Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak long distance trains’

4 Amtrak LD Trains to Resume Daily Service

April 20, 2022

Amtrak will restore daily operation to four long-distance trains the week of May 23, Trains magazine reported Tuesday.

Resuming daily operation will be the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief, the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, and the Chicago-San Francisco Bay California Zephyr.

Starting May 2 Amtrak will end a joint equipment sharing plan involving the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Chief.

Consequently, the Texas Chief will resort to its previous schedule because there will no longer be a need for a long layover in St. Louis to inspect the equipment.

However, Trains reported, the New York-Miami Silver Meteor will remain suspended through Sept. 11. The Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans and the New York-New Orleans Crescent also will remain five-day-a-week trains for now.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal will get a marginal boost in capacity when unused sleeping car accommodations in a crew car will begin being sold to the public.

Those accommodations are in a dorm-baggage car that runs on the rear of the train.

The southbound Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, Saluki, and northbound Carbondale to Chicago Illini will remain suspended through Sept. 11. Both trains were suspended in late January.

The Trains report cited a planning document that it obtained.

That document also indicated there will be additional trains added in the Northeast Corridor.

The document said some train consists are being adjusted to account for lower than expected passenger car availability and continued onboard service worker shortages.

In a statement provided to the magazine, Amtrak acknowledged the additional services and cited increased demand for business and leisure travel.

To read the article visit https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/amtrak-to-restore-four-long-distance-trains-to-daily-service-in-late-may/

Some Trains to Resume Daily Operation

March 26, 2022

Starting Monday, Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited will begin sharing train sets with the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

The move coincides with both trains resuming daily operation rather than the five-day-week operation they have been following since late January.

At that time the Capitol Limited began departing Chicago and Washington on Sunday through Thursday with no departures on Friday and Saturday.

At the time of the service reduction, Amtrak cited staffing shortages in reducing the operation of most long-distance trains from daily to five-days-a-week.

A report on the website of Trains magazine said the equipment from inbound No. 29 will make a same-day turn with minimal maintenance to become No. 21 for Texas.

Three days a week the Texas Eagle interchanges in San Antonio through cars to and from Los Angeles with the Sunset Limited.

Trains said the equipment sharing between the Eagle and Capitol will reduce the number of equipment sets needed to cover both trains from seven to six.

Currently, Amtrak assigns three equipment sets to Nos. 29 and 30 and four equipment sets to Nos. 21 and 22.

The trains will continue to be treated as separate for purposes of ticketing and those who are connecting from the Capitol to the Eagle or vice versa must disembark in Chicago rather than remain onboard.

The Eagle and Capitol have similar equipment sets of two coaches, a sleeping car and a Cross Country Café that serves as a dining car for sleeping car passengers and a café car for coach passengers.

The Eagle operates with a third coach between Chicago and St. Louis.

As part of the change, Amtrak plans to shift the federally-mandated 1,500 mile equipment inspection to St. Louis rather than Chicago.

To accommodate that, Amtrak is adding additional dwell time in St. Louis so that the Eagle will sit there for two hours in each direction.

During the St. Louis dwell time passengers will either have to disembark for the entire dwell time or remain in their coach seat or sleeping car room.

Amtrak wanted to retain the same schedule between St. Louis and San Antonio in both directions so it modified the schedule between Chicago and St. Louis.

No. 21 will now depart Chicago at 11:55 a.m. rather than the current 1:45 p.m. It will depart St. Louis at 9:22 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:21 p.m. Currently, No. 22 departs St. Louis at 7:55 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 1:22 p.m.

Currently, the St. Louis dwell time for the Texas Eagle in both directions is 30 minutes.

A potential challenge for the new schedule can occur if the inbound Capitol Limited is excessively late arriving in Chicago.

It is common for No. 29 to lose time while operating over host railroad Norfolk Southern west of Toledo.

In addition to the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle resuming daily operation, the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight will also begin operating daily next week.

Although Amtrak’s website shows all other long-distance trains now operating five days a week resuming daily operation on May 23, that is not guaranteed even though passengers are being allowed to book travel on days those trains currently do not operate.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Railway Age that the daily operation shown on the website for all long distance trains effective March 23 is the carrier’s spring schedule and the summer schedule has yet to be posted.

Amtrak has thus far declined to say how long the less-than-daily operation will continue.

That means the Lake Shore Limited, Crescent, City of New Orleans, Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and Empire Builder will continue to operate on their present five-days-a-week schedules.

Also uncertain is when the New York-Miami Silver Meteor will resume operation.

Some corridor services will resume operating on March 28, including all trains in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor and some Empire Service trains that had been suspended between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

However, in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini remain suspended.

The former departed Chicago in the morning while the latter departed Carbondale in late afternoon.

Some shuttle trains between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts, also remain suspended.

A few Northeast Corridor trains also have yet to return, including overnight Nos. 66 and 67 between Boston and Washington.

This is not the first time Amtrak has operated equipment sharing for long-distance trains in Chicago.

In past years the Capitol Limited has shared equipment with the Southwest Chief, the Texas Chief has shared equipment with the City of New Orleans, and the Empire Builder has shared equipment with the City of New Orleans.

Magliari told Railway Age that combining the equipment sets for the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle was done due to shortages of operating and maintenance employees.

Another factor, he said, is that both are one-night trains, rather than taking two nights.

Racing North Near Leverett

December 22, 2021

To appreciate this image it probably helps if you grew up in a place with a lot of flat farmland.

Shown is Amtrak’s City of New Orleans racing northbound toward Chicago near Leverett, Illinois, shortly after sunrise on a Sunday morning.

No. 58 was more than an hour behind schedule leaving Champaign. The train is on the Chicago Subdivision of Canadian National, which at one time was the mainline of the Illinois Central between Chicago and New Orleans.

As for what I, an east central Illinois native, see in this photograph, I see familiarity. There are no striking physical features such as mountains and valleys, just farmland and in the distance traces of urbanization in Champaign-Urbana. Above the Superliner cars you also can see the top of the grain elevator at Leverett.

This is all familiar to me and in a way comforting.

I would not have been able to get this image had No. 58 been on time as it would have been dark as it passed through here. It was a nice way to get a day of railfanning off to a good start.

If you look closely, you will see there is frost on the crossties of the CN track. Temperatures were in the 20 when I made this photograph on a winter morning.

I later checked and determined No. 58 halted at Chicago Union Station 58 minutes late.

January Amtrak Service Cuts Seem Likely

December 14, 2021

Amtrak Service reductions in January appear to be a near certainty.

The passenger carrier’s president, Stephen Gardner, told a congressional hearing last week that the service cuts, which are expected to involve long-distance trains, are due to expected crew shortages stemming from a COVID-19 vaccination rule the carrier imposed.

Gardner said 94 percent of Amtrak workers are full vaccinated and 96 percent have received at least one immunization.

However, the company is expected to find itself short staffed as workers who have failed to be vaccinated are terminated. Another factor, Gardner said, is a wave of retirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said Amtrak also has faced slow going in hiring new workers to replace the retirees and vacancies expected to be created by those who do not comply with the vaccination rule.

Gardner said vaccination rates among workers are lowest in the ranks of workers assigned to long-distance routes.

Amtrak imposed the vaccination rule in compliance with an executive order issued by the Biden administration requiring employees of government contractors to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

That mandate has been challenged in federal courts and last week a judge in Georgia issued a stay of the order. Unions representing workers at Amtrak and various Class 1 railroads have filed lawsuits challenging the rules imposed by the carriers.

It is unclear how these developments might affect the expected Amtrak service reductions.

Amtrak officials have been indicating for several weeks that the passenger carrier doesn’t expect to have enough fully vaccinated workers by January to support its full national network as well the various corridor services that it offers.

An announcement of which routes will see reduced service is expected to be made next week.

Those service cuts are expected to be similar to those imposed in October 2020 when most long-distance routes were reduced to tri-weekly or quad-weekly frequency of operation. The impetus for those reductions was low patronage cause by the pandemic depressing travel.

Those service reductions were restored on a route-by-route basis in last May and June.

During his testimony, Gardner said the long-distance route service cuts are expected to be temporary with full service restored by March.

In some crew bases that serve long-distance routes, Gardner said the rate of noncompliance with the vaccine rule is relatively high.

Passengers whose trips will be disrupted by the service cutbacks will be contacted and offered the opportunity to rebook their trips.

The hearing was held by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Rail Subcommittee hearing and was titled, “Leveraging Infrastructure and Jobs Act: Plans for Expanding Intercity Passenger Rail.”

Amtrak Begins Recalling Furloughed Workers

March 16, 2021

Amtrak was to begin the process of recalling furlough employees on this week.

An internal memo said 1,250 furloughed workers would be recalled between March 16 and 29 while noting that it would take 90 days to get all of them back to work.

During that 90-day period the furloughed workers will be tested and requalified as needed in their respective positions.

The recalls were mandated in the recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that was approved by Congress and signed by President Joseph Biden.

The legislation appropriated $1.7 billion in supplemental funding for Amtrak to, among other things, restore daily service to 16 long distance trains that operated daily until last year.

The restoration of daily service is to take place on a rolling schedule on May 24, May 31 and June 7.

The Amtrak memo indicated that the first employees to be recalled would be those in train and engine service followed by onboard service personnel.

The affected workers will be contacted by a phone call that will be followed up with a certified letter.

In the memo Amtrak indicated that although workers are expected to respond to the recalls within the time frame outlined in their craft’s collective bargaining agreement, the carrier is seeking to provide some flexibility so workers can take care of personal matters before reporting back to work at Amtrak.

Resumption of Daily Service Yielding Fare Bargains

March 14, 2021

It didn’t take Amtrak long to make available additional sleeping car space and coach seats for the summer on long distance trains that have operated tri-weekly since last fall but will resume daily operation starting in late May.

Daily service will retrn on May 24, May 31 or June 7 depending on the route.

Those who are able to book shortly after the expanded service space and seats went up for sale were able to find some economical fares.

Amtrak’s yield management strategy ties fares to demand. So if you plan to travel this summer on a day when your train would have operated even on its tri-weekly schedule, you would have found high fares, an analysis published by Trains magazine found.

But for those able to travel on days when their train would not be serving the station from which they planned to depart, there are some bargains available for now.

For example, on one day that the Empire Builder was scheduled to operate in early June on the existing tri-weekly schedule coach seats from Chicago to Seattle were priced at,$245 while a roomette was selling for $1,074 for one adult and a bedroom was priced at $1,816 in a family room.

But on the following day coach seats were selling for $150, a roomette was $651, a family bedroom was $842 and a bedroom was priced at $1,210.

Amtrak’s Roger Harris, the carrier’s executive vice president and chief marketing and revenue, told Trains he is confident that demand this summer for coach seats and sleeping car rooms will be high enough to fill those seats and rooms at fares close to what Amtrak has charged in previous years.

“Under our original restoration metrics, we needed to see forward load factor bookings within 10 percent of historical levels, and we are actually ahead of that for this summer.”

That is likely to mean, the Trains analysis concluded that fares will not be drastically reduced across the board.

Amtrak has boosted its advertising budget by $10 million and Harris said the carrier will attempt to reach travelers through media channels it has not made much use of in recent years, particularly radio and television.

There won’t be a major advertising campaign in traditional media. Harris said Amtrak’s market’s efforts will continue to a more targeted digital advertising approach.

“It’s starting in March, because that’s when people begin planning trips and buying tickets,” Harris said.

Also look for unsold sleeping car space in a few months to be auctioned through the BidUp program that recently launched that enables passengers to upgrade from coach accommodations to business class and first class seats, particularly on corridor trains.

Amtrak Daily Service Also Will Bring Some Service Enhancements

March 13, 2021

The restoration of daily operation to most of Amtrak’s long-distance trains starting in late May will also coincide with a spiffing up of some amenities aboard those trains.

Some long-distance trains are expected to see the return of traditional dining car service.

The intercity passenger carrier said new Viewliner II sleeping cars will be assigned to the Silver Meteor and Silver Star between New York and Miami.

The Auto Train sleeping cars will receive new and what Amtrak described as upgraded bedding, towels and linens. These will be provided to other long distance trains with sleeping car service during the summer.

Eastern trains assigned Amfleet II coaches will get new seating cushions, carpets, curtains and LED reading lights.

Amtrak said cars that went through a multi-year interior renovation program for Superliner and Viewliner I equipment, which includes new seating cushions, carpets and curtains, will enter revenue service this summer.

Although no date was given, new ALC-32 Siemens Charger locomotives will begin pulling long-distance trains this year.

They will replace the ubiquitous P42DC units that have been maintays since the middle 1990s.

The Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station in New York will get a new Metropolitan Lounge for sleeping car passengers.

Unspecified enhancements will be made to the Auto Train.

It also remains to be seen how Amtrak will handle the restoration of traditional dining car meals.

Roger Harris, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief marketing and revenue officer, said the carrier needs to work through the health implications of dining car operation.

“Communal dining is probably a non-starter for now, and you can work backward through food preparation and delivery,” he said.

Harris did not say which trains would receive traditional dining service. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic began Amtrak had ended full-service dining car service on all eastern long-distance trains except the Auto Train.

Traditional dining aboard the western long distance trains ended early in the pandemic in favor of serving prepackaged meals.

“It’s important to figure this out because it involves the recall of employees for the daily service this summer, so it’s a rather intertwined process,” Harris said. “There will be some food service decisions in the coming months but there will be further developments in the next year, as we get our new team really focused on this.”

Amtrak Long-Distance Trains to Resume Daily Service

March 11, 2021

Amtrak said Wednesday it will reinstate daily service on 12 long-distance routes starting in late May.

Trains on those routes shifted last year to tri-weekly or quad-weekly service in the wake of steep ridership declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement of expanded service came hours after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a pandemic relief package that contains increased funding for Amtrak.

The legislation also contains a mandate that routes that had daily service until last year resume daily operation and that furloughed employees be recalled.

President Joseph Biden is expected to sign the $1.9 trillion bill on Friday.

Two routes, the Chicago-New York Cardinal and New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited will be unaffected by the changes because those routes have operated on tri-weekly schedules for years.

Amtrak has already resumed selling tickets for the expanded days of operation on the 12 routes.

Trains returning to daily service on May 24 include the Chicago-Emeryville, California, California Zephyr; Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight; Chicago-Portland/Seattle Empire Builder, and the Chicago-San Antonio-Los Angeles Texas Eagle.

Daily operation returns May 31 for the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited; Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans, Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, and the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Resuming daily operation on June 7 will be the New York-New Orleans Crescent, New York-Savannah Palmetto, and the New York-Miami Silver Meteor (via Savannah) and Silver Star (via Raleigh).

In a news release, Amtrak said new Viewliner II sleeping cars will be making their debut on the Silver Service trains.

The Auto Train had continued to operate daily and its operations will remain unchanged.

Amtrak will receive $1.7 billion in emergency pandemic aid, which will help fund restoration of daily service on long-distance routes.

Senate Increases Aid for Amtrak, Public Transit

March 9, 2021

The U.S. Senate last Saturday increased COVID-19 relief funding for Amtrak and public transit.

The changes were made during consideration of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was approved by the Senate by a vote of 50-49.

The Senate increased by $1.25 billion the funding for public transit over what the House approved on Feb. 27 and also increased the funding for Amtrak over the House-passed levels.

The bill now goes back to the House for further consideration. The House passed a modified version of the legislation providing $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 emergency funding.

Although some senators proposed amendments that would have cut, transferred or removed the aid to public transit, few of those amendments received a roll call vote and note were approved.

However, the Senate did approve an amendment to make 23 public transit programs eligible for federal Capital Investment Grants.

The House is expected to take up the amended version of the bill today and if approved it would go to President Joseph Biden for his signature.

The American Rescue Plan Act includes $1.7 billion for Amtrak. That is a $200 million increase in funding from what the House approved last month.

Under the Senate version of the legislation $970 million will go toward the Northeast Corridor while the national network will receive $730 million.

The bill also provides $285 million to Amtrak “in lieu of commuter rail and state-supported route payments.”

The bill includes $166 million “to restore service on long-distance routes and to recall and manage furloughed employees.”

The breakdown of other public transit funding in the bill includes $26.09 billion for transit systems in urban areas and $317 million for grants in rural areas.

Also approved was $50 million in grants to benefit services for seniors and those with disabilities, $2.21 billion for operating assistance grants  pertaining to addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and $250 million for Small Start projects that are recipients of a CIG allocation or an applicant in the project development phase.

Bill Would Mandate Daily Service for Amtrak Long-Distance Trains

February 26, 2021

A Montana senator has introduced legislation to require Amtrak to reinstate daily service to most of its 15-long distance routes.

The bill sponsored by Jon Tester (D-Montana) also would require the passenger carrier to reinstate furloughed workers.

Last October, Amtrak reduced the frequency of most long-distance trains from daily to tri-weekly.

Less than daily operations of two New York-Miami routes began last July while two other routes, the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and Cardinal (Chicago-New York) have operated tri-weekly for several years.

Only the Auto Train between Lorton, Virginia, and Florida has continued to run daily.

Amtrak cited steep ridership and revenue declines triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic for reducing the frequency of its long-distance trains.

In introducing his bill, Tester said in a statement that Amtrak’s service reductions “were an unacceptable attack on rural America.”

Tester’s bill would authorize and appropriate federal grants to Amtrak to pay for reviving daily service and recalling furloughed workers.

In a statement, Amtrak said it wants to resume daily service on route that had it before the pandemic and to recall furloughed workers.

The statement noted that a pandemic relief bill approved by a congressional committee contains funding to do that.

That bill is pending before the full House of Representatives.

Tester said he hopes that daily service on Amtrak long-distance routes can be achieved before the start of the summer travel season.