Archive for the ‘Amtrak News’ Category

Canceled Trains to be Restored Monday

January 20, 2019

Amtrak said on Sunday that all trains canceled on Saturday and Sunday due to a severe winter storm will be restored to normal operation on Monday.

In the meantime the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited will resume service today. Amtrak had canceled Nos. 29 and 30 for Sunday was well as Saturday/

However the Lake Shore Limited remains canceled today from both New York and Chicago.

Nos. 48 and 49 use the same route as the Capitol between Cleveland and Chicago.

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Empire Corridor Trains Also Canceled This Weekend

January 19, 2019

Amtrak added Empire Service to its list of trains being canceled this weekend due to a severe winter storm in the Midwest and Northeast.

In a service notice issued on Friday, the carrier said it has canceled Empire Service trains 250, 260, 238, 284, 68, 63, 281, 283, 253 and 259 on Saturday.

On Sunday, Amtrak said Empire Service trains that normally operate between New York and Niagara Falls, New York, will only run between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

This includes the Maple Leaf, which normally operates between New York and Toronto.

Amtrak Wants to Replace Amfleet I Fleet

January 19, 2019

Amtrak has taken a step toward replacement of its Amfleet I fleet by issuing a request for proposals for new single-level passenger cars.

The new cars are expected to replace 470 Amfleet I and former Metroliner cars that range in age from 40 to 50 years.

Most of the new equipment would be used in the Northeast Corridor, but also be assigned to

Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf, Adirondack, Vermonter, Downeaster, Carolinian, Pennsylvanian, Keystone Service, Virginia Service and New Haven/Springfield Service.

“Nearly half of Amtrak’s annual ridership is comprised of trips along the Northeast Corridor and adjoining corridors, and this new state-of-the-art equipment will provide customers with an enjoyable and efficient travel experience,” Amtrak Vice President of Corporate Planning Byron Comati said in news release.

Amtrak said the new cars should have improved Wi-Fi equipment and connectivity; enhanced seating; weather-tight doors and vestibules; large picture windows; improved climate control systems for passenger comfort; and new designs for restrooms and passageways between cars.

The new cars would be distributed to 75 trainsets or their railcar equivalents with options to provide equipment for future service growth along the NEC and state-supported routes.

Expanded Menu Was Launched Earlier Than Planned

January 19, 2019

The changes that Amtrak made this week in dining service to two eastern long-distance trains occurred earlier than that carrier had expected to make them.

Amtrak also has indicated to the Rail Passengers Association that its long-term vision for its national network is improved service “with more traditional dining options.”

Last year Amtrak ceased offering full-service dining aboard the Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York/Boston) and Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington).

Instead, sleeping car passengers were offered prepackaged meals.

This past week Amtrak expanded the number of hot menu items for lunch and dinner and added a limited hot breakfast option.

In a blog posting on the RPA website, it was disclosed that Amtrak’s original plan was to institute the expanded menu when new high-capacity convection ovens were installed in food service cars that would enable cooking those hot meals in volume.

The ovens have yet to be installed, but Amtrak said is it “remains confident” that the new ovens will installed before the peak summer travel season.

The RPA posting indicated that the more traditional dining options is apparently intended for trains that travel for two nights.

It is unclear what is meant by more traditional options given that those long-distance trains currently have full-service dining cars with table service.

Amtrak Still Dragging Feet on S.W. Chief Route Money

January 19, 2019

Officials along the route of the Southwest Chief say Amtrak foot dragging has hindered their ability to apply for additional federal grants to help pay for rebuilding the train’s route.

Amtrak earlier refused to release its matching share of a federal TIGER grant obtained by Colfax County, New Mexico to rehabilitate the line northern New Mexico.

That action also has also stalled work on the $21.5 million project to improve the track and signals there.

Amtrak has said it won’t release its matching funds until there is a comprehensive funding plan and firm financial commitments for an estimated $50 million for track and signal improvements in New Mexico. Amtrak’s match for the New Mexico TIGER grant is $3 million.

That prompted members of the Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico congressional delegations to push for and obtain a measure in a funding bill directing Amtrak to use $50 million of its current appropriation for the maintenance and safety improvements it claims the Chief’s route needs in New Mexico.

That action was also in response to an Amtrak plan to substitute bus service for rail service between Dodge City, Kansas, and Albuquerque.

Senators at an October hearing admonished Amtrak to maintain the Chief as is through the end of fiscal year 2019, which Amtrak has agreed to do.

However, Amtrak continues to withhold its TIGER grant the matching funds.

In a recent report to the La Junta, Colorado, city council, La Junta City Manager Rick Klein said BNSF, Amtrak, and various government entities in three states have invested more than $100 million toward rehabilitating the route of the Southwest Chief, which operates between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Amtrak Still Willing to Serve Rockford

January 19, 2019

An Amtrak spokesman recently told an audience in Rockford, Illinois, that the carrier wants to return to their city, but there are no firms plans to do that at this time.

Marc Magliari, who is based in Chicago, said the State of Illinois needs to decide what type of rail service it wants in Rockford, whether it be Amtrak or commuter rail.

“This is an area that’s unserved. We’d like to connect this part of the network to the rest of the network,” Magliari at a meeting of T.R.A.I.N. Illinois, a passenger advocacy group.

Amtrak service to Rockford ended in 1981 when the state ended its funding of the Chicago-Dubuque, Iowa, Black Hawk.

In recent years the Illinois Department of Transportation has studied reinstating intercity rail service to Rockford, but those efforts slowed during the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who was defeated in November in his re-election bid.

Magliari said Illinois transportation policy makers will meet next month to discuss the future of passenger rail in the state.

The Illinois Department of Transportation funds corridor service from Chicago to Milwaukee, St. Louis, Quincy and Carbondale.

As for returning service to Rockford, Magliari said, “The route hasn’t been chosen, there’s been discussion about various routes, there’s been discussion about extending commuter rail service here but in the end if this many people get together to say they want service, we’ll come out and talk and that’s what we’re doing tonight.”

Report Examines Effects of SW Chief Bus Bridge

January 19, 2019

Had Amtrak go ahead with its idea to bus passengers over a portion of the route of the Southwest Chief it would have lost $135 in the affected communities a new study has found.

The study, conducted by the University of Southern Mississippi for the Rail Passengers Association said the bus bridge between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kansas, would have led to $180 million in annual losses.

The report, titled Bustituted: The Socioeconomic Impacts of Replacing Southwest Chief Service Over Raton Pass said the annual $180-million economic loss would be the result of “Permanent Direct Economic Losses” totaling $116.4 million, as well as “Permanent Indirect Losses” of $63.7 million.

Direct losses involve such things as cancelled operating spending, fewer visitors and lost income from those visitors, and higher travel costs for families that live along the Southwest Chief route. The indirect losses would be felt through increased pollution control, highway fatalities, increased highway maintenance and forgone trips.

The report said those losses are more than three times what Amtrak requests from Congress to operate the Southwest Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles.

The full report can be found at https://www.railpassengers.org/site/assets/files/8060/southwest_chief_economic_impact_study_final_bbb_1-11.pdf

Amtrak Opens Another Social Media Contest

January 19, 2019

Amtrak is accepting applications through Jan. 31 in its latest contest of #AmtrakTakeMeThere.

The winner will receive a free train ride across the country as part of its social media residency as well as $1,000 in spending money.

The program details said Amtrak is seeking bids from those who are good with a camera and like using social media to share new experiences.

This would be what Amtrak termed “real people” who do not necessarily have a large number of social media followers.

“We’re not looking for glitzy influencers with millions of followers who quit their day job to travel the world,” Amtrak said on its website.

Rather the passenger carrier wants to see applications from “creatives, introverts, families, survivors and retirees.”

Further information is available at www.amtrak.com/about-amtrak/residency.html.

Fewer Advance Reservations Now Allowed on CT Line

January 18, 2019

In an effort to effort to address crowding aboard its trains operating during afternoon hours on the CTrail Hartford Line, Amtrak is limiting advance ticket sales.

The effect is to allow more seats for travelers with Hartford Line tickets.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation agreed to the change, which effects Train 475 (Hartford to New Haven) and Train 474 (New Haven to Hartford).

CDOT said the limitations on advance reservations for those trains will open up seats for for up to 72 riders with CTrail Hartford Line tickets.

Overcrowding of afternoon Amtrak trains on the route has persisted since last summer in part due to Amtrak agreeing to honor CTrail tickets on its trains on the Hartford Line.

But the overcrowding has resulted in Amtrak personnel sometimes refusing to allow CTrail ticket holders aboard Amtrak trains that are at capacity.

Although then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called this practice a violation of the state’s agreement with Amtrak, Connecticut Public Radio recently reported that its review of the contract between the state and Amtrak found it does not contain language that makes CTrail and Amtrak tickets equal.

CDOT has maintained since September under the agreement Amtrak conductors can’t ask CTrail and student-ticketed passengers to exit trains that are full on the Hartford line.

But the agreement does not explicitly state that there is a formal “One Ticket, Any Train” agreement between Amtrak and CDOT.

Amtrak trains run with two cars, which is two fewer that CTrail trains have.

“The challenge that we’re faced with is we have more customers wanting to use the service than available seats,” said Rich Andreski, CDOT’s bureau chief of public transportation. “The bottom line is we need to provide more seats for customers.”

CDOT has asked Amtrak to add more cars and even more trains to the route to help meet passenger demand.

In particularly, the agency wants to see Amtrak operate at least one more train during the afternoon hours.

“We understand the frustration of passengers being asked to wait for another train and appreciate their patience until we can resolve this issue,” CDOT spokesman Judd Everhart said.“At the same time, we recognize Amtrak’s position that having passengers standing in the aisles and vestibules can be a safety concern.”

CTrail service began last June between Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, with stops in Windsor Locks, Windsor, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden and Wallingford.

Since September, when Amtrak trains are full conductors have asked CTrail and U-Pass ticketed passengers to either stay on the platform or give up their seats to those holding Amtrak tickets.

Amtrak has been generally honoring CTrail’s “One Ticket, Any Train” desire except when its own trains are full.

Amtrak has said it only leaves CTrail ticket holders behind or ask non-Amtrak passengers to give up their seats during such “unsafe conditions” as passengers have to stand in the vestibule.

Passengers booking travel through Amtrak must have a reservation, but CTrail ticket buyers do not.

However, Connecticut officials acknowledge they are limited in their ability to demand that Amtrak increase capacity of its trains.

The state could request that of Amtrak in writing but acceding to those requests is at Amtrak’s discretion.

One other option that state officials are considering is to establish a system whereby CTrail and Amtrak passengers would essentially purchase the same ticket.

Trains Canceled Ahead of Storm

January 18, 2019

Amtrak has canceled several trains in advance of a coming weekend winter storm expected to slam the Midwest and East while modifying the schedules of several other trains.

The modified schedule will be in effect on Saturday and Sunday (Jan 19-20) with service restored pending improved conditions.

Canceled on Saturday and Sunday are all three eastern long-distance trains, the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited and Cardinal.

However, the Cardinal will operate between Chicago and Indianapolis on Saturday.

Other schedule modifications include the following:

Acela Express: Trains 2250, 2254, 2249, 2251, 2253 will operate only between New York and Boston. Train 2290 is canceled.

Northeast Regional: Trains 160,164, 88,161,135,167 will operate only between New York and Boston.

Keystone Service:  Trains 662, 664, 672, 661, 667, 671 are canceled.

Pennsylvanian:  Canceled over its entire route.

Vermonter:  Trains 54 and 57 are canceled between St. Albans, Vermont, and New Haven, Connecticut.

Northeast Corridor service between New York and Washington and points south will continue to operate as scheduled.

In a service advisory, Amtrak advised travelers to check the status of their train at its website on its smart phone app.

Passengers with reservations on trains that are canceled will typically be accommodated on trains with similar departure times or another day.

Amtrak said it will waive additional charges for passengers seeking to change their reservation.