Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

Amtrak Sets Deal to Buy New Trainsets

July 8, 2021

Amtrak will spend billions to buy new trainsets from Siemens Mobility that will replace Amfleet I equipment in the Northeast Corridor and state-supported corridor trains.

How much the deal is worth depends on whose news release you read. Siemens said the deal is worth $3.4 billion while Amtrak put it at $7.3 billion.

The Amtrak news release indicated that the contract also covers parts and service, facilities upgrades and other related expenses. The deal has an option for up to 140 additional trainsets and related maintenance agreements.

Siemens characterized the contract as its largest North American order in its history.

Back in April Amtrak had announced it had chosen Siemens to build replacement equipment for its corridor trains.

Corridor trains expected to get the new equipment include the Adirondack, Carolinian, Amtrak Cascades, Downeaster, Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Keystone Service, Maple Leaf, Hartford Line and Valley Flyer, Pennsylvanian, Vermonter and Virginia services.

The long-distance Palmetto between New York and Savannah, Georgia, also will receive the new trainsets.

Amtrak said the Siemens order will include dual-power and battery hybrid trains, therefore ending locomotive changes in Washington and New Haven, Connecticut.

Also displaced by the new equipment will be dual-mode locomotives now used on Empire Corridor trains.

The announcement did not say how the order is to be divided between dual-mode and hybrid equipment.

Trains will have individual power outlets and USB ports, onboard WiFi, a digital seat reservation system, and trip information and digital navigation displays.

Cars will have ADA accessible restrooms, vestibules, and food service cars, wheelchair lifts, and inductive hearing loops.

Few other details about the makeup of the trainsets were provided other than saying they will have predictive maintenance technology and real-time digital monitoring

Siemens plans to build the trainsets in Sacramento, California, with the first deliveries being made in 2024. Deliveries will be completed in 2030.

Some Amtrak Favorites from a 1993 Trip

September 26, 2020

On July 3, 1993, Marty Surdyk and myself spent several hours at Princeton Junction, New Jersey, catching action on Amtrak’s ex-Pennsylvania Railroad Northeast Corridor.

On our way back home we stopped at Horseshoe Curve and caught Amtrak’s Broadway Limited.

It was our final stop on the return home on July 5, 1993.

In the top photograph the Silver Meteor comes thundering by.

Next up the Pennsylvanian makes an appearance hauling a deadheading slumbercoach.

The last image from Princeton Junction shows the Silver Star.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Pennsylvanian, Keystones to be Restored June 1

May 22, 2020

Amtrak announced this week that the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian will resume service on June 1.

On the same day Amtrak will begin restoring Keystone Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Keystone service will initially be nine weekday roundtrips with six roundtrips operated on weekends.

There will be no Keystone Service between Philadelphia and New York for now as there was before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Amtrak said all trains will operate at less than full capacity to allow for social distancing.

Other service restorations set for June 1 include restoration of Acela service with three weekday roundtrips.

Northeast Regional service will increase from eight to 10 roundtrips in the Northeast Corridor.

In a unrelated development, VIA Rail Canada said that effective June 3 it will restore to service the following trains: 62 and 669 (Toronto-Kingston-Montréal)  and 52, 48, 59 (Toronto-Kingston-Ottawa).

More Amtrak Service Cuts Announced

March 16, 2020

Amtrak updated its service reduction plans on Sunday and added the Colorado ski train to the list of cuts.

The service advisory said that the ski train, which operates between Denver and Winter Park, would be canceled for the remainder of the season.

Ski resorts in the state have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amtrak also said that café car service in the Northeast Corridor will be suspended on some trains operating between New York and Washington.

The carrier had earlier said that starting March 16 Northeast Corridor service will be reduced to 40 percent of its typical weekday operations.

In addition, Keystone Service will operate on a Saturday schedule between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Amtrak will not provide service to the Pennsylvania cities of Ardmore, Paoli, Downingtown, Parkesburg, Coatesville and Exton.

The Hartford Line and Valley Flyer will operate  on a Saturday scheduled seven days a week.

On the Empire corridor, the Maple Leaf will operate only between New York and Niagara Falls, New York, with service to Toronto suspended.

The New York-Montreal Adirondack will operate only between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Amtrak said other services may be affected by service cuts and changes as circumstances surrounding the coronavis pandemic change.

Amtrak Makes More Service Cuts in the East

March 15, 2020

Amtrak will be making additional service cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective on March 15, the Maple Leaf will temporarily cease operating between Toronto and Niagara Falls, New York.

Nos. 63 and 64 will continue to operate between New York and Niagara Falls.

The Adirondack will cease operating north of Albany-Rensselaer, New York, but will continue to operate between New York City and Albany.

Effective March 16 service in the Northeast Corridor will be reduced to a typical Saturday schedule on a daily basis.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said it will continue to maintain frequent service by Acela and Northeast Regional trains to Boston, New York, Washington and Virginia points.

The service reductions in the Northeast Corridor will extend through March 29.

Amtrak earlier had announced reduction of service in the Keystone Corridor to a typical Saturday schedule with service suspended to Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

That service cut does not affect daily operation of the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Also starting March 15 service on the Harford Line and the Valley Flyer will operate on a Saturday schedule on a daily basis.

Amtrak Still Operating Most Trains

March 12, 2020

Amtrak said this week that it will continue operating the bulk of its trains but is taking precautions to guard against coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

The carrier said that includes increasing the cleaning of trains and stations, and stocking up on additional quantities of sanitizers and disinfectant wipes to be made available for passengers and employees.

Amtrak said it has waived change fees travel on bookings made through April 30.

Thus far the only trains that Amtrak has suspended are three Acela Express trains between New York and Washington.

In a notice posted on its website and sent out via an email blast, Amtrak said it continues to monitor the virus and is taking the advice of health experts.

Amtrak Increasing Deployment of Police Aboard Trains

March 3, 2020

Amtrak is deploying more of its police officers aboard trains rather than concentrating them at stations.

The change in policing is said to have been prompted by an increase in petty crimes and assaults committed aboard trains.

The changes primarily affect trains operating in the Northeast Corridor.

“We really focused on getting more uniforms in front of people, which is the number one way we can increase safety,” said D.J. Stadtler, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

Last year Amtrak sought to reduce the number of officers by 20 percent in its police department but that move was blocked by Congress.

Congress directed Amtrak to maintain a force of 431 officers.

The reassignment of police officers is also said to be designed to protect critical railroad infrastructure.

Amtrak police responded to 5,700 criminal incidents in 2019, down from about 6,000 in 2018 but higher than the 4,100 incidents reported in 2017.

Much of the increase of incidents was reported aboard trains and many of the cases were alcohol-related.

Amtrak Revenue, Ridership Rose in FY2019

November 12, 2019

Amtrak said that it posted a record “best operating performance” in fiscal year 2019 by handling 32.5 million passengers and earning $3.3 billion in operating revenue.

The fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, saw the carrier set ridership, revenue and financial performance records, Amtrak said in a news release.

The news release said Amtrak is on track to break even financially in FY2020.

On a year-over-year basis, ridership increased by 800,000; operating revenue rose 3.6 percent to $3.3 billion; operating earnings improved by $140.9 million, or 82.6 percent, for a loss of $29.8 million; and capital investment climbed 9.4 percent to $1.6 billion.

By comparison, Amtrak posted an operating loss of $170.6 million in FY2018.

Ridership of long-distance trains increased less than 1 percent. Most of the growth in ridership came in the Northeast Corridor and state-supported corridor services.

Amtrak said Acela ridership was up 4.3 percent, Northeast Regional was up 2.9 percent and state-supported services were up 2.4 percent.

Amtrak said it is the first major U.S.-based railroad to implement a safety management system, which led to a 26 percent reduction in passenger incidents, 72 percent fewer serious employee injuries, a 10 percent reduction in Federal Railroad Administration reportable injuries and a 3 percent reduction in trespasser and grade crossing incidents.

In its annual report, Amtrak said it completed installation of positive train control on nearly all trackage that it owns.

The exception is about a mile of restricted speed track in the Chicago Terminal.

During FY2019, Amtrak spent $1.6 billion on capital expenses, which was 9.4 percent higher than the previous year. Highlights of this included:

  • A $437 million program to refurbish the interiors of cars assigned to Acela Northeast Corridor service ($4 million) and Amfleet II cars for coach class along the East Coast.
  • Northeast Corridor state-of-good-repair programs of $713 million for repair or replacement of 24,080 feet of catenary, 79,985 concrete ties and 1,784 bridge ties, and 283 miles of high-speed surfacing.
  • An $850 million contract awarded to Siemens for 75 new Charger diesel locomotives to be assigned to national network trains.
  • A request for proposals for a new fleet of single-level passenger rail cars to replace Amfleet I cars, the oldest in the fleet.
  • Station improvements of $143 million station improvement program including installation of a digital train announcement board at Philadelphia 30th Street Station; enhanced Metropolitan Lounges in Washington Union Station, Boston South Station, 30th Street Station and the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station; commercial close for $90 million of improvements at Baltimore Penn Station; and renewed service at Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station, which included new passenger amenities.
  • Other capital investments were $78 million for ADA-related design and construction improvement projects at more than 40 locations nationwide, and $110 million in technology, including an updated customer mobile app. Amtrak also began development of an “omnichannel strategy to enable customers to easily complete purchases, access information and engage in transactions across multiple channels.”

Amtrak said nearly 90 percent of its passengers who responded to a survey “expressed overall satisfaction with their experience.”

This included improvements in customer satisfaction scores for clean train interiors, restroom cleanliness and information about delays. Acela and Northeast Regional customers noticed improvements and were increasingly likely to recommend Amtrak to family, friends, and colleagues.”

Amtrak did not specify if the customer satisfaction survey was conducted for services outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak said its on-time terminal departure performance was 93 percent across the system departing on time with the best performance turned in on the Northeast Corridor where trains departed on time from Washington Union Station more than 97 percent of the time.

Amtrak did not report on-time arrival figures per train or route.

FY2019 was the first full year in which all congressionally-mandated state and commuter partner cost-sharing agreements (under PRIIA) have been in effect.

Amtrak also said it received a credit upgrade to ‘A’ from S&P and an affirmation of an ‘A1’ credit rating by Moody’s, “reflecting significantly reduced operating losses and a stronger balance sheet, with no net debt.”

RPA Hits Amtrak Accounting Practices

August 28, 2018

A rail passenger advocacy group is trying to put Amtrak’s accounting practices back into the spotlight.

The Rail Passengers Association released a white paper last week that concludes that how Amtrak measures and allocates its revenues and costs is “catastrophically flawed” and does the American public a disservice.

RPA is hardly the first critic of Amtrak’s accounting, which has come under fire for years by critics and policy makers.

In the RPA white paper, Amtrak’s bookkeeping practices are said to have four major flaws.

Amtrak is described as allocating costs in a way that inaccurately portrays the economics affecting each part of the system without reporting avoidable costs, as required by law.

It also omits all costs of capital consumption and uses imprecise or inadequate data.

“The upshot is that APT exaggerates the cost of operating the national passenger train system, overstates the costs of expanding it, and trivializes the effects of killing it, because it fails to consider the benefits accruing to the communities it serves,” the report concludes. “In short, it radically undercuts the ability of Congress and Amtrak to plan wisely.”

One practice singled out is allocation of track maintenance costs to routes that do not use the given tracks.

The report also said that some Acela equipment maintenance costs are allocated to non-Acela routes.

Amtrak is said to fail to determine each route’s fuel costs and to report reliable station cost data for stations that the carrier owns or maintains.

The carrier fails to accurately count commuter rail passengers using Amtrak-owned stations, thus overcharging the Amtrak trains that use them.

RPA said Amtrak’s accounting practices make the Northeast Corridor system appear less costly than it is while making long-distance trains appear to cost more than they do.

The funding needs of the Northeast Corridor greatly overshadow those of the rest of the system, where the majority of infrastructure costs are underwritten by Amtrak’s host railroads

This results in the false assumption that eliminating long-distance routes would substantially cut Amtrak’s public funding needs.

Amtrak Launches New Cafe Car Menu in NEC

June 18, 2018

In what could be a preview of what is coming system wide, Amtrak launched new café car fare on June 13 on its Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains.

The new menu includes products from Boar’s Head Brand as well as a variety of other snacks, drinks and sundries.

This included drinks such as Makers Mark®, Cutwater™ Spirits, and LaCroix® sparkling water, and other such food items as Sahale Snacks® and Sweet Street® desserts.

“We are pleased to introduce this new menu featuring Boar’s Head premium products for our customers to enjoy as they travel with us along the Northeast Corridor,” said Amtrak Vice President of Product Development & Customer Experience Peter Wilander in a statement.

“The updated menu features premium sandwiches, salads and snacks, along with some gluten-free and vegan choices to enhance the overall Amtrak travel experience.”