merger is completed.

In recent weeks CSX has reached agreement with other railroad systems that had initially opposed or raised concerns about the merger.

However, two carriers, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation/Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Canadian Pacific, still have concerns about the merger that have yet to be addressed.

Amtrak Creates OLS Tribute Locomotive

January 13, 2022

In conjunction with Operation Lifesaver, Amtrak has repainted P42DC No. 203 with a special livery to honor the 50th anniversary of OLS.

The locomotive features a black and yellow scheme that replicates a railroad crossing warning sign and bears the OLS slogan, “See Tracks? Think Train.”

The tribute unit was shown off this week during a ceremony in Washington. It was repainted by the Amtrak Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis.

No. 203 returned to revenue service following the ceremony at Washington Union Station.

OLS was founded in 1972 as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting railroad safety and conducts national campaigns seeking to reduce railroad-related collisions, deaths, and injuries.

It has programs in 46 states and uses trained volunteers to provide safety presentations to law enforcement, first responders, school-aged children, school bus operators, truck drivers and student drivers among others.

No. 203 was assembled by General Electric in October 2001 and is expected to pull trains throughout Amtrak’s national network.

New ALC-42s Move East on Capitol Limited

January 11, 2022

Two new Siemens ALC-42 locomotives operated eastbound on the Capitol Limited today behind P42DC No. 188.

An online report indicated that the 305 and 304 were being delivered from the Siemens assembly plant in California. Both units wore the Phase VI livery.

Reportedly Amtrak is training crews in Chicago in the operation of the new ALC-42 locomotives, which are slated to begin replacing P42s in Amtrak’s national network this year although P42s will continue to work for a few more years as Amtrak takes delivery of its ALC-42 fleet.

Nos. 29 and 30 in recent days have been operating with four cars, a sleeping car, dining car and two coaches. During the holiday travel season the Capitol Limited had been assigned an additional sleeping car.

In an unrelated development, Amtrak continued to have equipment and weather-related issues last weekend.

The eastbound Cardinal departed Chicago on Saturday night more than seven hours late due to what Amtrak described on its Twitter feed as equipment and mechanical issues.

Also running late in recent days have been the California Zephyr and Empire Builder.

Trains magazine reported on its website that a westbound Zephyr last weekend was delayed by more than seven hours after hitting a track obstruction east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

The Empire Builder continued to be plagued by weather woes with the train that departed Chicago last Friday canceled in Minot, North Dakota, due to weather-related operating conditions.

The westbound Builder from Chicago was canceled on Saturday and Sunday while its eastbound counterpart was canceled from Seattle and Portland on Sunday and Monday.

Saturday’s eastbound Empire Builder had originated in Spokane, Washington, rather than Seattle.