Archive for the ‘Amtrak News’ Category

Siding to Allow Downeaster Expansion

September 18, 2018

Construction of a siding on Pan Am Railways in Maine is expected to enable an expansion of Amtrak Downeaster service between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

The siding being built at Royal Junction between Falmouth and Cumberland.

Officials said current track conditions limit the number of trains that can operate between Portland and Brunswick.

The siding, which is costing $9 million, has been in the planning stages since Downeaster service was extended to Brunswick in 2012.

“Royal Siding will improve efficiency of service and increase the amount of service to Freeport and Brunswick,” said Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn.

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Amtrak Restoring Service After Florence

September 18, 2018

Amtrak began returning to normal on Tuesday with the restoration of Northeast Regional service to the Virginia Tidewater.

That service as well as other trains serving the Southeast had been canceled last week as Hurricane Florence approached last week.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said it would continue to operate a reduced schedule through Saturday.

It has canceled the Auto Train and Silver Meteor. The Silver Star will operate on a modified schedule between Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, through Sept. 22.

Also operating on a modified schedule will be the Palmetto between New York and Washington through Sept. 22.

The Carolinian will operate starting Wednesday between Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday.

Utah Wildfire Disrupts California Zephyr

September 17, 2018

A wildfire disrupted operations of Amtrak’s California Zephyr on Monday in Utah.

The fire temporarily closed Union Pacific’s former Denver & Rio Grande Western route east of Provo.

No. 5 that that left Chicago on Sept. 15 was halted at Grand Junction, Colorado, on late Sunday.

No. 6 that left Emeryville, California, on Sept. 16 was able to make it through the fire zone after the tracks briefly reopened, but railroad officials quickly closed them for safety reasons.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the CZ section that halted at Grand Junction later returned to Denver on Monday morning.

That equipment will remain in Denver and became No. 6 on Tuesday. The section that left  Emeryville on Monday will operate only as far east as Reno, Nevada.

The westbound Zephyr that departed Chicago on Sunday will take the Overland Route via the Borie Cutoff and operate via Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Ogden, Utah to Salt Lake City.

Passengers going to intermediate stops between Denver and Salt Lake City will be taken to their destination by bus.

Trains leaving Chicago on Monday and Emeryville on Tuesday will operate via the Overland detour if the normal route east of Provo remain closed.

“For the next few days, detours or service cancellations will affect Amtrak travel between Reno and Denver, including Salt Lake City. Customers can cancel and reschedule without penalties,” Magliari said.

Wild Fires Affect Coast Starlight

September 17, 2018

Amtrak has warned in a service advisory that wildfires north of Redding, California, may disrupt operations of the the Coast Starlight.

Delays and other service disruptions are still possible and a temporary track closure in the area might force Amtrak to halt service at Sacramento, California, and Klamath Falls, Oregon, without substitute transportation to and through Chico, Redding and Dunsmuir, California.

Passengers were directed to visit the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection website for the Delta Fire.

Amtrak also urged passengers to to check train status on Amtrak.com or its  smartphone apps prior to departing.

Amtrak Walks Back PTC ‘No Operation’ Pledge

September 17, 2018

Amtrak appears to have done an about face on an earlier vow to refuse to operate passenger trains on routes that lack an operating positive train control by Dec. 31.

During a hearing of a House committee, Amtrak Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek said the carrier will seek a deadline extension from the Federal Railroad Administration in order to operate all its trains.

Naparstek told the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials that Amtrak decided to seek the extension because of interoperability issues with other railroads that operate on Amtrak tracks and with railroads whose tracks Amtrak uses.

“When 2019 arrives, we will have our track, computer, training and locomotive PTC work complete and will be operating PTC across all of the tracks we control and across much of the host railroad network,” Naparstek said.

Naparstek said 222 of Amtrak’s 315 daily trains now operate with PTC on some or all of their routes. That figure is expected to rise to 283 by Dec. 31 when the railroad industry faces a federal deadline to implement PTC or qualify for an extension of up to two years.

Amtrak is studying how it might operate on rail lines that do not have PTC in place by next January.

Naparstek said the carrier’s goal is to continue to operate all its current routes.

“Exactly how we accomplish this will vary across our network, based on the specifics of each route,” he said. “But . . . we believe we will have strategies in place that will permit us to continue operations until operational PTC or PTC-equivalency is achieved for all our network.”

He describes the interoperability of PTC whereby the PTC equipment of one railroad works on another railroad’s routes, as a work in progress.

In a follow-up statement, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, “The testimony makes it clear Amtrak is planning to operate the current network in the coming fiscal year, with additional safety actions for some segments, as we strive for the goal of positive train control or an equivalent on all our routes.”

That suggests that Amtrak will not discontinue operating trains that use routes that lack a fully functioning PTC system.

Naperstek also said Amtrak is working with tenant railroads on the Northeast Corridor and other Amtrak-owned lines to ensure that they are able to maintain their operations.

“Our aim is to ensure that all of our tenants have an operational system as soon as possible,” he said. “We are mindful of the impacts that any disruption of commuter service may have on the regions we serve and the potential safety consequences that could follow.”

In progress report, Naperstek said that through Sept. 10, Amtrak had installed PTC systems on  88 of its locomotives required for revenue service.

Furthermore, 122 of 142 installations have been made on 114 state-owned locomotives and cab cars that Amtrak operates or maintains.

He also said that 53 units are being tested and are PTC operable; eight of 11 installation/track segments have been completed; 132 of 140 radio towers are fully installed and equipped; all employees required to be trained in PTC operations have been trained; 607 of 901 route-miles are in PTC operation, and 480 route-miles are in testing.

Naperstek’s testimony was in contrast to the remarks of Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson during a February House Railroad Subcommittee hearing at which Anderson said Amtrak would not operate trains on lines not equipped with fully operational PTC in 2019 if its host freight railroads failed to meet the Dec. 31 interim deadline for installation. He also said that Amtrak would prohibit non-PTC-compliant equipment from operating on the lines it owns, primarily on the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak Looking to Revamp Food Service

September 14, 2018

Amtrak appears to be poised to undertake a revamp of its food services systemwide.

The passenger carrier recently issued a request for information that seeks “transformational service models and industry best practices for managed food and beverage service.”

The information netted in response to that request will be used to draft a request for proposals to create a new model for providing food and beverages that is less costly.

That could be a first step toward turning over its food and beverage service to an outside contractor.

Submissions to the request for information are due by Oct. 16.

The request for information said that Amtrak is seeking models similar to the luxury service options offered on VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian and the Rocky Mountaineer excursion service based in Canada.

Amtrak said in the request for information it is reviewing its current service model and wants to hear how the respondents “might address food and beverage service onboard all trains through examples of similar services offered elsewhere or new and innovative approaches that might fit Amtrak’s environment.”

This will include proposals for operating café/lounge cars, dining cars, and Acela First Class service with and without Amtrak employees performing the work.

Amtrak OIG Calls for Changes in IT Management

September 14, 2018

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General has concluded that the carrier’s information technology management needs to improve if Amtrak wants to minimize the possibility and effect of IT service disruptions.

The OIG evaluated Amtrak’s business continuity planning and testing efforts and compared those to private- and public-sector IT management controls standards issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and ISACA.

The audit said that since 2012, Amtrak has spent more than $12 million to minimize the possibility and impact of disruptions to its information technology services.

Although Amtrak’s IT department has developed continuity plans for the applications hosted on its mainframe that are consistent with IT management control standards, it lacks IT continuity plans for some applications that are focused on such critical functions as selling tickets, and maintaining train equipment and railroad infrastructure.

“By not fully developing and testing its IT business continuity plans, the [railroad] does not have assurance that it is prepared to restore service after a disruption,” the report said. “It is also accepting a risk that it will experience additional service disruptions similar to those that occurred in recent years.”

The OIG report concluded that during the next three years service disruptions could result in about $3 million in lost revenue and productivity.

Amtrak has experienced a greater number of critical service outages that the department deemed most severe in 2016 than in 2015. However, the number of disruptions decreased in 2017 and is projected to stabilize this year.

Some of the disruptions resulted in revenue and productivity losses. Last year, for example, 50 service disruptions caused an estimated $1 million in lost revenue.

“These disruptions may have been mitigated or avoided with additional IT business continuity design and testing,” according to the report.

Track Work Disrupts Downeaster Service

September 13, 2018

Track work being conducted by Pan Am Railways is causing service disruptions of Amtrak Downeaster Service through Oct. 5.

Through Sept. 14, Trains 682, 685 and 688, which normally operate between Brunswick and Boston North Station, will operate between Boston and Dover, only.

Alternate transportation will be provided, via Buses 3681 and 3685, to missed stations of Brunswick, Freeport, Portland and Wells. There will be no alternate transportation provided to Orchard Beach and Saco.

Trains 681 and 686, which normally operate between Boston North and Portland, will operate between Boston and Dover, only.

Alternate transportation will be provided, via Buses 3682, 3686 and 3688, with an extension to Brunswick, making intermediate stops at Freeport, Portland and Wells.

Train 680, which normally operates between Portland and Boston North, will originate at Dover. No alternate transportation will be provided to missed stations of Portland, Saco or Wells.

Trains 683 and 684 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.

Trains 687 and 689 will operate normally between Boston North and Portland, with 10 minutes added to their schedules between Dover and Wells. Trains will depart all stations north of Wells later than the normal schedule.

Train 687 is cancelled between Portland and Brunswick with no alternate transportation to Freeport and Brunswick.

Train 689 will operate normally to Brunswick on Friday, September 14.

On weekdays between Sept. 17 and Oct. 5, Trains 682, 685 and 688, which normally operate between Brunswick and Boston North, will operate between Dover and Boston North.

Alternate transportation will be provided between Wells and Dover, via Buses 1982, 1985 and 1988. Busses will connect to Trains 1982, 1985 and 1988 which will operate between Brunswick and Wells.

Trains 681 and 686, which normally operate between Boston North and Portland will operate between Dover and Boston North. Alternate transportation will be provided between Wells and Dover, via Buses 1981 and 1986. Busses will connect to Trains 1981 and 1986 which will operate with an extension to Brunswick, making intermediate stops at Freeport, Portland, Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Wells.

Train 680, which normally operates between Portland and Boston North, will originate at Dover. No alternate transportation will be provided to missed stations of Portland, Saco or Wells.

Train 683, which normally operates between Boston North and Brunswick, will originate at Wells. No alternate transportation will be provided between Boston North and Dover.

Train 684 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided.

Trains 687 and 689 will operate normally with 10 minutes added to their schedule between Dover and Wells. Trains will depart all stations north of Wells later than the normal schedule.

On weekends between Sept. 15 and Sept. 30 all Downeaster Service is cancelled north of Portland on Sept. 15 and 16 only.

Alternate transportation will be provided, via Buses 3691, 3692, 3694, 3695, 3697, 3698 and 3999, to the stations of Freeport and Brunswick.

All trains will operate normally with 10 minutes added to schedules between Wells and Dover.

Southbound trains will depart Brunswick, Freeport, Portland, Orchard Beach, Saco and Wells earlier than normal.

Northbound trains will depart Dover, Wells, Saco, Orchard Beach, Portland, Freeport and Brunswick later than normal.

Trains will be scheduled to depart all stations between Boston North and Dover at normal times.

Visit AmtrakDowneaster.com/construction for more information.

Equipment Changes Affect Cascades

September 13, 2018

Some Amtrak Cascades trains will lose amenities due to equipment substitution, Amtrak said.

The changes affect Trains 508, 511 and 513 and are in effect through Sept. 17. All three trains operate between Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

In a service advisory Amtrak said the replacement equipment is single-level cars that will not offer checked baggage or bicycle space, business class, and WiFi.

Food and beverage service will be more limited than the usual fare.

Florence Prompts Amtrak to Cancel Service

September 11, 2018

The approach of Hurricane Florence has prompted Amtrak to announce a host of cancellations.

Most Amtrak service in the southeastern United States will not operate between Sept. 12 and Sept. 16. Some cancellations will take effect on Sept. 13.

Trains that will not operate between Sept. 12 and Sept. 16 include the Auto Train, Silver Meteor and Crescent.

Trains cancelled starting on Sept. 12 include the Carolinian and Piedmonts.

Between Sept. 12 and 16 the Silver Star will operate only between Jacksonville, Florida, and Miami, while the Palmetto will operate only between New York and Washington.

Between Sept. 13 and 16 the Cardinal will operate only between Chicago and Indianapolis; Northeast Regional train 94 will operate between Richmond (Staples Mill station) and Boston; while other Northeast Regional trains will not operate south of Washington.

On Sept. 17 and 18 some Northeast Regional trains will operate only between Washington and points north.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said it is waiving service charges for passengers seeking to modify their reservations but should contact Amtrak’s reservation center at 800-USA-RAIL.