Archive for July, 2016

7 Interested in Operating Heartland Flyer

July 19, 2016

A proposal to seek bids to operate the Oklahoma City-Fort Worth, Texas, Heartland Flyer has drawn interest from seven companies.

They include Iowa Pacific, PTSI Transportation, Herzog, First Transit, Corridor Capital, Amtrak, and a company named Erie Lackawanna.

Heartland FlyerProposals are being sought by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, which underwrites much of the costs of the Heartland Flyer.

The train is currently operated by Amtrak.

News media reports indicated that state officials have not named a timeline for when the state will begin receiving bids to operate the Flyer.

Study Backs S.W. Chief Connecting Train to Pueblo

July 19, 2016

A study has found that Amtrak’s Southwest Chief would gain an additional 14,000 passengers and net more than $1.445 million in revenue if it were to have a connection section serving Pueblo, Colorado.

The study proposed starting a stub-end train that would shuttle between Pueblo and the current Chief stop in LaJunta, Colorado.

Amtrak Southwest Chief 2The connecting train would have through cars to and from Chicago.

The distance between LaJunta and Pueblo is 64 miles and has been without intercity rail passenger service since a Santa Fe train between LaJunta and Denver was discontinued on May 1, 1971.

The study was conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Southwest Chief Rail Line Economic Development, Rural Tourism, and Infrastructure Repair and Maintenance Commission Fund.

The ridership estimates were based on an Amtrak model that projects patronage for a one-seat ride.

The study did not attempt to factor in operating, switching, labor, or infrastructure costs. Nor did it examine potential ridership for through service to points west of LaJunta.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said passenger carrier is encouraged by the findings and will continue to work with Colorado interests who have sought the service.

Colorado interests say their next step is to obtain cost estimates from the host railroads.

Cleveland Consulting Firm to Work With Amtrak in Chicago Union Station Restoration Project

July 19, 2016

Arup has been named to be the design team for the Chicago Union restoration project.

The Cleveland based engineering consulting firm will work with Amtrak, Metra, the city of Chicago and the Regional Transportation Authority on the project.

Chicago Union StationThe next phase of the project involves planning, historic review and preliminary engineering.

The work will focus on expanded concourses and entrances, widening of platforms, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, pedestrian passageways and ventilation. The design work is expected to be completed in 18 months.

“This project will reflect the station’s status as the major multimodal transit powerhouse for the city and region,” said John Eddy, principal and project manager at Arup, in a news release.

Amtrak Names 2nd Group of Writers in Residence

July 19, 2016

Amtrak has chosen the second class of writers to participate in the Amtrak Residency program whereby the participants travel by train as part of their work.

Amtrak logoIn a news release, Amtrak said the writers will be offered “a travel experience with amazing scenery, an environment that fosters engaging connections, and the ability to explore and be inspired by the diversity of landscapes America has to offer.”

About two writers per month will travel round trip on pre-selected (based on availability) trains that will include all 15 of Amtrak’s long-distance routes.

The writers were chosen by a panel of published authors and two former Amtrak residents. Amtrak personnel also participated in the selection process.

“We are excited to build on the success of the residency program and offer a second group of writers a creative environment to focus on the work of their choice,” said Julia Quinn, Amtrak director of public relations.

CSX Track Work Leads to Altered Schedules

July 19, 2016

CSX track work has Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf operating on temporary schedules through Sept. 2.

Amtrak 3In a service advisory, Amtrak said some train will depart earlier than the published schedule.

Passengers are advised to check, use the Amtrak mobile app or call Amtrak personnel at 800-872-7245 for the most up-to-date schedules.

Increased Security at Cleveland Amtrak Station

July 19, 2016

Heightened security measures are in place this week for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which will also affect the Amtrak station.

Passengers are urged to allow extra time to reach the station due to street closures for security reasons.

Amtrak 4Amtrak said it will have additional personnel on hand during the convention, which wraps up on Thursday night.

Passengers age 16 and over should be prepared to present a valid photo ID to Amtrak personnel or police upon request.

There will be parcel restrictions in downtown Cleveland during this  period and passengers should be ready to provide documentation about their reasons for being in the secured area, such as an eTicket or hotel reservation confirmation, if they are carrying items larger than 18 inches by 13 inches by 7 inches.

Amtrak Police will have an increased presence in Cleveland during the convention.

Michigan Trims Wolverine Service for Summer

July 6, 2016

At the request of the Michigan Department of Transportation Amtrak has annulled some Wolverine Service trains for the remainder of the summer.

Amtrak logoCut from the timetable is eastbound No. 350, which had departed Chicago in the morning and ran only as far as Battle Creek.

Also annulled is an afternoon train from Battle Creek to Chicago, No. 353.

The service cuts mean that Monday through Saturday the first Wolverine Service eastbound train of the day departs Chicago at 4 p.m. A second Wolverine Service train leaves two hours later. Both trains terminate at Pontiac in suburban Detroit.

As for westbound service Monday through Saturday, No. 351 departs Pontiac at 5:15 a.m. while No. 355 leaves at 6:50 p.m.

On Sunday, Wolverine Service returns to normal with three roundtrips scheduled between Chicago and Pontiac.

However, the schedule changes with departures from Chicago at 7:10 p.m., 12:25 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Westbound trains leave Pontiac at 5:15 a.m., 10:35 a.m. and 6:50 p.m.

MDOT asked Amtrak to alter the schedule after reviewing ridership data for May and June and deciding that the cost of providing the Chicago-Battle Creek trains was not being adequately covered by ticket revenue.

During May, ridership and revenue each fell 14 percent from the May 2015 performance figures.

There had been no connecting bus service between Battle Creek and points east on the route.

Michigan is undertaking a track rehabilitation project between Battle Creek and Jackson that involves replacing 26,000 ties, repairing 13 switches, rebuilding 23 highway crossings, and modifying or realigning 29 curves.

The work began in late April and is expected to be finished by Sept. 23 when schedules will reset to normal.

Amtrak recently said that regular service of three roundtrips will be offered during the Labor Day weekend.

The Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette are not affected by the track work.

Flood Aid Sent in Rail Cars

July 6, 2016

The West Virginia-based Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society has shipped cleaning supplies, food and other items by rail to help victims of the recent flooding in the group’s home state.

West VirginiaThe donations were sent in two passenger cars owned by the group in cooperation with Amtrak, which attached them to the rear of the eastbound Cardinal.

The car was unloaded in White Sulphur Springs, which is located in a region hard hit by the flooding. The donated goods were taken to a distribution center.

The group, based in Huntington, received more than $300 in membership donations and another $400 from the community.

The passenger cars continued on to Washington for an Independence Day event.

Michigan Track Work Pauses for Holidays

July 1, 2016

Track construction on the Chicago-Detroit route used by Amtrak has been suspended for the July 4th and Labor Day weekends.

Between July 2 and 4, and Sept. 3 and 5 Amtrak will offer three daily Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

Amtrak logoThe morning Wolverine departing from Chicago and the mid-day departure from Pontiac have been suspended for the summer except on Sundays.

On Monday through Saturday through Sept. 23, Amtrak is offering just two Wolverine Service roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit.

Trains depart Chicago during the late afternoon to early evening hours while trains are departing Pontiac in early morning and late afternoon.

The track work, which is being sponsored by the Michigan Department of Transportation is being undertaken between Battle Creek and Jackson as part of Michigan’s Accelerated Rail Program.

Workers are rehabilitating the track and doing signal work. In a news release, Amtrak said that once the work is complete passengers will enjoy improved reliability and a smoother ride.

The work is also precursor to operating trains at 110 miles per hour.

The construction does not affect the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water or the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette.

Amtrak Dome Ocean View on Pere Marquette

July 1, 2016

Amtrak’s full-length dome car Ocean View is operating on weekends on the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette through July 24.

The car is the last Amtrak-owned dome car and its appearance on the Pere Marquette is being sponsored by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Michigan DOTIn a news release, Amtrak said the dome car is part of an endeavor to enhance on-board service and build ridership during a time when there is extended daylight for viewing the passing scenery in both directions.

The car was built in 1955 for Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder.

The Horizon fleet coaches and food service car assigned to the Pere Marquette will continue in service as usual.