Archive for April, 2020

Amtrak Adopts NTSB Safety Recommendation

April 22, 2020

Amtrak has implemented a recommendation made by the National Transportation Safety Board following an April 2016 incident in which two maintenance of way workers were killed by a passing train in Pennsylvania.

NTSB recommended that train dispatchers not be allowed to participate in potentially distracting activities, including making phone calls, while directing train operations.

Amtrak adopted that recommendation, the NTSB said this week in a news release.

The news release said that 230 safety recommendations made by the Board in 2019-2020 remain unaddressed.

The Amtrak workers were at a job site near Chester, Pennsylvania, when they were struck by a train.

Amtrak Pennsylvania Service Suspension Extended

April 21, 2020

The suspension of Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended to May 17.

The trains have been suspended since March 19 due to the pandemic.

The Amtrak website shows that reservations can be made starting May 18 although that it subject to change.

The Pennsylvanian operates between New York and Pittsburgh while Keystone Service operates between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, via Philadelphia.

The trains are funded largely by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

In a related development, operations of the combined CTrail/Amtrak Hartford line were further reduced on Monday due to a sharp decline in ridership.

The line how has seven weekday round trips in each direction, including four Amtrak Regional trains and three CTrail trains.

There had been 11 round trips, including five Amtrak Regional trains and six CT rail trains.

Amtrak Mandates Some Workers to Wear Masks

April 21, 2020

Amtrak is requiring employees who interact directly with the public to wear a facial covering of some kind, preferably a mask if available.

Although passengers are not being required to wear face coverings, the carrier said it strongly encourages them and all other of its employees to wear one.

Amtrak’s new CEO William Flynn said employees should start each day with a new disposable mask or a freshly-washed cloth mask.

Flynn said Amtrak has disposable masks available at all staffed stations and crew bases.

The carrier will not provide masks for passengers. “If a customer refuses to wear a mask after an employee graciously asks, let it go. It’s not a requirement, just a recommendation,”  he said.

Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer D. J. Stadtler, said the carrier is not mandating masks for passengers “because we travel through so many states and localities where rules are different.”

Stadtler said Amtrak is ensuring that passengers are practicing social distancing away from employees and other passengers.

At Amtrak shop facilities, wearing masks is not mandatory but the company has begun distributing 415,000 disposable masks in the past few days and expects to receive over a half a million more in the coming week.

In a related development, Canada’s Minister of Transport has asked passenger rail operators to require masks for passengers.

Airline passengers flying in Canada are being required to wear masks.

Passengers are being informed of that rule when buying a ticket and before boarding passengers must show that they have a mask in their possession.

Railroad company are being permitted to set and implement their own policies, including denying boarding to those who fail to comply with the rules.

VIA Rail Canada has “invited” passengers to wear masks, but they are not required except for international travelers using the train to reach their place of quarantine.

Las Vegas Rail Projects Gets OK to Issue Bond

April 21, 2020

A proposed intercity rail service to Las Vegas received approval last week from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee to issue $600 million in tax-exempt bonds.

XpressWest has proposed creating a high-speed rail route between Las Vegas and Southern California.

Under Internal Revenue Service guidelines ExpressWest would be allowed to sell up to four times the amount of the $600 million in bonding authority, for a total of $2.4 billion in tax-free, private equity bonds.

ExpressWest, which is part of Virgin Trains USA, has estimated the project cost at

$4.8 billion

The route would begin in California at Victorville, although ExpressWest has said it would eventually be extended into Los Angeles.

A groundbreaking ceremony for route is being planned by the end of this year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation approved last month $1 billion in tax-free private bonds for the project.

The bonds are required to be issued by Sept. 30.

ExpressWest also is seeking approval from Nevada officials to issue $200 million in bonds, which would allow the company to market $800 million in bonds toward the project.

In an unrelated development, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has extended the public comment period to April 28 on the draft environmental impact report for the Bakersfield-to-Palmdale section of the high-speed rail system.

In a news release, CHSRA said the extra time will allow stakeholders and the public to review and submit comments on the draft EIR during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CHSRA plans to host a virtual public hearing on the report on April 23. The authority is accepting comments via mail, email, online portal and by phone.

Rolling Out of Ann Arbor

April 15, 2020

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Cities has completed its station work at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is departing for its next stop in Dearborn

The F40 on the rear is actually a car car, having had its prime mover and other engine parts removed.

It used to be F40PH No. 215 and probably pulled a number of trains past here in the past.

Amtrak trains on the Chicago-Detroit route are now all named Wolverine Service and F40 cab cars are seldom seen.

This photo was made on June 28, 1997.

Anderson Ends Tenure as Amtrak CEO

April 15, 2020

Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson bowed out on Tuesday with a final message for Amtrak employees.

Anderson thanked them for their efforts during his three-year tenure and in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are in a position to protect Amtrak jobs right now because of everything you have done together in recent years,” he said. “You did the hard work as professionals over the past several years to grow revenue and ridership to record levels, with our highest customer satisfaction levels in history.

Anderson went on to say no travel company in the U.S. is as well positioned as Amtrak to to get through the pandemic and come out stronger on the other side.

Anderson, 64, served as Amtrak’s 12th president. He is being replaced today (April 15) by William J. Flynn, who like Anderson is a former airline executive.

Before coming to Amtrak, Anderson served as CEO of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines.

He joined Amtrak on July 12, 2017, as president and served through the end of the year as co-CEO of the intercity rail passenger carrier with Charles “Wick” Moorman.

Flynn served as president of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings between June 2006 and July 2019. He then served as CEO of Atlas through the end of 2019 and was chairman of the board of directors.

Amtrak named Flynn as its next president and CEO last month.

Horns to Sound to Honor Essential Workers

April 15, 2020

Amtrak and some public transit agencies will have their operators sound their horns at 3 p.m. on Thursday in honor of medical care workers, first responders, transportation workers, child care workers, grocery employees and others who continue to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The intercity rail passenger carrier along with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York), New Jersey Transit, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have launched the #SoundTheHorn to honor essential workers.

Operators of trains, buses, and ferry boats will give two 1-second horn blasts.

The agencies involved estimate there will be nearly 4,400 trains, buses and ferries in service at that time sounding their horns.

In a news release, Amtrak said anyone who sees or hears trains, buses or ferries sounding their horns at 3 p.m. on Thursday is encouraged to use the #SoundTheHorn hashtag to post audio and video, and tag the agency on the media platform of their choice.

Pacific Surfliner Service Disrupted This Weekend

April 15, 2020

Pacific Surfliner Service will be disrupted this weekend due to track work being performed on the route in San Diego County.

On April 17 Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles with bus service provided to San Diego at all missed stops.

On April 18 and 19 Train 796 will terminate at Los Angeles and bus service will be provided for all missed stops.

Also on those dates Trains 580, 768, 774, 1564 and 1584 will operate normally to Irvine, where bus service will be provided between Irvine and San Diego.

Express buses will run from Irvine to Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town San Diego and Downtown San Diego.

Trains 579, 593, 763, 777, 785 and 1767 will originate in Irvine. Bus service will be provided between San Diego and Irvine to connect with the trains listed above.

Buses will depart Downtown San Diego, Solana Beach and Oceanside earlier than the train schedule to allow time to connect with trains in Irvine.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said buses will not pick up at Old Town San Diego. Passengers can take the trolley to Downtown San Diego to board buses to Irvine.

Commuter railroad Metrolink will honor Amtrak tickets between Irvine and Los Angeles.

There will be no checked baggage or express service south of Santa Ana on the affected dates and alternate bus service will not serve San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente Pier.

The Irvine Station will be open on April 18 and 19. Visit PacificSurfliner.com/Advisory for more details.

 

More Station Operations Curtailed

April 15, 2020

Amtrak has announced additional station waiting room closures and station operating hour reductions.

The waiting room at the station in Portland, Oregon, will now close at 8 p.m. daily.

The station’s Metropolitan Lounge is closed until further notice.

Waiting room hours also have been reduced in Vancouver, Washington, until further notice.

The station will close daily at 4:15 p.m, and will not be staffed for Trains 28 and 505.

Train 505 will board on the front platform and Train 28 will board on the platform behind the station.

The waiting room of the station in Washington, Missouri, has been closed.

Missouri River Runner trains will continue to stop at the station and passengers will have access to platforms.

Amtrak is asking that passengers and visitors wait in their personal vehicles until a train arrives.

In a related development, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential travel for 14 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amtrak continues to service the Northeast Corridor in those stations although at reduced levels of service.

All Downeaster Service Now Suspended

April 15, 2020

Amtrak’s remaining Downeaster Service has been suspended through at least April 30.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which sponsors the service, said the suspension was due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, Amtrak had suspended all Downeastern service between Boston and Brunswick, Maine, except for one daily roundtrip.

With all service now suspended, stations in Brunswick, Freeport, Portland, Saco, Wells, Dover and Durham stations are closed.

Amtrak has waived ticket reservation change fees for all trip reservations made before May 31.

The April 30 date coincides with the expiration date of an order by Maine Gov. Janet Mills restricting public contact and movement, schools, vehicle travel, and retail business operations.

The Downeaster trains that had been operating included Nos. 680 and 685 on Monday through Friday, and Nos. 692 and 693 on Saturdays and Sundays.