Amtrak to Make Discounted Fares Less Generous

December 15, 2017

Amtrak is poised to become less generous with its discounted fares starting next month.

Trains magazine quoted anonymous sources as saying that a number of changes will be made to fare discounts and cancellation policies in the wake of a review ordered by Amtrak co-CEO Richard Anderson.

Under the present policy, passengers who cancel a reservation before their scheduled departure time can convert the entire value of their ticket into a voucher to be applied to future Amtrak travel within a year.

The new policy will impose a 25 percent cancellation penalty for sleeper and super saver fares.

Passengers who cancel and seek a cash refund will see 10 percent of the value of their ticket deducted for coach or Acela Business Class reservations if canceled within 48 hours of scheduled departure.

Also under the present policy, a 15 percent penalty is imposed for sleeping car reservations canceled within seven days of departure. The penalties are waived for business class or Acela first class reservations.

The new policy deducts 25 percent of the value of a canceled sleeping car ticket or a coach or Acela Business Class ticket purchased with a saver fare regardless of whether the remainder of the ticket value is returned as cash or a voucher.

The penalty does not apply if the reservation is changed for a future date or otherwise modified short of cancellation. If a change results in a lower fare, the full difference can still be refunded as a voucher.

Many existing discounted fares will continue to be offered, but the discount will be less.

The 15 percent senior discount will be cut to 10 percent and the age eligibility threshold increased from 62 to 65.
Likewise, the disability discount of 15 percent will be cut to 10 percent. Unchanged are the requirements that passengers buying a disability fare ticket do so with an Amtrak agent by phone or in person at a staffed station. The disability discount will continue to apply to all rail fares.

Amtrak now allows up to two children between the ages of 2 and 12 to travel for half off the full adult rail fare when they are accompanied by an adult paying full fare.

The new rules will allow only one child per accompanying adult. All other children must pay the full adult fare.

The new rules will also create an exemption whereby many discount fares will not apply to the highest fare bucket.

Under the existing rules, all discounts can be applied to all fares except saver or E-bucket fares that require a ticket purchase at least three days in advance of travel.

The new rules will mean that only the disability discount can be applied to “full Y” bucket fares, which typically carry the highest rail fares and apply to the last tickets sold.

This change will also affect such discounts as student, AAA members, Veteran’s Advantage members and National Association of Railroad Passengers member discounts.

“Full Y” fares are the only ones available for purchase aboard a train from a conductor.

All discounts apply only to the rail fare and are not applied to accommodation charges for sleeper, business class and Acela first class tickets.

Tickets acquired with Amtrak Guest Rewards points will carry their own change and cancellation penalties.

Advertisements

Moorman Set to Leave Amtrak Dec. 31

December 15, 2017

Amtrak co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman is about at the end of the line as the head of the rail passenger carrier.

Moorman

Moorman, who came on board as CEO in September 2016 after a long career at Norfolk Southern that included serving as the company’s CEO, will leave Amtrak on Dec. 31. He plans to continue to serve the carrier as a senior adviser.

When he agreed to take the Amtrak job, Moorman made it clear he would only serve as a transitional CEO and assist the process of finding his replacement.

That led the Amtrak board of directors last June to hire Richard Anderson, a former Delta Air Lines CEO. Anderson and Moorman have held the co-CEO titles since then.

“I have greatly enjoyed my time at Amtrak, and firmly believe that the company is well-positioned for the future,” Moorman said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing my work with Richard and the entire Amtrak team to further advance passenger rail in this country.”

When Moorman was hired, he was assigned the responsibility to focus on improving operations, streamlining Amtrak’s organizational structure, and finding his successor.

Moorman has had his share of challenges, including an emergency program to rebuild track at New York Penn Station and improving the company’s safety culture.

The latter was described as “broken” by a National Transportation Safety Board report on an accident that left two Amtrak maintenance workers dead when they were struck by a train at Chester, Pennsylvania.

Amtrak has also shown concepts for high-speed equipment slated to replace Acela train sets in the Northeast Corridor and put into service new locomotives built by Siemens.

“The Board is grateful for Wick’s significant contributions since he joined the company, and we are pleased that he is continuing to serve as a senior advisor,” said Tony Coscia, chairman of the Amtrak board.

Amtrak Might Substitute Lake Forest for Glenview as Chicago Suburban Hiawatha Service Stop

December 14, 2017

Amtrak is considering changing its northern Chicago suburban stop for its Hiawatha Service from Glenview to Lake Forest, Illinois.

A study commissioned by the City of Lake Forest determined that the station change could mean as many as 40,000 more passengers on the Chicago-Milwaukee  trains.

However, some capital improvements to a Metra station in Lake Forest would be needed before the change is made.

“At this point, the only obstacle preventing us from beginning service is the lack of a pedestrian underpass at Lake Forest station that would allow passengers to move safely from one side of the tracks to another,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s vice president of state supported services-business development.

Amtrak said that was because it didn’t want passengers crossing tracks that are heavily used by its own trains as well those of Metra and Canadian Pacific.

Lake Forest has been pushing to become a stop for the Hiawatha trains during the past year.

It even paid a Washington lobbying firm $192,000 to conduct the feasibility study and promote the city with Amtrak officials.

One advantage of using Lake Forest rather than Glenview is that there would be more parking at the former station.

The pedestrian tunnel that Amtrak says is required before it would begin stopping in Lake Forest will cost an estimated $9 million, which the city must pay for.

Cascades Schedules to Change Dec. 18

December 14, 2017

Some schedules for Amtrak’s Cascades Service will change on Dec. 18, when two additional roundtrips will be launched between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

The new service is being underwritten by the Washington State Department of Transportation. The corridor will now have 12 daily between Seattle and Portland.

Another change effective Dec. 18 will be opening of the Tacoma Dome station and a reroute of Amtrak trains to the Point Defiance Bypass.

The new trains will carry train numbers 511, 512, 514 and 519. Some existing train numbers will also have changed. For details, visit http://www.AmtrakCascades.com.

In a service advisory, Amtrak provided a summary of the revised Cascades Service.

  • Trains 501, 503, 507, and 509 will operate between Seattle and Portland daily.
  • Train 505 will operate between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon, departing at 2:15 p.m. daily.
  • Train 511 will operate between Portland and Eugene departing at 9:45 a.m. Monday-Friday
  • Train 513 will operate between Portland and Eugene departing at 12:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays only.
  • Train 517 will operate between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Portland departing at 6:35 a.m. daily.
  • Train 519 will operate between Vancouver and Seattle departing at 5:45 p.m. daily.
  • Trains 500, 502, 504, and 506 will operate between Seattle and Portland daily.
  • Train 508 will operate between Eugene and Seattle departing at 4:30 p.m. daily.
  • Train 512 will operate between Eugene and Portland departing at 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
  • Train 514 will operate between Eugene and Portland departing at 9:00 a.m. weekends and holidays only.
  • Train 516 will operate between Seattle and Vancouver, departing at 7:45 a.m. daily.
  • Train 518 will operate between Portland and Vancouver, departing at 3:20 p.m. daily.

Some Amtrak Trains in Pennsylvania Will Require Reservations During the Christmas Travel Season

December 14, 2017

Some Amtrak trains in Pennsylvania will require reservations during the Christmas holiday travel period.

Passengers riding Keystone Service trains between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian must have reservations between Dec. 21-28.

This includes travel between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

Reservations will not be required for monthly and 10-ride ticket holders.

Amtrak Set Revenue Record in November

December 14, 2017

Amtrak said this week that it garnered record revenue in November of $204.7 million in system-wide adjusted ticket revenue, the best month in the company’s history.

In a news release, Amtrak said that Thanksgiving continued to be its busiest week of the year with a record 777,897 riders riding the train and generating $61 million in gross ticket revenue.

“More customers are choosing Amtrak as it is simply the smarter way to travel. We look forward to providing the Amtrak experience to more customers over the December holidays,” said Amtrak Co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman in a statement.

Amtrak said it is encouraging passengers to make their reservations now for Christmas season travel because it expects its trains to carry heavy crowds this month.

Passengers can save up to 25 percent on tickets, as 7-day and 14-day advance purchase saver fares are still available, the carrier said.

Amtrak Restructures Vice Presidents

December 14, 2017

Amtrak announced this week the restructuring of its vice presidents, including the hiring of two new VPs and the reassignment of job responsibilities of some executives already with the company.

Robin McDonough has been appointed vice president, human resources. Byl Herrmann, who had been serving in this role for the past year, will return to the law department as vice president, senior managing deputy general counsel.

McDonough will continue the transformation of the human resources department begun by Hermann earlier this year.

Jeanne Cantu has been promoted to assistant vice president, network support, succeeding McDonough. Cantu will be moving from the finance group, where she had already been working closely with operations through her role as senior director, business planning and controls.

Caroline Decker has been appointed vice president, Northeast Corridor service line. She succeeds Mark Yachmetz, who remains with the group as vice president, Acela 2021 Program, where he will be focused on delivering the next-generation of Acela service, including the new high-speed train sets.

In her previous role as vice president of government affairs and corporate communications, Decker led Amtrak’s efforts in Congress to secure annual federal funding while providing strategic leadership on corporate messaging.

In her new role, Decker will focus on increasing customer satisfaction and driving net revenues through innovation for the company’s flagship products and prepare for future growth across the NEC.

Bob Dorsch has been promoted to vice president, long distance service line. He succeeds Mark Murphy, who will be retiring after 40 years at Amtrak. Dorsch previously served as vice president, product support and management within the marketing and business development group.

In his new role, Dorsch will be responsible for leading efforts to modernize and improve the carrier’s products, deliver these services more efficiently and at a lower cost, while also providing a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Peter Wilander is joining Amtrak on Jan. 4 as vice president, product development and customer experience. He comes to Amtrak from Gate Group, a global provider of products, services and solutions for the aviation industry, where he served as chief commercial officer.

Wilander has more than 35 years of airline industry experience, having previously held the role of managing director on-board services for Delta Air Lines, where he was responsible for the worldwide catering operation, food and beverage design and implementation, on-board retail programs, and crew service delivery procedures.

In his new role, he will establish Amtrak’s customer service standards.

Dennis Newman joined Amtrak on Dec. 4 as vice president, schedule and consist planning. Newman will be responsible for the execution of Amtrak’s network strategy through schedule planning and capacity management of trains in the Northeast Corridor, state supported, and long distance services, and ensuring that route capacity is managed to optimize load factor and revenue, and stays responsive to market conditions and demand.

He was most recently vice president, sales, at Dish Network. Prior to that, he was vice president, network planning at Delta Air Lines.

Trump Meets to Talk Infrastructure Plan

December 13, 2017

News reports said that President Donald Trump met this week with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster to discuss the administration’s infrastructure proposal.

The administration has proposed using $200 billion in federal funds to leverage $1 trillion worth of infrastructure improvements.

Trump had indicated last month that once a tax bill had passed Congress that his administration would be ready to focus on the infrastructure plan.

Man Competent to Stand Trial in Zephyr Incident

December 12, 2017

A court has found a man charged with pulling an emergency brake on Amtrak’s California Zephyr competent to stand trial.

Taylor Wilson, 25, faces trial on charges of using a weapon to commit a felony and criminal mischief.

He waived his right to a preliminary hearing, so his case is headed to trail in a Nebraska district court.

Wilson was said by police to be carrying a loaded revolver in his waistband and a speed loader in his pocket.

He allegedly activated the brakes as the train was preparing to stop in Holdrege, Nebraska.

Police said Wilson got into the trailing P42DC locomotive and pulled the brakes as the train passed through Furnas County.

Wilson was also said to have with him a box of ammunition a knife, tin snips, scissors, a ventilation mask and three more speed loaders.

New York-Pittsfield Rail Service Studied

December 12, 2017

A study of rail service between New York City and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is underway.

The proposal would have trains use Amtrak’s Empire Corridor from New York to Rensselaer, New York, and then reverse direction and travel to Pittsfield via a CSX route now used by the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.

This route would be unlikely to require any significant additional investment in new track, signals or land purchases on the Amtrak-owned segments.

However, facilities will be needed in Pittsfield for overnight storage and servicing of equipment.

Eddie Sporn, a West Stockbridge resident who heads real estate and planning firm Robin Road Consulting, said another option that would avoid running through Rensselaer is being eyes, but the Rensselaer option appears to be the favored.