Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak eastern corridor trains’

Amtrak Keystone Corridor Schedules to Change

February 21, 2020

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the changes are due to construction at the station in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

Train 620 will operate five minutes later from Harrisburg to Elizabethtown, will now stop at Mt. Joy, and will operate six minutes later from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Train 622 will now stop at Mt. Joy and will operate one minute later from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Train 646 will operate one minute earlier from Harrisburg to Elizabethtown, will now stop at Mt. Joy, and will operate on the current schedule from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Trains 652 and 654 will operate 10 minutes earlier from Harrisburg to Philadelphia.

Train 605 and 607 will operate 10 minutes later from Philadelphia to Harrisburg.

Train 607 will operate 10 minutes earlier from Philadelphia to Harrisburg.

Train 645 will operate 10 minutes later from Lancaster to Harrisburg.

Train 669 will operate 5 minutes later from Elizabethtown to Harrisburg on weekends.

Blockade Disrupts Amtrak Service to Canada

February 18, 2020

A blockade of Canadian National tracks in Canada disrupted last weekend Amtrak service to that country.

Amtrak’s Maple Leaf, which ordinarily operates between New York and Toronto, was halted at Niagara Falls, New York.

The New York-Montreal Adirondack did not operate north of Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Also affected was Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest although some trains did operate all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia.

The blockades, which have lasted more than a week, are being staged to protest construction of a natural-gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia and is opposed by the First Nation’s hereditary chiefs.

CN has shut down freight service in eastern Canada after blockades sprang up in that region.

VIA Rail Canada has also canceled most of its services within Canada.

Virginia Rail Service Set Record in December

February 15, 2020

Amtrak Northeast Regional routes serving Virginia saw record ridership of 100,511 passengers in December 2019, a 27 percent increase over the December 2018 ridership levels.

A news release credited the increased ridership to holiday season travel.

Amtrak serves Virginia on four routes, some of which also have long-distance service to Florida, Chicago and New Orleans.

Northeast Regional service links the Virginia cities of Norfolk, Newport News, Richmond, Lynchburg and Roanoke with Washington with some trains continuing on to New York and Boston.

The news release noted that since 2009, Amtrak service in Virginia has grown from one to four routes with multiple daily round-trip trains.

Valley Flyer Gets Ridership Goal for Continued Funding

February 14, 2020

Preservation of Amtrak’s Valley Flyer will hinge on the experimental service handling 24,000 passengers a year by 2021.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has set that ridership goal that must be met if the state is to continue it funding of the service between Springfield and Greenfield.

The Valley Flyer began operations on Aug. 30, 2019, and also stops in Holyoke and Northhampton.

The line is also used by the Vermonter, which is funded by the state of Vermont.

Massachusetts is paying $1 million a year to support the Valley Flyer.

The ridership goal is double the number of passengers that were being handled by the Vermonter before the Valley Flyer began service.

Dana Roscoe, principal planner with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in Springfield, said supporters of the Valley Flyer are trying to determine how ridership has been going.

They have sent staff to station platforms to count the number of passengers boarding and disembarking.

Compiling ridership data is complicated by the fact that Amtrak only publishes that information once a year.

“We can’t just have an annual number and go with that,” Roscoe said. “At this point I honestly can’t tell you how we’re doing. My sense, completely anecdotal and word-of-mouth and from visiting stations, is that we are probably doing OK but we are absolutely are not where we need to be.”

Officials do know from Amtrak ridership data that patronage of the line between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield has been growing at a rate of 25 percent a year.

The ridership information gleaned from hand counting Valley Flyer passengers will be used as part of a $350,000 marketing and branding campaign seeking to boost business.

In the meantime, the Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to improve stations in that state at Windsor and Windsor Locks.

The work will include installation of platforms on each side of the tracks, sheltered waiting areas, real-time train arrival displays, snow melt systems at ramps and on platforms, parking on both the east and west sides of the tracks, and security cameras and emergency phones.

That work is expected to be completed in 2021.

The work at Windsor Locks station includes a single platform, a multi-use trail with connections to the Canal Trail via Bridge Street, parking, and other amenities.

The 510-foot-long platform will comply with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, with level boarding from every train car.

Other work being undertaken by CTDOT includes adding a second tracks north of Hartford to increase the frequency of service in the region.

A connecting is being built in Windsor Locks to link to Bradley International Airport and digital displays are being installed at stations on the Hartford Line station to provide real-time train arrival and departure times.

Track Work Affects Trains Serving Richmond

February 3, 2020

On Monday through Thursday, No. 66, will not operate between Newport News and Richmond Staple Mill station. It will instead originate in Richmond en route to Boston.

Alternate transportation will be provided via Bus 6166 between Newport News and Richmond, making the intermediate stop at Williamsburg. There will be no service to Richmond Main Street.

Train 67 will terminate at Richmond Staples Mill station with alternate transportation being provided by Bus 6167 between Richmond and Newport News, making the intermediate stop at Williamsburg. There will be no service to Richmond Main Street.

One bus will operate as Buses 6066 and 6166, operating 30 minutes earlier than the train schedule.

Trains 66 and 67 will operate on a normal schedule on President’s Day, (Feb. 17) and could see delays up to 30 minutes beginning January 27.

Amtrak Rehabbing NEC Tunnel in Baltimore

February 3, 2020

Amtrak said it is launching a pilot to rebuild the 147-year-old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel in the Northeast Corridor.

In a news release, Amtrak said the preventive maintenance work is expected the tunnel in good working condition until a new tunnel can be built under the City of Baltimore.

Workers will replace 1,000 feet of track slab and block ties and renew track inside the tunnel that have deteriorated due to age and water infiltration.

The work is being done over eight weekends in order to minimize disruptions of passenger operations.

Amtrak said the pilot project will allow Amtrak’s engineering department to evaluate viable options to improve the reliability of the B&P Tunnel.

The two-track tunnel, which opened in 1873, is located between the West Baltimore MARC and Baltimore Penn stations and is used by Amtrak, Maryland’s MARC Commuter trains and Norfolk Southern freight trains.

The tunnel is said by Amtrak to be approaching the end of its useful life and its obsolete design creates a low-speed bottleneck in the Northeast Corridor.

In 2017the Federal Railroad Administration issued a Record of Decision for a new four-track tunnel system to replace the existing B&P Tunnel. The new tunnel would cost an estimated $5 billion.

Downeaster Set Ridership Records in 2019

February 3, 2020

Amtrak’s Downeaster Service carried a record 574,404 passengers in 2019

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said 2019 ridership was 7.8 percent higher than the previous record of 546,056 set in 2017.

NNEPRA Marketing Director Natalie Bogart said the trains posted ridership growth in nine of 12 months with August 2019 of 60,944 passengers set a record as the first time that ridership surpassed 60,000 in a month.

In a news release the NNEPRA attributes the ridership increases to increased service to Freeport and Brunswick, improved reliability, and repeat riders.

Amtrak said customer satisfaction scores for the Downeaster were 91 percent.

Proposed Virginia Gas Tax Hike Would Benefit Rail

January 28, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed an increase in gasoline taxes to help pay for an ambitious expansion of rail passenger service.

The increase of 4 cents per gallon would raise revenue for an expansion of track capacity that in turn would lead the way to increase service provided by Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak.

Northam made the proposal during a speech before a joint session of the Virginia legislature.

Earlier the state had announced that it has reached an agreement with Amtrak and CSX on a $3.7 billion program that includes a new bridge over the Potomac River to Washington and the acquisition for $525 million of 225 miles of track and 350 miles of railroad right of way from CSX.

Other components of the plan include a fourth mainline track between Crystal City and Alexandria, a third track from Franconia to Lorton, six new passing sidings, and a Franconia-to-Springfield bypass that would be used by passenger trains.

The program would be implemented over a 10-year period.

The gas tax increase, which is expected to yield $1 billion over the next four years, was among the transportation initiatives in a proposal Northam released on Monday.

Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine has said that without a gas tax increase or other new funding source the state projects a drop in funding available for road construction and other projects.

“Virginia’s transportation [funding] system is simply not sustainable the way we are going,” Valentine said.

She said that in the long term the statement might need to rely on tolls or other fees tied to the number of miles driven or the type of roads that motorists use.

However, Valentine said those fees are at least a decade away.

Virginia’s gasoline tax is currently 16.2 cents per gallon although motorist in some regions of the state pay an average of 21.9 cents.

“I think there’s going to be some challenging discussions and decisions and perhaps how we look at our multimodal platform,” Valentine said.

“The consensus seems to be that over the next 10-15 years, there will most likely be a different way of raising major transportation revenues, whether it’s from a mileage based user fee, vehicle miles traveled, there will be some different form. That is a longer term perspective.”

The Washington Post reported that Northam’s gas tax proposal will also be used for an effort to lower traffic fatalities on state highways and ensuring the state’s transportation fund remains solvent to support critical transit, including Washington Metro, and infrastructure projects.

“Our legislation will make our roads safer. It will put in place sustainable streamlined transportation funding, it will improve transit, it will help fix our roads and bridges, and expand passenger and commuter rail service throughout Virginia,” Northam said at a news conference.

A number of proposals to lower the gasoline tax in recent years have failed and former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell in 2013 proposed eliminating the tax. Instead the legislature lowered it.

The number of miles being driven by motorists in Virginia has been increasing, but gasoline tax receipts have fallen due to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has said 31 states have increased or changed their gasoline taxes in the past 10 years with 22 states imposing variable rate gas taxes as a hedge against inflation.

The Northam transportation proposal also would create a new rail authority, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, and authorize the sale of bonds backed by toll revenue collected on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway.

The new authority would have a mandate to manage the purchase and ownership of track the state plans to buy from CSX.

It will also “promote, sustain, and expand the availability of passenger and commuter rail service in the Commonwealth.”

The gas tax increase, if approved by lawmakers, would take effect July 1.

Amtrak IG Warns Carrier at Risk of Missing May 2021 Objective to Start Using New Alstom Acela Train Sets

January 25, 2020

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General said this week the passenger carrier is in danger of missing its stated goal of putting into revenue service in May 2021 new equipment for its Acela Express service in the Northeast Corridor.

That could mean lost revenue because the new train sets Amtrak has purchased and are still being built will have 82 more seats than the original equipment now used in Acela Express service.

“The Acela 21 program is entering a critical stage if it is to begin revenue service on time,” the report concluded.

Although the IG found the program has used “some sound program management practices” there are management and structural weaknesses that continue to pose significant risks.

“Foremost is that project delays have eliminated any cushion in the schedule, and multiple indicators point to further delays beyond the planned service launch in 2021,” the report said.

The report came on the heels of the Federal Railroad Administration giving approval to Amtrak to move one train set from the factory in Hornell, New York, where it was built, to an FRA test site in Colorado.

Amtrak also released a video showing the train set, which was built by Alstom, getting underway on its trip to the test track.

Alstom is building 28 train sets for Acela service. The train sets have cost $2.1 billion.

Amtrak assistant IG Jim Morrison wrote in his report that it is likely that Amtrak will not meet its 2021 target date for putting the new high-speed equipment into service.

The IG report said Amtrak has not upgraded maintenance facilities or information technology systems to handle the new train.

Training of the 1,000 maintenance and onboard personnel on the nuts and bolts operations of the new equipment has yet to get underway.

The original plan had been for Alstom to deliver to Amtrak as many as nine train sets in 2021, but that timetable is in doubt.

Amtrak plans to remove one existing Acela train set from service each time a new train set is ready to run.

In order for Amtrak to meet its 2021 objective, the testing of the first train set must be flawless and construction of remaining equipment must be without significant delays.

The IG report recommended Amtrak have managers working on the Acela 21 be given the property authority to focus on and finish the project.

This includes creating contingency plans for what the passenger carrier will do if it misses its target service and deliveries falls further behind schedule.

The report was based on interviews with Amtrak managers in late 2019 and early 2020.

It noted that many of the delays were beyond the control of Amtrak. These included delays that occurred during the manufacturing process.

Amtrak agreed with the five elements the IG identified, including employee training, development of IT services, and modifications to service and inspection facilities.

However, Amtrak said it believes it has a strong management structure in place to oversee execution and delivery of the project.

“There remains an extraordinary amount of work ahead and Amtrak management is confident that the proper resources are aligned to deliver this ambitious program on scope, schedule and budget,” Amtrak wrote in its response to the report.

The contract with Alstom was approved by Amtrak’s board of directors in 2016.

Amtrak said in the video of the first new Alstom train set that it will be moved to the test track near Pueblo, Colorado, in mid-February.

Amtrak Apologizes to NAACP Attorney Asked to Move

January 22, 2020

A high profile civil rights attorney received an apology from Amtrak after she was told by a conductor to move to another seat.

The incident involving Sherrilyn Ifill, of Baltimore, began as she was riding from Washington last Friday.

An assistant conductor told Ifill that she wanted to keep the seating area where Ifill was seated open for other passengers who would be boarding later.

In Tweeting about the incident, Ifill suggested that the incident was racially motivated and said the car in which she was sitting was sparsely filled.

“When I was laying her [assistant conductor] out to the [lead] conductor, at one point, I said, ‘I can sit where I want,’ and I thought, ‘This isn’t 1950,’ ” Ifill, who is African American, wrote on Twitter.

Ifill said she had approached the lead conductor to complain and he apologized but that the assistant conductor told her, “Follow me; I’ve found a seat for you.”

Amtrak spokesman John Abrams said in an email to the Baltimore Sun that Amtrak sought to contact Ifill numerous times on Friday to apologize for the incident, but did not make contact with her until Saturday morning.

“We should have responded publicly sooner, and we apologized for the incident and our slow response,” Abrams told the Sun. “Amtrak is looking into the matter more closely so that we can prevent situations like this going forward.”

Ifill is the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and cousin of the late PBS political analyst Gwen Ifill.

“I am colossally disappointed in @Amtrak for both this incident & the way it was handled,’” Ifill tweeted on Saturday.

“What really disturbs me is how someone with this authority can just entirely make up something so ridiculous and approach a customer in this way,” Ifill tweeted. “I did wonder when she was carrying on — how far will I take this? And the immediate answer in my mind was ‘all the way.’ ”