Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Cascades’

Vancouver Service Not Seen Before December

May 16, 2022

Restoration of Amtrak service between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, is not expected to occur before December.

That triggered protests from state department of transportation officials in Washington state and Oregon.

The service was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amtrak told the state DOTs that the passenger carrier doesn’t have enough conductors, onboard service staff, and mechanics to operate the trains.

The Washington State Department of Transportation and Oregon Department of Transportation issued a joint statement saying “lack of support for the Amtrak Cascades service cannot continue” for seven months or more.

The statement described that as unacceptable. The agencies want at least a partial restoration of service before December.

New Thruway Added to Bellingham

February 24, 2022

Amtrak had added an additional Thruway bus between Seattle and Bellingham, Washington.

The bus service, which is being operated in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Transportation, will bring the number of roundtrip Thruway buses on the route to two daily.

Set to launch on Feb. 28, the new bus service is being provided by MRT Western.

In a service advisory Amtrak said Bus 5605 will depart Bellingham at 10:45 a.m. and connect with Cascades Service No. 505 in Seattle.

The return new bus route, No. 5604 will connect in Seattle with Cascades No. 504 and arrive in Bellingham at 6 p.m.

Other Thruway bus scheduled on the route include Bus 5677 departing Bellingham at 3 p.m. and connecting with Train 507 in Seattle. Bus 5622 connects from Train 500 at Seattle and arrives in Bellingham at 2:15 p.m.

Vancouver Service May be Restored in Spring

February 17, 2022

Amtrak has hinted in a Facebook post that restoration of Cascades Service between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, may be coming soon.

The post said operating crews are expected to make re-qualification trips over the route.

Although Amtrak did not give a date for the resumption of service, it indicated it will be in the spring.

The service was suspended in March 2020 as a result of border crossing restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those restrictions have since eased and in late 2021 Amtrak began operating Thruway bus service between Seattle and Vancouver.

Adverse Weather Prompts Service Cancellations

January 8, 2022

Adverse weather conditions have led to a spate of Amtrak train cancellations.

Heavy snowfall in West Virginia was cited by Amtrak for multiple cancellations of the Chicago-New York Cardinal this week.

Trains magazine reported on its website that on Tuesday night Train 50 was terminated after reaching Rennselaer, Indiana, with passengers returned to Chicago by bus.

The westbound Cardinal was cancelled on Wednesday and Friday. The eastbound Cardinal was canceled on Thursday.

On Saturday morning the Amtrak website was showing Train 50 as still set to depart later that evening for New York.

Amtrak could have operated the Cardinal Thursday night to Indianapolis and then had that equipment turn Saturday morning to return to Chicago. But it elected not to pursue that option.

The Trains report said about 8 inches of snow fell in the region around Charleston, West Virginia, on Thursday and four more inches was expected in Northern Virginia on Friday morning.

Heavy snow that downed tree limbs across tracks led to operational issues that led to passengers being marooned for hours aboard trains in Virginia earlier this week.

Elsewhere, Amtrak cancelled the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder trains that were to have departed Thursday from Portland and Seattle.

Stalled BNSF freight trains were blocking the route and also prevented the westbound Empire Builder on that day from getting through.

Saturday morning Amtrak posted on Twitter that today’s westbound Empire Builder from Chicago has been canceled due to severe weather.

The Empire Builder that was to have originated in Seattle on Friday instead originated in Spokane, Washington.

Mudslides near Kelso, Washington, prompted Amtrak to cancel all service between Seattle and Portland on Thursday through Saturday. The cancellations did not affect trains operating between Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

In the east, Northeast Regional 171 to Roanoke, Virginia; No. 93 to Norfolk, Virginia; and train 85 to Richmond, Virginia; were canceled on Friday along with their counterparts from the same destinations, trains 176, 84, and 86.

The Silver Meteor from Miami to New York was canceled on Friday along with the southbound Meteor that was to have departed New York on Friday.

Eight additional Northeast Regional trains were cancelled Friday. Trains that did operate were subject to hours-long delays between Washington and Richmond.

An Announcement That Didn’t Announce Much About When International Service Would Resume

January 5, 2022

Amtrak recently announced that it is working to resume serving Canada with its Maple Leaf (New York-Toronto), Adirondack (New York-Montreal) and Cascades Service (Seattle-Vancouver) but didn’t say when those services would be restored.

The service advisory posted at Amtrak’s website only said it hoped the services could resume in early 2022.

The advisory said the passenger carrier said it is working with federal agencies on the matter.

The announcement did say that Thruway bus service provided by Cantrail resumed on Dec. 1 between Seattle and Vancouver with a stop in Richmond, British Columbia.

Amtrak Cascades 501 Derailment Engineer Wants Job Back

June 2, 2021

The locomotive engineer who was at the controls of an Amtrak Cascades train that derailed in December 2017 is still trying to get his operating license back and resume his career.

But in an interview with the Seattle Times, Steven Brown, 59, said he recognizes that is unlikely.

Brown said he knew Cascades No. 501 was speeding as it entered a 30-mph curve at 80 mph on Dec. 18, 2017, at DuPont, Washington.

But he thought the train could make it through the curve and even though he also knew “it was going to be uncomfortable.” Instead the train derailed and some passenger cars landed on Interstate 5 below.

Three passengers were killed and 65 others injured in the derailment. A subsequent investigation determined the train was traveling 78 mph when it derailed.

Amtrak fired Brown for violating safety rules and the Federal Railroad Administration suspended his license.

Brown told the newspaper he relives the derailment “all day” during his waking hours. He had become a locomotive engineer in 2013 after working nine years as a conductor.

“I was satisfied with where I got in life. I was really, truly, happy,” he said. “In an unbelievable instant, it’s all gone.”

The derailment left Bown with broken ribs, a broken jaw and cheekbone, compressed vertebrae, and elbow damage requiring partial replacement.

The incident occurred during the first trip of an Amtrak train on the Point Defiance bypass. Amtrak immediately ceased using the route and has yet to return to it although it will conduct crew qualification runs on the line between June 1 and July 25.

Engineers will be required to complete at least six practice round trips and a series of 10-hour days mimicking the actual operating schedules.

Brown said he had made one southbound run and two northbound trips as an engineer as well as seven to 10 observational trips.

FRA Taps Existing Cascade Route in Oregon

May 10, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration selected the existing Amtrak Cascades route in a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said this makes the agency eligible to pursue grants for route improvements between Eugene and Portland on tracks owned by Union Pacific.

ODOT said that work will be conducted within the existing right-of-way and therefore improvements may be “separated into relatively small, lower-cost elements” so the work may be done “incrementally as funding becomes available.”

Cascades Service to Increase May 24

April 28, 2021

Additional Cascades Service roundtrips are set to begin service May 24.

Amtrak will restore three of four Seattle-Portland roundtrips and both Portland-Eugene roundtrips.

For more than a year the corridor has been limited to a single daily Seattle-Eugene roundtrip.

The trains will use a combination of Talgo Series 8 transets owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Amtrak owned Horizon equipment.

An additional full-corridor departure will leave Seattle at 7:25 a.m. and return from Eugene at 4:40 p.m., arriving at 11 p.m.

The new schedule has Train 507 departing Seattle at 6:10 p.m. and its equipment leaving Portland the next day at at noon.

The current schedule has a Talgo departing Seattle (No. 505) at 2:20 p.m. and leaving Eugene the next morning (No. 500) at 5:30 a.m. and arriving in Seattle at 11:50 a.m.

State transportation officials had wanted to shift the departure of No. 500 from Eugene to 8 a.m. but host railroads Union Pacific and BNSF would not allow it, Washington Department of Transportation Communications Manager Janet Matkin told Trains magazine.

Because the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel, Cascades service between Seattle and Vancouver remains suspended.

At present, Amtrak operates a Thruway bus to Bellingham, Washington.

Washington state transportation officials said one Seattle-Vancouver roundtrip could be restored in July.

An official said Amtrak crews are qualified on the route and if the border opens sooner rail service could resume before July.

No date has yet been given as to when Amtrak will resume using the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma.

Officials are eying late summer or early fall but said it is up to host railroad Sound Transit.

The public transit agency conducted testing on the route earlier this year and has been working through a crew qualification process.

Matkin said the Cascades will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity in compliance with Washington and Oregon’s ‘Ride Safe’ Initiatives.

Limited food and beverage service may begin at the same time or soon after the May 24 schedule expansion.

Siemens to Build New Cars for Amtrak

April 21, 2021

Amtrak will contract with Siemens for new equipment that will be assigned to service in the Northeast Corridor, on some state-supported trains and for the New York-Savannah, Georgia, Palmetto.

The passenger carrier said Siemens was chosen as the “preferred bidder” to build 83 intercity trainsets.

Siemens is already constructing new Venture cars to be used for Midwest and California corridor services.

Amtrak said it chose Siemens as part of a competitive procurement process that began in January 2019.

The new equipment will feature dual power in some cases and will replace Amfleet I and Metroliner cab cars.

The equipment is also expected to replace existing equipment used in Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest.

Siemens and Amtrak are talking about a contract for construction and long-term service that both parties hope to sign this summer.

The contract would also include technical support, spares and material supply.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said the carrier would not release any other information about the equipment order beyond what was reported in a news release.

Restoration of State-Funded Corridor Services Presents a Mixed Picture

March 27, 2021

Passengers board Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Saluki at Effingham, Illinois, on March 21. The Chicago-Carbondale corridor lost one roundtrip since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago

Although Amtrak plans to restore daily service to most long-distance routes starting in late May, the restoration of corridor service cut during the COVID-19 pandemic presents a more mixed picture.

Some states might restore service by summer but that is not guaranteed.

Michigan Department of Transportation Rail Director Peter Anastor said he didn’t known when two suspended Wolverine Service roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) would return.

He indicated it will hinge in part on ridership and revenue trends.

“The CARES Act and the second stimulus bill helped fill the gap caused by fixed costs that stay the same whether you have 10 or 100 riders,” he said.

Michigan also funds the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette.

Although the Blue Water continued to operate throughout the pandemic, the Pere Marquette was suspended between March and last summer.

Anastor indicated new Venture coaches are expected to be assigned to Wolverine Service this spring, making it the first Midwest corridor train to have the new cars.

On other Midwest corridor routes, Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee is expected to increase to seven round trips on May 21.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Rail Division head Arun Rao said the service expansion will be promoted with an extensive advertising push and increased social media activity.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Speegle said his agency will decide in April when some other corridor services will be restored.

IDOT has suspended one round trip on the Chicago-Carbondale route, one roundtrip on the Chicago-Quincy route and two roundtrips between Chicago and St. Louis.

“We anticipate resuming full service no earlier that mid-July; the final decision on that time frame will be made in April, approximately 12 weeks prior to resumption of service,” he said.

Speegle said IDOT will review ridership and revenue numbers for the current service, anticipated costs, and the level of federal support.

Whether a second St. Louis-Kansas City Missouri River Runner will resume operating will depend on how much funding the Missouri legislature approves.

The Missouri Department of Transportation has requested funding for two daily roundtrips but the chair of a House budget committee has proposed funding just one roundtrip.

In the East, New York State has not announced its intentions in regards to restoring any suspended Empire Corridor trains.

Two routes funded by New York, the Maple Leaf to Toronto and Adirondack to Montreal have been suspended due to the U.S.-Canadian border being closed during the pandemic.

Elsewhere in the East, North Carolina will begin a fourth roundtrip starting April 5 in the Charlotte-Raleigh corridor.

Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation are reinstating a third Piedmont Service roundtrip, making this the first multi-frequency state corridor to be fully restored.

North Carolina reinstated a second and third round trip last August and December, respectively.

Another Downeaster trip to Maine is expected to resume in May after schedules are worked out with Amtrak and host railroad Pan Am Railways.

Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn said the new schedule will be a little different.

“Instead of just plugging two midday trains back into their old slots, we’re adding a 10:30 a.m. departure from Brunswick, which will turn as a 3 p.m. departure from Boston,” she said.

“Given the change in commute patterns, we decided to try something different, assuming we won’t need two trains leaving Boston for the evening rush hour, but the additional round-trip means we will again have a flex schedule for the late-night train from Boston to accommodate sports fans and concert goers.”

Quinn said weekday and weekend schedules will now be identical.

In the West, one Capitol Corridor roundtrip will on March 29 be extended from Oakland to San Jose.

Capitol Corridor managing director Rob Pagette said there will be a change in departure times based on the way customers now use the trains.

“We’re about at 15 percent of where we were in February 2020 but we are looking to have a more robust service by September,” he said.

“We’ve seen more demand spread throughout the day, and this has allowed us to improve the efficiency of how we use our equipment by (temporarily) going from seven to six consists.”

Pagette said officials will be watching to determine where people are riding after the schedule change to determine where we add back the seventh consist.” An eighth trainset will be added later.

The extended round trip to San Jose will originate in Auburn because there appear to be increasing numbers of “super commuters” who ride 80 miles or more to their jobs.

Ridership trends during the pandemic have shown that if passengers are less likely to travel every day, more will opt for less-costly housing further away from the Silicon Valley.

In the San Joaquin corridor, a fifth roundtrip is expected to be added in in the fall. However, the two round trips to Sacramento aren’t likely to return until early 2021 at the earliest.

Those plans, though, are contingent on ridership stabilizing.

In Southern California, the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency expects to restore one Pacific Surfliner roundtrip between San Diego and Goleta in July or August.

The date of that service restoration is dependant on available funding.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Washington Department of Transportation is eyeing returning two Seattle-Portland roundtrips in mid May.

Currently, the Cascades Service is operating with one Seattle-Eugene, Oregon, round trip.

Officials are considering increasing Portland-Eugene service to two roundtrips.