Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Cascades’

Track Work to Affect Some Cascades

August 15, 2019

On Aug. 20, Train 517, will operate between Seattle and Portland with alternate transportation provided, by Bus 3517 to missed stops at Seattle, Edmonds, Everett, Stanwood, Mount Vernon, Bellingham and Vancouver.

Trains  516 and 519 will be cancelled and alternate transportation will be provided on Bus 4519 to missed stops at Seattle, Edmonds, Everett, Stanwood, Mount Vernon, Bellingham and Vancouver.

Amtrak Will Match Oregon Grant Bid Effort

August 2, 2019

Amtrak will match a federal grant bid being made by the Oregon Department of Transportation that will be used to improve tracks used by Cascades and Coast Starlight trains.

The passenger carrier will chip in $750,000 toward the project that seeks to reduce delays in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor.

Oregon’s share would be $1.6 million of the $7.83 million project.
If the $5 million federal grant is awarded it will be used to rebuild the out of service Oregon City industrial track located between Portland and Salem, Oregon. It will create a 5,000-foot siding.

The first phase of the project would include laying new track and ties, and equipping both ends with power-operated switches and switch heaters.
The second phase will involve laying additional track on an adjacent three-mile section between Oregon City and an existing siding to the south.
This will result in five miles of new double-track section between Portland and Salem.

The track in question is located on a seven-mile stretch of Union Pacific’s Brooklyn Subdivision.

ODOT is seeking a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grants to help fund the work.

Oregon Rail and Public Transit Division Rail Planner Bob Melbo said that under current operations if an Amtrak train is late it must wait at existing passing tracks at Clackamas to the north or Coalca to the south. If a UP freight is already occupying one of those sidings that could further exacerbate the delay.

Melbo says the industrial track was never used as a passing track when Southern Pacific installed centralized traffic control on the line in the 1950s, but converting it to a siding is more cost effective than building a siding elsewhere.

A decision on the grant application is expected later this year.

Advocates Push to Establish Amtrak Stop in Blaine

July 19, 2019

The establishment of an Amtrak stop in Blaine, Washington, will hinge upon the willingness of that community along with Whatcom County and the British Columbia cities of South Surrey and White Rock to invest in the project.

Rail passenger advocates have been pushing for a stop for several years in Blaine, which is on Amtrak’s Cascades Service line between Seattle and Vancouver.

All Aboard Washington government affairs director Luis Moscoso said it will be up to the communities to determine how to move forward toward establishment of the station.

“There seems to be enough interest and energy to bring the matter of the Blaine stop, and also an additional midday train, up for consideration,” he said.

Moscoso, a former member of the Washington state legislature, said the Washington State Department of Transportation has “rigorous criteria” that must be met, including financial support from the communities served.

A public meeting about the proposed Blaine station was held last week that was attended by State Representative Luanne Van Werven and the mayor of Blaine.

NTSB Wants FRA to Implement Safety Rule Now

June 27, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board is demanding that the Federal Railroad Administration implement immediately a passenger-rail operations safety program.

The statement, which is a recommendation and not a legally-binding mandate, followed the NTSB’s release of a report into the derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train in December 2017 that killed three and injured 65 others.

The safety agency concluded that a failure to provide effective mitigation of a hazardous curve combined with inadequate training of the locomotive engineer led to the derailment.
The NTSB report found the derailment occurred when the southbound train entered a 30-mph curve traveling at 78 mph.

In its report, the NTSB made 26 new safety recommendations and reiterated three existing safety recommendations, one of which is enactment of a federal regulation known as the “System Safety Program.”

Although the FRA published a rule mirroring the NTSB recommendation, implementation of the rule has been delayed six times, most recently to Sept. 4, 2019.

City Demands NTSB Recommendations be Implemented

June 16, 2019

Although it might not mean much, the city council in Lakewood, Washington has adopted a resolution asking that the Point Defiance Bypass not be reopened until all of the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations are implemented.

The resolution references a report recently issued by the NTSB into the cause of a derailment in December 2017 of an Amtrak Cascades train that left three dead.

The train was on its first day of using the Point Defiance route, which passes through Lakewood. The derailment occurred near DuPoint, Washington.

Lakewood, a city of 60,000, has long opposed use of the route for passenger trains. In 2013 it sued the Washington State Department of Transportation in an effort to stop Amtrak and Sound Transit commuter trains from using the route.

However, a judge ruled the uses of the rail line aren’t subject to city regulation.

The NTSB made numerous recommendations in its reports although none of the transportation companies or agencies to which they were targeted are under any legal obligation to implement them.

The resolution of the city council said the failure of WSDOT, Amtrak, Sound Transit and others to implement NTSB’s safety recommendations “presents unacceptable safety risks for passenger rail travel in Washington State, as well as unacceptable risks to interstate commerce.”

Some Talgo Equipment to be Removed From Cascades

May 27, 2019

In the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board report on the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train, the Washington State Department of Transportation said it will remove Talgo Series 6 trainsets from service “as soon as possible.”

In a statement, WSDOT said it is working with Amtrak to determine the timing of the equipment removal and equipment replacement.

The NTSB recommended that the Talgo Series 6 equipment be removed from service due to safety issues.

WSDOT said it had planned to remove that equipment from service in the mid 2020s, but the NTSB report has advanced that timetable.

Talgo equipment is used in Cascades service between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia. WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation fund that service, which is operated by Amtrak.

In its report about the Dec. 18, 2017, derailment near DuPont, Washington, that left three dead, the NTSB determined that the wheels of the Spanish-built trains became detached during the derailment.

NTSB Investigators described them as “projectiles” that crushed passenger car compartments and highway vehicles.

“Had the rolling assembly not detached we may not have had fatal injuries,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

The derailment occurred on a 30-mph curve. Train 501 was en route to Portland, Oregon, from Seattle and entered the curve traveling 78 mph.

It was the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass, which is owned in part by commuter agency Sound Transit.

The NTSB said the lightweight design of the Talgo trains was a factor in the severity of the crash.

Manufacturer Talgo has contended that its equipment is safe and performed as expected.

In announcing the conclusions of its accident investigation report, one NTSB member noted that the Talgo Series 6 equipment was “grandfathered” into safety standards of the Federal Railroad Administration because the equipment couldn’t meet updated crashworthiness standards.

The state of Washington owns two Series 6 trainsets and Amtrak owns two others. Oregon owns two Series 8 Talgo sets.

WSDOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin said the agency will be challenged to find funding to buy new equipment.

However, WSDOT is part of a multi-state compact that is acquiring new single-level cars for use on corridor routes operated by Amtrak.

Matkin noted that her agency is seeking federal funds to purchase new equipment and is awaiting a decision by the FRA on those grant applications.

WSDOT has thus far not taken Talgo up on an offer of 31 cars that would make up two or three trainsets depending on capacity, said Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend.

Friend said the Series 8 cars were offered to WSDOT at less than that list price. The cars are new, but had originally been built for service in Wisconsin before Gov. Scott Walker canceled a planned rail expansion project.

Friend said Talgo 6 cars have a usable life of 30 years. The Series 6 cars owned by WSDOT and Amtrak are 21 years old and some Series 6 equipment is older and still in operation all over the world.

Sound Transit, which came in for criticism in the NTSB report, said it will hire an outside consultant to review the agency’s safety procedures.

“I completely agree with the NTSB that we have a confusing and troubling regulatory regime here where four different agencies plus BNSF have a very convoluted distribution of roles and responsibilities,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.

The NTSB had recommended that Sounder Transit undertake a review of its safety certification process “top to bottom, when it comes to our role as a track owner.”

Although Sound owns the track where the Cascades 501 derailment occurred, it doesn’t plan to operate rail service there.

“It was our responsibility to not only determine safety protocols but to oversee that Amtrak implemented all of them,” Rogoff said. “That clearly didn’t happen when it comes to whether Amtrak included curve safety protocols in the general orders to its crews, or verifying the level of training Amtrak provided to its train crews.

Amtrak has yet to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass, which it sought as an alternative to the BNSF route it now uses between Tacoma, Washington, and Portland.

Neither Amtrak, WSDOT, nor Sound Transit have said when Amtrak’s Cascades and Coast Starlight might begin using the Point Defiance route.

WSDOT spokeswoman Matkin said her agency needs time to review the NTSB report in detail.

The agency has said previously it would not permit passenger service to resume on the Point Defiance Bypass until the NTSB report is released and installation of a positive train control system is completed.

The NTSB report said the engineer on Amtrak Cascades 501 said he missed the first trackside sign that a curve was ahead. The report said the engineer’s lack of familiarity with the route played a role in the derailment.

NTSB Releases Cascades 501 Accident Report

May 27, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board last week released it long-awaited report on the derailment of Amtrak Cascades Service No. 501 in December 2017 and zeroed in the failure of Central Puget Sound Transit Authority to mitigate the hazards of a curve on the Point Defiance Bypass.

No. 501 entered the 30 mph curve traveling 78 mph. The resulting derailment killed three passengers aboard the train and injured 57 others. Eight people were injured after some cars fell on motor vehicles on Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington.

The derailment occurred on the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass.

By law, the NTSB is required to issue a single “probable cause” at the conclusion of its investigations, but the agency made 53 specific findings and listed 26 recommendations.

The NTSB recommendations were addressed to numerous agencies, including the U.S. departments of transportation and defense, Amtrak, Washington State and Sound Transit.

The report also singled out the safety of the Talgo Series 6 equipment used by Cascades Service trains.

It also noted that the locomotive engineer was distracted by the overspeed alerts due to his confusion about the bells and alarms and screens since he hadn’t seen those alerts during regular training.

The NTSB recommended that locomotive engineers receive more simulator training.

The report also noted that the conductor sitting in the cab was too passive, acting more like an observer than an active member of the crew.

During a five-hour hearing to announce the findings of the report NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt emphasized the need to focus on preventing wrecks rather than surviving them.

In particular, he spoke about repeated delays to implementing positive train control systems on routes used by passenger trains.

“Today’s new and reiterated and reclassified recommendations, if acted upon, will make rail transportation safer for passengers and train crews,” Sumwalt said “But they will require action by several parties, including the Federal Railroad Administration. The repeated postponement of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 270, ‘System Safety Program,’ has delayed needed safety improvements for passenger rail.”

After saying there have been six delays of the PTC deadline, Sumwalt called on the Federal Railroad Administration to act.

“It’s time. It’s time to move forward on it,” he said. “We want the FRA to move. They’re saying it will be done by September. It’s time. It’s past time, to get it done. There’s no other way to put it. It’s time, it’s past time, for the FRA to act. As we’ve seen, lives depend on the issuance of that rule.”

Among the key recommendations made by the NTSB, it called for U.S. DOT to require to require inward-facing image and audio recordings in locomotive cabs.

It wants the FRA to act more forcefully on PTC and hinted that all passenger service should operate in PTC territory.

The FRA should also study how better signage and wayside plaques might improve situational awareness for train crews, to compel better compliance with emergency lighting rules, to look into child safety-seat use and research how the compartmentalization approach to interior safety can be affected by the range of passenger sizes.

WSDOT was urged to stop using Talgo Series VI trainsets. Amtrak was told to work harder at training crew members and ensure that they can show knowledge of their territories.

Central Puget Sound Transit was asked to conduct an immediate review of all operating documents, coordinate to develop operating documents with current and prospective tenant on railroads where it is the host, and immediately review its safety program, analyze any gaps, and develop an action plan to address deficiencies.

Road Work Affects Cascades Thruway Bus Schedules

May 19, 2019

Construction on Interstate 5 in Oregon will affect Thruway bus service provided by Oregon POINT bus service to Cascades Service trains between Eugene and Portland.

Amtrak has announced schedule changes that take effect May 20 and extend through Sept. 30.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the changed will allow time for connections to the Cascades trains.

Bus 5502 will depart Eugene Willamette Station 15 minutes earlier at 5:15 a.m., on Saturday and Sunday. The Eugene station will not be open for the departure of Bus 5502 and no checked baggage will be available for Bus 5502 at any stop.

Bus 5504 will depart Eugene 1 hour earlier, at 7:25 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Bus 5506 will depart Eugene 30 minutes earlier at 2 p.m. Bus 5518 will depart Eugene 1 hour earlier at 10:55 a.m.

Bus 5528 will depart Eugene 1 hour earlier at 12:15 p.m. Bus 5544 will depart Eugene 15 minute earlier at 7:15 a.m.

Bus 5541 will depart Portland Union Station 1 hour earlier at 6 a.m. Passengers boarding at Woodburn, Salem or Albany should check for updated schedule changes to their times at those points prior to travel.

Ready to Travel in Business Class

April 10, 2019

Most of the passengers holding business class tickets aboard the morning Cascades Service train from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, are in their seats and ready to depart from King Street Station.

The train features Talgo equipment with 1-2 seating in business class.

I had a seat toward the rear of this car on the right. Once we got moving, the cafe car opened and business car passengers got first crack at the counter.

Many, if not most, of these passengers lined up to get something to eat and drink.

Landslide Results in Cascades Suspension

April 10, 2019

Buses have temporarily replaced Amtrak Cascades service north of Seattle today and Thursday.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the service suspension was triggered by a landslide along the BNSF route used by Amtrak.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder is not affected by the landslide near Bellingham, Washington, and all Cascades service continues to operate normally south of Seattle.

The chartered buses will operate between Seattle and Vancouver,  British Columbia, and make all scheduled intermediate stops.

Amtrak said it will rebook passengers without fare penalty on other trains if they need to change their reservations.