Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Track Work to Disrupt Wolverine Trains

June 3, 2023

Track work being planned by Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation will result in cancellations of some Wolverine Service trains between July 31 and Oct. 5.

During the period, Trains 350 and 353 will only operate on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Both trains also will operate on Labor Day, Sept. 4.

The Blue Water between Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan, will stop at all stations in southwestern Michigan served by Nos. 350 and 353 on days that those trains do not operate.

Amtrak said the track work will not affect the operation of Wolverine Service trains 351, 352, 354, and 355.

Group Sends Amtrak F&B Report to Congress

May 17, 2023

The Amtrak Food and Beverage Working Group last week submitted to Congress a 96-page report that suggested 30 changes including making complete meals available to all passengers aboard long-distance trains.

The 15-member working group was created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and has been working on its report for the past year.

The group’s members included Amtrak food and beverage service employees, rail passenger advocates, and representatives of state transportation departments that fund Amtrak corridor services.

Amtrak will have 180 days to respond to the report, most of which has yet to be made public.

However, a report posted on the website of the Rail Passengers Association said the recommendations address ingredients lists, waste control efforts and technology improvements, such as Internet connections to keep food items stocked and allow food to be purchased on board.

Rail passenger advocates have been pressing Amtrak to improve onboard food and beverage services for years, but those efforts gained momentum after the passenger carrier in 2018 began replacing full-service meal service aboard long-distance trains with prepared meals made available only to sleeping car passengers.

This meant that most passengers either had to bring their own food and beverages aboard or buy whatever Amtrak had for sale in café cars.

The working group report was filed with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Other recommendations in the report include allowing state corridor routes to provide more local food and beverage offerings, something that is done on such corridors as the Downeaster in Maine and the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest.

The report also called for revitalizing offerings aboard Acela service in the Northeast Corridor, which the working group said have been less imaginative and of lower quality than when celebrity chefs helped create the selections.

Settlement Reached in Amtrak Keystone Corridor Case

May 12, 2023

A dispute over access to rail freight shippers on Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor has apparently been resolved.

Amtrak told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board this week that it reached a settlement with the owners of two feed mills in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, and a cereal maker in Lancaster. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The dispute arose when Amtrak planned to shut down one of the main tracks on the line for six weeks for maintenance work.

The feed mill owners, Esbenshade and the Wenger Group, said that would leave them without freight service by Norfolk Southern, which has trackage rights on the line.

Cereal maker Kellogg Company later joined the case, saying its Lancaster plant would not be able to receive inbound loads.

The agreement involving Amtrak, the shippers and NS was described as a settlement in principle.

The parties have asked the STB to hold the case in abeyance until the settlement terms can be completed.

The STB had set a May 15 deadline for the parties to respond to the request of the shippers for a directed service order.

BRS Members OK New Pact With Amtrak

May 10, 2023

A railroad labor union has announced that its members have ratified a seven-year contract with Amtrak.

Members of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalman approved the pact to conclude 18 months of negotiation.

In a news release, BRS said the new contract calls calls for a general wage increase of 28.5 percent retroactive to last year (a 32.3 percent compounded increase over the term of the agreement), frozen monthly health and welfare cost-sharing portions, monthly cost-sharing decreases, and improvements in dental and medical insurance coverage.

The union said changes were made to the paid time off provisions to provide more time off with fewer years of service and an accrual method that permits employees to earn time off even if they don’t meet the 100-day threshold of the existing agreement.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day will now become a paid holiday. Other changes were made to bereavement leave and parental leave with the latter offering up to 10 weeks of paid time off that can be taken in two-week increments up to one year from a birth or adoption.

Cereal Maker Enters Amtrak Keystone Line Dispute

May 7, 2023

Cereal maker Kellogg Company has joined the effort to get Amtrak to modify its plans to take a track on its Keystone Corridor out of service for six weeks.

Kellogg said the loss of freight service by Norfolk Southern, which has trackage rights on the Keystone Corridor, would cause harm to its cereal manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Amtrak plans to take Track 1 out of service as part of a $167 million rehabilitation of the corridor, which links Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

In the past couple weeks two feed mills served by NS along the corridor have asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to intervene to ensure that shippers continue to receive rail service.

Amtrak has contended that there is no reasonable alternative to removing the track from service for several weeks.

Kellogg said in a filing with the STB last week that it will join the feed mills in their complaint. In the filing, Kellogg said it receives inbound loads from NS two to three times a week.

The two feed mills, Wenger and Esbenshade, said they would lose service to their plants in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, for the duration of the track closure. They asked the STB to enjoin Amtrak from closing the track and a directed service order to keep NS access to their facilities.

Amtrak has said it plans to reschedule its trains in the corridor and that all of them will use Track 2.

The passenger carrier has said it has talked with NS about their “mutual desire to reach an expeditious resolution of this matter.”

Clouds Were My Friend on This Day

May 2, 2023

Under normal conditions clouds are not a railroad photographer’s friend. They result in flat lighting conditions. Indeed some photographers won’t even go out and make photos on a cloudy day.

But on this Sunday morning last October in Chesterton, Indiana, early morning clouds were my friend. Train 29 was on time on this day and had this been a cloudless day there would have been strong backlighting in this location.

But the clouds blocked the rising sun and I was able to not only get a nice image of the train but some fall foliage as well.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

Amtrak Wants to Solve Shipper Issue

May 2, 2023

Amtrak said it will seek a solution to allow freight customers on its Keystone Corridor to continue receiving service by Norfolk Southern during a track rebuilding project.

Two feed mills that NS serves via trackage rights on the Amtrak-owned line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had complained to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board about Amtrak’s plans to close a track for several weeks which the shippers said would result in their losing freight service.

The feed mills are located in Mount Joy and they asked federal regulators to enjoin Amtrak from cutting off their freight service and to issue a directed service order.

For its part, NS told the STB it wants to maintain the status quo and enter into mediation over the matter. It said in a filing it supports a collaborative approach that enables its customers to continue to have rail access while also enabling Amtrak to undertake its infrastructure work.

NS said it wants to see the track closures occur in 10-day increments rather than over 45 days.

Amtrak responded by saying there was no reasonable alternative to closing the track while construction work is underway.

It acknowledged that rail access for some shippers would be lost during the construction work, which is expected to cost $167 million and cover 14.8 miles of track.

The passenger carrier said in a filing that it’s legal staff would meet with the freight customers, but also argued the STB lacks jurisdiction over Amtrak routes and services.

Shippers Protest Amtrak Track Closure in Pa.

April 29, 2023

Amtrak’s plans to suspend freight service on its Keystone Corridor in Pennsylvania has drawn the ire of two feed mills along the line.

They have asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to require Amtrak to allow Norfolk Southern to continue to serve them during a six-week maintenance project on the Philadelphia-Harrisburg line.

As part of that project, Amtrak plans to close Track 1 to all rail traffic next month, which means NS freight trains would not be able to reach the feed mills.

In a filing with the STB, the shippers said the track closing violates Amtrak’s common carrier obligation to provide service upon reasonable request.

The feed mills provide feed for livestock in the Northeast. They have asked regulators to order Amtrak to continue allowing NS to serve their facilities.

They said in their filing that losing rail service for six weeks would have “devastating consequences” for their businesses.

NS has trackage rights on the Keystone Corridor and serves the feed mills five days a week. The STB has ordered Amtrak and NS to respond by May 1 to the shipper’s petition.

During the shutdown of Track 1, Amtrak plans to reconfigure the schedules of its own trains that use the route so that all trains operate on Track 2.

The maintenance project involves rebuilding the track and roadbed between Lancaster and Harrisburg.

Amtrak Sets Trails and Rails Schedule

April 25, 2023

Amtrak said it will offer its Trails and Rails commentary program about the culture, history and geography of regions a train is traversing on 11 route this year.

The commentary is provided by volunteers sponsored by the National Park Service and has been ongoing since 2000.

Typically, a volunteer rides a train one way and does a same-day return to his or her point of origin, thus providing commentary aboard two trains a day.

Keystone Line Service Restored Monday

April 3, 2023

Rail passenger service was restored to Amtrak’s Keystone Line in Pennsylvania on Monday after a storm brought down catenary that had to be repaired.

Disrupted by the storm damage were Amtrak’s Keystone Service trains, the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian, and commuter trains of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Those trains were cancelled on Sunday and some trains did not operate Monday morning. Service had been restored by noon on Monday.

Amtrak operated a bus bridge for Pennsylvanian passengers between Harrisburg and Philadelphia with trains operating Harrisburg-Pittsburgh, and New York-Philadelphia.

The heaviest damage occurred near Radnor, Pennsylvania.