Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak western corridor trains’

California Corridor Schedules Affected by Track Work

June 3, 2019

Union Pacific Track work will affect Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin service on June 8 and 9.

On June 8, Train 719, which normally operates between Bakersfield and Oakland, will terminate at Emeryville. Alternate transportation will be provided between Emeryville and Oakland via Thruway Bus 6619.

Bus 6619 will add a stop at Oakland Jack London Station and arrive in San Francisco at 11 p.m., 15 minutes later than normal. The bus will hold at Emeryville to meet Train 719.

Train 751, which normally operates between Sacramento and Oakland, will terminate at Emeryville. Alternate transportation will be provided between Emeryville and Oakland via Thruway Bus 6653.

Bus 6653 will add a stop at Oakland Jack London Station and arrive in San Francisco at 12:50 p.m., 15 minutes later than normal. Bus 6653 will hold at Emeryville for Train 751

On June 9 Train 710, which normally operates between Oakland and Bakersfield, will originate at Emeryville. Alternate transportation will be provided between Oakland and Emeryville via Thruway Bus 6610.

Bus 6610 will depart San Francisco at 6:45 a.m., 15 minutes earlier than normal and will add a stop at Oakland Jack London Station. Train 710 will hold at Emeryville for Bus 6610.

Train 723, which is scheduled to depart Oakland at 7:53 a.m., may be delayed.

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.

Rail2Rail Suspended for Weekend in California

May 25, 2019

Expected heavy ridership has prompted Amtrak to suspend for the Memorial Day weekend its Rail2Rail program on its Pacific Surfliner route.

The suspension will last between May 24 and 28 with the program resuming on May 29.

In a service advisory Amtrak said it will not accept Coaster and Metrolink tickets on any Pacific Surfliner trains.

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.

San Joaquin Schedules to Change May 20

May 18, 2019

Amtrak will release a new schedule for its San Joaquin service on May 20 that will return service to seven roundtrips operating every two hours.

Five trains will operate between Bakersfield and Oakland, and two will run between Bakersfield and Sacramento.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the new schedule is as follows:

Train 701 will depart Bakersfield 4 hours and 3 minutes earlier than Train 1701’s original time. Train 1701 is cancelled.

Train 703 will depart 12 hours and 12 minutes later from Bakersfield. Train 711 will depart 8 minutes earlier from Bakersfield.

Train 713 and 717 will depart 48 minutes earlier from Bakersfield. Train 719 will depart 58 minutes earlier from Bakersfield.

Train 702 will depart 6 hours and 15 minutes earlier from Sacramento. Train 704 will depart 1 hour and 4 minutes earlier from Sacramento.

Train 710, 712 and 714 will depart 2 hours and 1 minute later from Oakland. Train 715 will depart 12 minutes later from Bakersfield.

Train 716 will depart 59 minutes earlier from Oakland. Train 718 will depart 19 minutes earlier from Oakland. Train 1718 is cancelled

David Lipari, marketing manager of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority said in a statement that the schedule changes are, “Designed to improve on-time performance and connectivity across the Bay Area, Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, we are proud to offer a more convenient and timely solution that meets the growing needs of riders.”

Extending SMART to Amtrak to Cost $1B

May 8, 2019

Expanding the SMART rail commuter line in California to connect with Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor will cost $1 billion a study has found.

The study examined extending the line from Marin and Sonoma into Napa and Solano counties.

The extension is expected to take six years to complete and would connect with Amtrak at Suisan City.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system now has 43 miles and operates between the San Rafael Transit Center and the Sonoma County Airport. The extension would increase the network to 70 miles.

The SMART governing board has indicated that it won’t consider the extension to Suisan City until it finishes a planned expansion to Cloverdale, a project expected to cost $364 million.

The study of expansion to Suisan City projected a travel time of 60 to 90 minutes depending on the level of track improvement.

If four daily round trips are operated it would attract an estimated 2,100 passengers. Ten daily round trips would be expected to serve 5,400 passengers.

SMART owns 25 miles of track adjacent to California Route 37 that could be used for the extension.

In a news release that accompanied the expansion study, SMART said the study concluded that the extension would require improvements to the existing tracks and bridges, construction of new stations, and installation of a new signal system with positive train control.

Basic service improvements would cost $780 million to $898 million minimal cost for a basic service whereas rebuilding the system for a higher level of service would cost $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion.

Once funding is secured the extension would require four to six years to complete.

Capitol Corridor Ridership Up 5% in March

May 3, 2019

Ridership in California’s Capitol Corridor was up 5 percent in March and ridership satisfaction was 91 percent, the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority said in a news release.

CCJPA said the March increase in ridership was compared with the same month in 2018 and marked an 18-month streak of consecutive year-over-year ridership growth.

The news release attributed the ridership gains to people seeking more affordable housing in areas such as Sacramento as an alternative to San Francisco.

Officials said cross-regional travel within the northern California mega region represents 51 percent of CCJPA’s ridership in the past year.

The news release did not contain specific ridership numbers.

Cleaner Chargers Touted on Earth Day in California

April 25, 2019

Amtrak celebrated Earth Day this week by touting the inauguration of 14 new Siemens Charger locomotives in Pacific Surfliner Service.

The locomotives are not actually new, having been shown off at a media event last October.

Amtrak, the California Department of Transportation, and the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency said that Chargers now pull most of the 24 daily Pacific Surfliner trains.

The locomotives were built in Sacramento, California, and have been certified as meeting the Tier IV emissions standards of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials have said the Charges are 90 percent cleaner than the 20-year-old locomotives that they replaced.

Caltrans funded the locomotives with $100 million in state, federal and local funds.

The North Country Transit District plans to buy Chargers for use on its Coaster trains between Oceanside and San Diego.

Festivals to Affect California Thruway Service

April 13, 2019

Two festivals will disrupt Amtrak’s Thruway Service to Indio, California, that support Pacific Surfliner trains.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the Coachella Music and Arts Festival that begins on April 12 and the Stagecoach Festival that starts on April 26 will create heavy traffic on Interstate 10.

Amtrak Thruway Bus service scheduled have been adjusted as follows:
Buses 5417 and 5419 will operate 60 minutes earlier from Indio through Palm Springs Downtown, missing station stop Cabazon and resuming normal schedule at San Bernardino.

Bus 4985 will operate 30 minutes earlier from Palm Springs Airport through Riverside and will not stop at Cabazon April 15, 22 and 29.

Buses 4967 and 4968 will operate on a regular schedule but will not stop at Cabazon on April 15, 22 and 29.