Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Wolverine Service’

Amtrak’s Michigan Trains are Invariably Late

February 26, 2020

Passengers board an Amtrak train bound for Chicago at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Chances are they will arrive late in the Windy City.

If you’re riding Amtrak in Michigan the chances are your trip is going to be late.

A report by the Detroit Free Press said the on-time rate last year in Michigan was 43 percent. On the Wolverine Service route between Chicago and Detroit it was just 33 percent.

That compared with a national average of between 60 and 70 percent.

Amtrak considers a train late if it is 30 minutes or more behind the published schedule.

Figures released by Amtrak show that the performance of the Michigan trains is getting worse.

On-time performance fell from 71 percent in 2016 and 2017 to 62 percent in 2018.

Amtrak is hoping that as part of a renewal of the federal surface transportation law that Congress will strengthen the law giving passenger trains preference over freight trains.

Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman based in Chicago, said such a law would give the passenger carrier legal leverage to better deal with its host railroads, which Amtrak blames for delaying its trains.

“It’s a very important issue to us because our reliability is suffering,” Magliari said.

The Free Press said it tracked the arrival times of six Amtrak trains in Troy, a Detroit suburb on the Wolverine Service line.

The trains from Chicago varied in lateness from 30 minutes to more than two hours.

Amtrak figures show that the afternoon Wolverine from Chicago to Pontiac, the Detroit suburb that is the terminus of the route, arrived in Troy an average of 42 minutes late.

Six times it was more than an hour late and once in mid-January it was two hours behind schedule.

The newspaper said passengers it spoke with who disembarked at Troy said that although they found the delays annoying they still liked train travel.

In its efforts to put pressure on Congress, Amtrak has created a YouTube video titled Your Right to be on Time that urges viewers to contract lawmakers to complain about late trains and urge them to support legislation “that puts people before freight.”

The video contends that Amtrak’s host railroads are giving their freight trains priority over Amtrak trains in dispatching decisions.

“Usually, it’s what we call freight train interference. That’s when our trains are delayed by slow freight trains ahead of them,” the narrator says in the video.

The video acknowledges that delays can also be caused by such things as weather, track maintenance, mechanical problems with trains, and obstructions on the track.

“You can be certain we’ll tell Congress that the original law setting up Amtrak in 1970 does not allow us to bring litigation over the poor handling of our trains by the freight railroads,” Magliari said. “Imagine paying for a service from someone who knows you can’t go after them in court.”

Magliari said one reason why Amtrak trains are getting delayed by freight trains is that the latter are getting longer and sometimes are too long to put into a siding to allow Amtrak to pass.

The Association of American Railroads, which represents the Class 1 railroads that host Amtrak trains, contends the federal government should fund construction of additional tracks and longer sidings

“It would be nice to see the public coming forward” — that is, with federal and state dollars — “where they have an interest in keeping passengers trains operating,” said AAR’s John Gray, senior vice president for policy and economics.

Much of the track Amtrak uses on the Chicago-Detroit corridor, though, is owned by Amtrak or the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Wolverine Service trains, though, use within the Detroit metropolitan area tracks owned by Conrail, Canadian National and Norfolk Southern.

Amtrak’s Michigan trains use the busy NS Chicago Line to reach Chicago from Northwest Indiana.

MDOT, which helps fund Amtrak service in Michigan, said most of the delays incurred by Amtrak’s Michigan trains occur on that 40-mile stretch of NS.

The agency owns 135 miles of the Wolverine Service route between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. Amtrak owns the track from Kalamazoo to Porter, Indiana.

MDOT spokesman Mike Frezell said Amtrak trains using track that it and MDOT own have largely unimpeded travel there.

“We’re hoping within two years to have speeds up to 110 m.p.h. on portions of that, and we’ll be raising all the speeds through that section,” Frezell said.

He said the objective in raising speeds in the Chicago-Detroit corridor is to make train travel competitive with driving and flying.

Wolverines Being Pulled by Chargers

January 9, 2020

An online report this week indicated that all Amtrak Midwest Corridor trains in Michigan are now being pulled by Siemens SC-44 Charger locomotives.

Chargers have been pulling some Amtrak trains in Michigan for several months, most notably the Blue Water between Chicago and Port Huron.

But the units were slow to be assigned to Wolverine Service between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The delay in introducing Chargers to the Detroit corridor was due to the need to develop software for positive train control that was compatible with the Incremental Train Control System used on Amtrak-owned tracks between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana.

The first Charger to enter revenue service for Amtrak did so on Aug. 24, 2017, on a Hiawatha Service train between Chicago and Milwaukee. The units are not commonly used on corridor trains in Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri.

The Chargers used by Amtrak in the Midwest were ordered by the Illinois Department of Transportation in conjunction with state transportation agencies in Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin that also fund Amtrak corridor service.

Amtrak in December 2018 ordered 75 Chargers that will replace GE P42DC locomotives on long-distance trains starting in 2021.

Derailment Disrupted Wolverine Service

December 14, 2019

A fire caused by a freight train derailment disrupted operations of Amtrak’s Wolverine Service in Detroit on Thursday.

Amtrak said on Twitter that it moved passengers by bus between Pontiac and Dearborn.

Officials said 12 to 15 cars of a Canadian National train derailed in southwest Detroit on Thursday morning.

There were no injuries but one freight car appeared to be hanging from the edge of a viaduct over a city street.

A Detroit fire commissioner said five of the derailed cars had contained of hazardous materials, but were empty at the time of the derailment.

Dave Fornell, deputy fire commissioner, said residue from those does not pose any danger to the public.

Amtrak to Close Kalamazoo Ticket Office in Early 2020

December 10, 2019

Amtrak plans to close its ticket office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in early 2020.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told a Kalamazoo TV station that the closure is being prompted by a decline in sales at ticket offices in favor of online purchases.

He would not comment on how many Amtrak employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closing but said in the past the carrier has given agents the option to transfer to other stations.

Amtrak has been closing ticket offices in the past two years, including offices in Michigan at Niles, Flint, East Lansing and Jackson.

Kalamazoo is served by eight trains a day, including Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service and the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water.

None of those trains offers checked baggage or package express service.

The Kalamazoo station is a also a transfer point for Amtrak Thruway bus service to northern Michigan.

The Rail Passengers Association and Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers said it is working with Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation to develop a station host program for Kalamazoo.

A similar program exists in East Lansing and MARP said it has worked well.

No Extra Amtrak Service to Michigan for Thanksgiving

November 1, 2019

Think Thanksgiving and images of turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie come to mind along with football games on TV and extra Amtrak trains to Michigan.

Well, you can scratch the latter from this year’s list of Thanksgiving traditions.

Amtrak will not be operating extra service to Michigan this year as it has in recent years.

The carrier said this week that rather than operate additional trains on its Pere Marquette (Chicago-Grand Rapids) and Wolverine Service (Chicago-Detroit) routes, it will instead assign additional coaches to existing trains.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains magazine that Amtrak made the decision to scrap the extra trains after reviewing ridership data from last year that found travel demand is spread out more evenly across more days than it has been previously.

The passenger carrier also decided to drop additional holiday service to Michigan because of poor on-time performance on host railroad Norfolk Southern in Chicago and northwest Indiana.

NS freight train interference accounted for 58 percent of the 20,143 delay minutes incurred by Amtrak trains traveling on the NS Chicago Line between Chicago and Porter, Indiana, where the routes to Michigan peel off.

About a quarter of the delays have been incurred by Wolverine Service No. 352, which departs Chicago at 1:20 p.m.

“If we try to put additional trains on those tracks and delays occur, this could have a cascading effect delaying outbound trains because inbound equipment didn’t arrive on time,” Magliari said.

So Amtrak will add an additional coach to all Wolverine Service trains operating between Nov. 27 and Dec. 1.

Other trains operating before and after that time period will also gain additional coaches.

Amtrak plans to add a coach to two Lincoln Service between Chicago and St. Louis round-trips, the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, Illini, and all Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, trains.

Extra trains will operate between Chicago and Quincy, and Chicago and Normal-Bloomington, Illinois, on Nov. 27 and Dec. 1.

But falling by the wayside are the additional Chicago-Holland, Michigan, and Chicago-Ann Arbor, Michigan, Thanksgiving holiday trains.

Amtrak Continues to Eye Chicago-Toronto Route

August 13, 2019

Amtrak continues to study the prospect of creating a Chicago-Toronto route via Detroit.

The proposal would extend one of the current Wolverine Service trains east of Detroit via Windsor, Ontario, where it would then operate on tracks used by VIA Rail Canada.

In a presentation last week at the Michigan Rail Conference at Michigan State University, an Amtrak representative said a precursor to launching the service would be upgrading tracks between the Windsor tunnel portal and the VIA station in Windsor/Walkerville as well as constructing a border crossing processing facility.

Wolverine Service trains currently operate between Chicago and Pontiac in the northern Detroit suburbs and is funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The presentation did not indicate how much it would cost to implement the service nor did it identify a funding source.

“There would be multiple railroads to work with that we currently partnership with, and so it would take some cooperation to get such service going,” said MDOT spokesman Michael Frezell.

Operating a connecting bus between the Detroit and Windsor stations was described as a possible short-term move.

Amtrak proposed in March the idea of a Chicago-Toronto route in its federal funding request.

The carrier once operated a train known as the International between Chicago and Toronto via Sarnia, Ontario.

In Michigan, the International used the route of the current Blue Water between Chicago and Port Huron.

The International operated between Oct. 31, 1982, and April 23, 2004.

Buses to Replace Select Wolverines July 16, 17

July 16, 2019

Certain Amtrak Wolverine Service trains will be replaced by chartered buses on July 16 and 17.

Workers are conducting track work and replacing a bridge in Michigan.

On July 16, Train No. 354 from Chicago to Pontiac (Detroit) will terminate at Albion, Michigan, with bus service provided to passengers traveling to Jackson, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy and Pontiac via Bus 3354.

On July 17 Train 353 will originate in Battle Creek, Michigan, with Bus 3353 picking up passengers at Pontiac, Troy, Royal Oak, Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Jackson.

Bus 3353 will not connect to Train 353 and will not stop at Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, Niles, New Buffalo and Hammond-Whiting.

Bus schedules will follow train schedules. All other Wolverine Service trains will operate as scheduled.

Wolverine to Run 15 Minutes Earlier

July 3, 2019

 

NS Track Work in Indiana to Delay Amtrak Trains

June 22, 2019

Wolverine to Skip Troy on April 25

April 23, 2019

Track work being performed on the route used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains in Detroit will result in Train 353 missing its scheduled stop in Troy on April 25.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers traveling to or from Troy on No. 353 should instead board or detrain at Royal Oak or Pontiac.

Amtrak will also rebook those who request it for travel on alternative dates or other Wolverine Service trains serving Troy that are not affected by the track work.