Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19 pandemic’

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 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.

VIA to Reduce Service Due to Pandemic

January 15, 2022

With cases of COVID-19 surging VIA Rail Canada has decided to temporarily reduce service in its corridors between Windsor, Ontario, and Quebec City, Quebec.

VIA said the affected routes include Montreal-Ottawa, Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa, Toronto-Kingston-Montreal, Toronto-Kingston-Ottawa, Toronto-London-Windsor and Toronto-London-Sarnia.

Business class seating has been suspended and business lounges are closed. VIA said it will gradually restore service during the spring.

In a statement, VIA said it will continue to offer “essential service” on all routes. The service reductions will take effect Jan. 19.

Rail Workers With COVID-19 Sets Record

January 8, 2022

Using data from the Federal Railroad Administration, Trains magazine reported this week on its website that the number of railroad workers infected with COVID-19 has reached its highest point of the pandemic.

That occurred for the week ending Jan. 1, eclipsing a mark set for the week ending Jan. 9, 2021.

The Trains report said 2,171 railroad workers had contracted COVID-19 while 2,551 were in quarantine after being exposed to the virus.

The figures include Class 1 and short line railroads as well as Amtrak and commuter railroads.

Amtrak Cancelling Trains due to COVID-19 Surge Among Employees

January 1, 2022

Amtrak is mirroring the airlines by canceling trains due to an increase in COVID-19 cases among its workers.

Through Jan. 6 the passenger carrier said it will cancel about 1.5 percent of its scheduled trains with many of those cancellations occurring on the East Coast.

Amtrak said about two dozen trains will be affected including four long-distance routes.

Some long distance trains scheduled to depart from Chicago on Friday were cancelled including the City of New Orleans, Empire Builder and California Zephyr.

No trains serving Northeast Ohio have thus far been affected by the cancellations.

The Amtrak announcement also cited bad weather in some areas of the country.

 “Amtrak regrets any inconvenience,” the passenger carrier said in a statement. “We are continuing to monitor changing conditions and will make any further adjustments as required.”

Since Christmas Eve airlines have cancelled thousands of flights.

Face Mask Rule Extended to Next March

December 8, 2021

A federal rule requiring the wearing of facial masks while riding public modes of transportation has been extended to March 18, 2022.

The rule affects airports, commercial aircraft, over-the-road buses, and commuter bus and rail systems.

Exempt from the rule are travelers under age 2 those with disabilities that prevent them from wearing a face mask.

Civil penalty fines for violating the rule will stay in effect.

NS, Unions Tussle in Court Over Vaccine Requirement

October 26, 2021

In the wake of imposing a requirement that all of its employees get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, Norfolk Southern is suing its labor unions, seeking to overturn their lawsuit contesting the rule.

The Class 1 carrier filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Chicago seeking to block the lawsuit filed by the unions seeking to force NS to engage in collective bargaining over the issue.

NS in its lawsuit contends that the objections of the unions to the vaccine rule should be the subject of arbitration and not litigation.

In imposing the vaccine rule, NS cited an executive order issued by President Joseph Biden requiring federal contractors to require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In its lawsuit, NS asserts a right under its contracts with the unions to require vaccination in order to comply with the executive order.

The legal action being taken by the unions and NS is similar to lawsuits that followed an announcement by Union Pacific that it would require its workers to be vaccinated.

Amtrak has also announced a vaccination requirement for its employees and other Class I railroads are expected to follow suit.

NS Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations for Employees

October 21, 2021

Norfolk Southern told its employees on Wednesday that they must be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus by Dec. 8.

In a memorandum sent to employees, NS said the move is in reaction to an executive order issued by President Joseph Biden and various related guidelines requiring federal contractors to require vaccinations for all employees.

The memo noted that NS is a federal contractor because it handles shipments of military vehicles and jet fuel for the U.S. Department of Defense.

NS is the second Class 1 railroad to announce an employee vaccine mandate. Union Pacific said on Oct. 13 it was requiring vaccinations by Dec. 8.

The mandates have draw opposition from three railroad labor unions, which are threatening work stoppages if the mandates are not rescinded.

The unions are the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees.

UP and the unions have both filed lawsuits over the vaccine mandate.

Railway Age columnist Frank Wilner wrote on the trade journal’s website that the unions are not directly opposing mandatory vaccinations but demanding that UP collectively bargain such a result.

The unions want the railroads to give their members additional pay for becoming vaccinated.

The text of the NS memo can be read at https://www.railwayage.com/freight/class-i/ns-requiring-covid-19-vaccinations-for-all-employees/

New River Gorge Excursions Canceled

September 24, 2021

COVID-19 pandemic concerns have led to the cancellation of the 2021 Autumn Colors Express excursion trips through the New River Gorge of West Virginia.

Rail Excursion Management, which is sponsoring the excursions, said the trips have been rescheduled for 2022.

 “An overwhelming number of customers have expressed concern about this year’s event,” said Railexco CEO Adam Auxier.

He noted that a surge in COVID-19 cases in West Virginia has local hospitals operating at emergency levels,” making postponement our best and only option this year.

Ticket holders will automatically be transferred to equivalent dates in October 2022. Questions about tickets, credits, or refunds can be directed to info@railexco.com.

The excursions were to be run in cooperation with Amtrak and the cities Huntington, Charleston and Hinton.

Passengers were to board in Huntington or Charleston and travel to Hinton for that city’s Railroad Days festival.

The Autumn Colors Express uses the same route as Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Amtrak to Require Worker Vaccinations by Nov. 22

September 23, 2021

Amtrak said this week it will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 22 with all new hires facing an Oct. 4 vaccination deadline.

The passenger carrier said the rule changes are consistent with a recent executive order for federal employees.

That order does not allow for a voluntary testing alternative except for those who have obtained an exemption for medical or religious accommodation reasons.

Amtrak said the vaccination mandate also will apply to “red badge” contractors and others who regularly work at an Amtrak worksite.

The company has rescheduled its “Return to Worksites” date to Jan. 10, 2022.

“Given that our vaccination mandate is now late November, we feel it makes sense to postpone this return until after the holidays,” Amtrak officials said in the news release. “[Our] worksites remain open for anyone who wants to return sooner.”