Archive for the ‘Amtrak News’ Category

Amtrak Ridership up 1.5% in FY2017; Operating Loss Was Lowest it’s Been in Decades

November 16, 2017

Amtrak recorded its lowest operating loss in decades this year the carrier said on Thursday. The national passenger carrier said it broke passenger and revenue records for the year ending Sept. 30, helping to narrow its operating loss to $194 million.

During the period Amtrak recorded 31.7 million passenger trips, a 1.5 percent increase over FY2016 and had total revenue of $3.2 billion, an increase of 1.1 percent over FY 2016.

In breaking out ridership by service type, Amtrak said it carried 12 million in the Northeast Corridor, up 1 percent, which set a record.

State-supported trains carried 15 million passengers, a 2.1 percent increase, while the long-distance routes carried 4.6 million riders, an increase of 0.9 percent

Amtrak also set a record for cost recovery, covering 94.7 percent of its operating costs with ticket sales and other revenues.

“Over the next several years, we’re aiming to cover total operating costs from ticket and other revenues by strengthening our services and continuing to drive efficiency,” said Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia in a statement. “To do this, we are making investments in tracks and stations, on our trains, and in the delivery of customer service so that we can serve more customers with a better experience.”

Amtrak said it cuts its debt from $3.3 billion on Sept. 30, 2007, to $1.2 billion on Sept. 30, 2017, a reduction of 64 percent over the 10-year period.

Other notable milestones for Amtrak in FY2017 included a 19 percent increase in membership in its Amtrak Guest Rewards program and launching a national partnership with ride-sharing service Lyft.

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21 More Chargers Due in Chicago in January

November 16, 2017

Amtrak expects to receive 21 additional Charger locomotives in January. They will supplement the 12 that were delivered last August.

The locomotives have been assigned thus far to Hiawatha Service trains between Chicago and Milwaukee, and routes linking Chicago with the Illinois cities of Quincy and Carbondale.

Chargers also were expected to begin revenue service this week between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.

Scott Speegle, the passenger rail communications manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the passenger experience should be improved.

“They will provide a better acceleration and deceleration, and so we’ll have a smoother ride and better on-time performance,” Speegle said.

He said the new locomotives make it easier for more passenger cars to be added during peak travel days.

“They could pull more cars more efficiently than the older locomotives,” Speegle said. “We generally look to add cars at times there is a greater demand.”

The Chargers were built by Siemens in California and are also being used on West Coast corridor routes.

They have a Cummins engine that was built in Indiana, can reach speeds up to 125 mph and are capable of having positive train control.

Amtrak has labeled the Chargers with an “Amtrak Midwest” brand. The locomotives are owned by the states of Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan and are leased to Amtrak.

The locomotives were purchased with $216.5 million in federal funds.

Amtrak Michigan Ridership Up 8% in FY2017

November 16, 2017

Amtrak carried 738,837 passengers on its Michigan routes in fiscal year 2017, an 8 percent increase over FY 2016.

In a news release, Amtrak said completion of track work between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, helped boost patronage. The work had slowed operations in summer 2016 and led to fewer trains being operated between Chicago and Detroit.

“This increase in ridership can be attributed to reduced delays as well as a full schedule of trains operating on the Chicago-to-Detroit/Pontiac Wolverine Service corridor,” Amtrak officials said. This year, trains are operating faster and smoother.”

The fiscal year ended on Sept. 30. The Wolverine Service trains saw the biggest increase, with ridership up 12 percent in 2017. That equates to $20.4 million in ticket sales.

Ridership of the Chicago-to-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette trains increased 4 percent, totaling $3.2 million in sales. The Chicago-to-Port Huron Blue Water trains saw a 2 percent increase I ridership, with $6.5 million in sales.

Amtrak Head Acknowledges Need for New Equipment

November 15, 2017

Amtrak needs to replace or overhaul the rail car fleet that serves its long-distance trains, its co-CEO told the National Association of Railroad Passengers earlier this month.

Richard Anderson

Co-CEO Richard Anderson said rebuilding or replacing aging Superliners and Amfleet cars will receive a “first priority.”

He also said the diesel locomotive fleet used to pull that equipment also needs replacement and/or rebuilding

Anderson said that the first up will be renovations of  Amfleet I and Amfleet II cars followed by new Acela Express trainsets.

New diesel locomotives are being placed into service on corridor routes in the Midwest and West.

Amtrak also expects CAF USA to complete soon an order for 25 new Viewliner II diners to be completed. Last on the list that Anderson ticked off was overhauling the current Acela fleet.

Despite saying it is a priority, Anderson did not describe a plan to replace or rebuild the Superliner fleet.

Amfleet II coaches are used on single-level long-distance trains such as the Lake Shore Limited, Cardinal, Crescent and Silver Service.

Anderson did, though, describe the importance of long-distance trains by emphasizing their role in “connecting small and large communities and bringing the most utility to the most Americans across the country.”

He said Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains serve a series of markets with just 6 percent of riders traveling from endpoint to endpoint.

Many of those markets have lost or seen their level of intercity bus and airline service greatly diminished.

Anderson said Amtrak faces “risk points” with host railroads delaying Amtrak trains, the Trump administration’s efforts to end funding of long-distance trains and a dire need for capital.

The latter is most acute in the Northeast Corridor although some might say capital is desperately needed to buy new rolling stock and locomotives.

The former airline executive also said Amtrak needs to become more customer-focused.

Changes Coming to I-5 Rail Corridor

November 10, 2017

Amtrak will begin using a new station in Tacoma, Washington, that is located in a former Milwaukee Road freight house.

It is one of many changes in the Interstate 5 corridor between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, including the $181.2 million dollar Point Defiance Bypass Route south of Tacoma.

The latter includes 14.5 miles of upgraded tracks between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington, where the bypass will rejoin the mainline to Portland.

A portion of the upgraded route has its original alignment on former Northern Pacific rails south of the Tacoma Amtrak depot where the tracks climb a 2.85-percent grade to South Tacoma.

Passenger trains are being moved away from the more scenic route along Puget Sound due to freight congestion, tight curvature and a single-track tunnel under Point Defiance. The track was also subject to mudslides.

The new route is also expected to be 10 minutes faster or Amtrak.

Once an additional daily Cascades round-trip in the morning and the evening between Seattle and Portland is launched, Amtrak will have 14 trains in the corridor, including the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

There will be 16 Sounder commuter trains north of Lakewood, Washington, is 16 daily trains which will result in 30 daily passenger trains on the new single track line. The new route is slated to reduce Amtrak passenger times by 10 minutes.

Amtrak Boosting Capacity on California Routes

November 9, 2017

Amtrak said it will add additional equipment and capacity to its Pacific Surfliner route in Southern California for the Thanksgiving travel season.

Reservations will be required for travel on Pacific Surfliner trains between Nov. 22 and 26.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the Rail 2 Rail program will be suspended during this time, and Metrolink and COASTER passes will not be accepted onboard Pacific Surfliner trains.

Amtrak is also boosting capacity on its San Jaoquin and Capitol Corridor routes in Northern California.

Seats will be added to the Capitol Corridor service beginning Nov. 20 and extending through Nov. 26. Additional capacity is being added to the San Joaquins.

Texas Eagle to Miss Arcadia Valley This Month

November 9, 2017

Due to Union Pacific track work, the Texas Eagle will be missing its scheduled station stop at Arcadia Valley, Missouri for most of November.

Nos. 21/22 are being detoured between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and will not be passing through Arcadia Valley between Nov. 9 and 23.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that during this period alternative service will not be provided to or from Arcadia Valley.

Amtrak’s Anderson Sees 3 Challenges

November 6, 2017

Amtrak faces three challenges and two of them are financial, its co-CEO said in an appearance before the National Association of Railroad Passengers last week.

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson identified two of those as losing its federal funding and getting by with under funding. The third challenge is delays to trains caused by host railroads.

He said Amtrak has been able to get by by generating operating efficiencies that have helped to reduce its “capital deficit.”

Anderson said that has enabled Amtrak to deflect criticism from political forces that seek to dismantle its national network.

As for delays, Anderson said 75 percent of delays to long-distance and state-supported trains are caused by the freight railroads that host Amtrak trains. He said one Class I railroad executive has described Amtrak trains as “an annoyance.”

Anderson noted that he experienced this first-hand when he arrived in Chicago to speak to the NARP convention one hour and 25 minutes late aboard the Capitol Limited. Most of that delay occurred on Norfolk Southern tracks west of Cleveland.

“In 1971 they cut a deal. And I have a rule in life: always keep your deals,” Anderson said. “That’s the policy decision our Congress and President made long ago and have kept in place.”

He was referring to the 1970 law that created Amtrak and how it enabled railroads to discontinue or turn over to the national passenger carrier their intercity passenger trains.

Anderson said Amtrak, “plays a critical role in the national urban infrastructure, and I hope our long-term policy makers figure that out, as they’re doing now in the states.”

Amtrak Names New Chief Information Officer

November 2, 2017

Christian Zacariassen has been named the chief information officer for Amtrak.

In that position he will be responsible for all information technology business systems, including strategy, technology investment portfolio governance, systems development, infrastructure, IT operations and information security.

Since joining Amtrak in 2013, Zacariassen  had been associate vice president for product, portfolio and customer management. He also was chief of infrastructure services.

Before joining Amtrak, Zacariassen was vice president of information technology for Life Technologies and served as a sergeant in the Norwegian Army.

Texas Eagle to Detour in Missouri

November 2, 2017

Union Pacific track work in Missouri will send the Texas Eagle on a detour move between Nov. 9 and 23.

Nos. 21/421 and 22/422 will detour between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, Missouri, via the Chester Subdivision (River Line). Nos. 421/422 are the through cars to/from the Sunset Limited at San Antonio, to/from Los Angeles.

This post was updated to reflect a change in the date that the detour will begin.