Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Amtrak to Receive First ACL-42

June 12, 2021

The first Siemens ALC-42 locomotive built for Amtrak is expected to be released today and will head east on the California Zephyr.

Trains magazine quoted unnamed sources as saying Charger No. 300 will be handled by Train 6 departing Emeryville, California, today (June 12) and arriving in Chicago on Monday.

No. 300 is expected to be featured on Tuesday at a media event at the Amtrak Chicago maintenance facility and depart on June 16 for Washington in the motive power consist of the Capitol Limited.

The Trains report said Amtrak expects to receive a handful of Chargers over the next few weeks that will be tested.

Regular deliveries of the locomotive are expected to begin in the second half of this year. Amtrak has ordered 75 ACLC-42 locomotives for use in its national network.

They will replace aging P42DC units that have been the standard motive power on most national network trains since the middle 1990s.

Charger locomotives are already in revenue service for various operators around the country, including on Amtrak corridor routes in the Midwest.

The intercity carrier is expected to complete receiving its ALC-42 locomotives in 2024.

Amtrak Revives USA Rail Pass

June 10, 2021

Back in the 1970s Amtrak offered unlimited coach travel on the USA Rail Pass good for up to 30 days.

Various forms of the rail pass have been around over the years, but this week Amtrak announced a re-launch of the program.

The new USA Rail Pass will offer a 10-ride pass for $299 through June 22, a savings of $200 over the regular price of $499.

Amtrak said in a news release that passengers using the pass under the introductory offer will pay less than $30 per segment.

Unlike the paper passes of past years, the new rail pass is an electronic pass that allows up to 10 segments of coach travel in a 30-day period.

Trips involving a connection will count for two segments. Upgrades to business class or sleeping-car accommodations are not available.

Once the pass is purchased, passengers will have up to 120 days to use it. Once the first segment is traveled, passengers then have 30 days to travel nine more segments.

The news release said passengers will be able to book and modify their trip itinerary and will receive an electronic ticket for each segment to present to the conductor when boarding.

Traditional Dining to Return to Most Western Long Distance Trains on June 23

June 4, 2021

French toast will come with fruit and whipped topping when traditional dining resumes late this moth. (Amtrak photo)

Amtrak this week announced the return of traditional dining-car service aboard its western long distance trains effective June 23.

The announcement played up “a redesigned menu,” new appetizers, and table service with glassware, cutlery and linen tablecloths. Ceramic dishware will be added later this year.

However, the change comes with a number of caveats.

This includes traditional dining being limited to sleeper class passengers. Coach passengers must continue to rely on café car offerings.

Another caveat is that traditional dining for now is not being reinstated on the Texas Eagle.

Texas Eagle passengers continuing beyond San Antonio will be able to take advantage of traditional dining service aboard the Sunset Limited, which operates between New Orleans and Los Angeles and carries through cars between Chicago and Los Angeles that are interchanged in San Antonio.

The Rail Passengers Association reported recently that the Eagle will for the time being continue to operate with one food service car and it won’t be a Sightseer Lounge.

Amtrak reportedly plans to assign Sightseer Lounges to the Texas Eagle at a later but unspecified date.

Trains that will have traditional dining include the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited.

The announcement said nothing about whether eastern long distance trains are being considered for reinstatement of traditional dining.

Those trains for the past two to three years have featured what Amtrak bills as “flexible dining” in which food is prepared off the train and served aboard.

The Amtrak announcement this week indicated that the traditional dining aboard the western trains will have meals prepared by an on-board chef and have table service and communal seating.

Traditional dining had been removed from western long distance trains in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amtrak’s announcement indicated that passengers will still be expected to wear facial masks when aboard a train except when they are eating or drinking.

Dining cars will be for the use of sleeper class passengers only. Those passengers will have the option of being served meals in their rooms.

Amtrak said is planning to revamp its café menu this summer by adding more fresh selections. The announcement did not indicate what that might include nor did it indicate when or if the passenger carrier plans to resume selling dining car meals to coach passengers.

As for the traditional dining car experience, it will feature some changes from the pre-pandemic service.

This includes offering three-course dinners that have an appetizer, main course and dessert. The breakfast and lunch menus will be similar to what has been offered in the past.

All trains will have the same menu, a practice that has been in place for the past several years. There also will be a children’s menu.

One feature of flexible dining that is being retained with the return of traditional dining is passengers receiving one complimentary alcoholic beverage.

On its website, Amtrak said passengers can make reservations for lunch and dinner.

Breakfast hours will be 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Lunch will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. while dinning hours will be 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Final seatings will be at 9:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. with a last call made 15 minutes before the dining period ends. Exceptions may apply based on train schedule or in the event of a delay.

As for what is on the menu, breakfast offers four selections, including a continental breakfast, French Toast, three-egg omelet, or scrambled eggs.

The omelet and scrambled eggs come with a choice of cheese, tomatoes, breakfast potatoes and a croissant. Both entrees also can come with red and green peppers and onions.

Sides include bacon and sausage, either chicken or pork.

The lunch menu features a Caesar salad, grilled cheese sandwich, angus burger and vegan chili. The grilled cheese sandwich comes with turkey and bacon. The chili is served in a baked potato or a bowl with a choice of toppings.

The two sandwiches come with a side of cole slaw and Terra chips. All lunch entrees also include a dessert from the dinner menu.

As for the dinner menu the first course is one of three appetizer, including a lobster crab cake, green chile cheese tamale or a mixed greens salad with baby brie.

Entrees include flat iron steak, pan roasted chicken breast, grilled Atlantic salmon and tortellini with pesto cream.

All entrees except the tortellini come with vegetable side dishes. The steak also comes with a choice of cheese polenta or baked potato.

Desserts include a flourless chocolate torte, Philadelphia cheesecake and carrot cake. Passengers receive unlimited soft drinks.

Capitol Corridor Service to Increase June 7

June 4, 2021

Amtrak service in California’s Capitol Corridor will increase on June 7.

San Jose-Sacramento service will increase from 16 to 22 trips daily, while Oakland-San Jose service will return to the pre-pandemic level of 14 daily trips.

Café Car service also will be reinstated although with a limited menu.

Capitol Corridor service was last increased in June of 2020 when some frequencies cut the previous March during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic were restored.

Some schedules were modified this past March to improve on–time performance and better service the existing travel patterns.

Agencies OK Documents for Hudson River Tunnel Project

June 4, 2021

Two federal agencies have issued the final environmental impact statement and record of decision for a project to create a new tunnel under the Hudson River in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration issued the documents recently in cooperation with the New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Amtrak and the Gateway Development Commission.

The documents will enable the Hudson Tunnel Project to advance toward final design and construction.

The tunnel is one component of the Gateway Program. Although no federal funding has been approved for the project to date, completion of these two steps is a prerequisite for FRA or FTA to direct future federal funding for such things as engineering, final design development and property acquisition.

Private Car Offering Trips on Amtrak Midwest Corridor Trains

June 4, 2021

A former Seaboard Air Line observation car will operate on Amtrak corridor trains in the Midwest in July, September and October.

The car is the Hollywood Beach, which was built in 1956. The trips being offered will feature guides from the Midwest Rail Rangers group.

The first trips will operated between St. Louis and Kansas City July 23-25 with ticket proceeds being used to help restore 1939 Seaboard observation car No. 6400.

The trip departs St. Louis at 4 p.m. on July 23, arriving in Kansas City at 9:40 p.m. After a free day in Kansas City, the return trip departs Kansas City for St. Louis at 8:15 a.m. on July 25.

Tickets are $500 per person. No one way tickets are available although some passengers may be able to board at an intermediate station.

For further information or to buy a ticket, contact John Owen at ontrackkentucky@gmail.com or at 502-416-8143.

A St. Louis to Chicago one way trip will operate on Sept. 23, departing St. Louis at 5:30 p.m. and arriving in Chicago at 11:10 p.m.

Midwest Rail Ranger guides will provide narration between St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois.

Tickets are $299 and may be obtained by contacting Ketih White at onecniccat@prodigy.net or 708 446-1269.

A Chicago to St. Louis one way trip will run Oct. 4, leaving Chicago at 9:25 a.m. and arriving in St. Louis at 3 p.m. Midwest Rail Rangers guides will provide narration for the entire route.

Tickets are $299 and available from Ketih White.

Fares include meals, hors d’oeuvres, snacks and drinks. No personal food or beverages are allowed aboard the car.

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.

Biden Budget Proposal Would Boost Amtrak Spending 35%

May 30, 2021

Amtrak would get a 35 percent boost, most of it for capital projects, if Congress adopts the Biden administration budget.

The administration has proposed $2.7 billion for Amtrak with a major share of that funding set to be used for track and station improvements, fleet refreshment, and systemwide maintenance. Another $625 million would create a new grant program, Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization and Expansion, to develop and expand rail corridors across the nation.

The U.S Department of Transportation would receive $88 billion in total.

This includes $13.5 billion for transit projects of which $2.5 billion is for Capital Investment Grants, a $459 million increase, to accelerate projects already in process and support new projects seeking approval.

Another $550 million would go toward Transit Infrastructure Grants of which $250 million is for the Zero Emission Bus Program.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program would receive $1 billion in funding.

Amtrak Seeks $75B for New Service

May 28, 2021

Amtrak elaborated this week on its “Connect US” plan, which calls for a 15-year $75 billion federal investment to add 39 new routes and enhance service on 25 other routes.

Calling the plan “Corridor Vision,” Amtrak said it would lead to the carrier providing intercity rail passenger service in 47 of the 48 contiguous states and new stations in more than half of those states.

If implemented, the network expansion would generate $8 billion in annual economic benefits by 2035 and an additional $195 billion in economic activity resulting from capital projects during the same period.

In a letter to Congress, Amtrak CEO William Flynn outlined details of the plan, many of which have already been reported.

This includes Amtrak paying all initial costs for new or improved service but with states eventually assuming responsibility for those costs.

Amtrak proposed to pay upfront the estimated cost for stations, railcars, locomotives, and infrastructure.

Amtrak also is seeking a dedicated funding source, the Passenger Rail Trust Fund, and called for passage of the Rail Passenger Fairness Act, which would enhance Amtrak’s ability to enforce its right of operating preference over freight trains.

In an effort to prevent host railroads from stalling the launch of new routes, Amtrak wants Congress to clarify existing law that provides Amtrak has access to host railroads.

“Too often host railroads resist and stall any efforts to expand service,” Flynn wrote.

In a statement issued with a news release, Flynn said new and improved rail service has the ability to change how Americans move while providing cleaner air, reducing highway congestion and providing a more connected country.

Details of the Connect US plan are contained in a report Amtrak issued titled  Amtrak’s Vision for Improving Transportation Across America.

Among the cities that would receive new or improved service are Houston, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Nashville, Columbus, Phoenix, and Wichita.

Amtrak said the added service could increase its ridership by 20 million riders annually.

Amtrak said the plan is not a final proposal and does not lay out a specific order or priority ranking for route development.

It said many factors, including available funding levels, post-pandemic travel demand, state interest, host railroad conditions, and equipment availability, will play a role in determining final implementation plans for the Connect US program.

If a corridor is not mentioned in the plan, Amtrak said that doesn’t mean it opposes development of that service.

The passenger carrier cautioned that just because a corridor is shown in its plan doesn’t mean it is certain to be implemented.

“The corridors proposed here are intended to be additive to Amtrak’s pre-COVID-19 route network,” Amtrak said.

Amtrak expects to implement its corridor services over a 15-year period.

The Amtrak report also sought to downplay the idea that these will be high-speed routes.

“While high speed rail service may be right for certain corridors, current state-supported Amtrak services such as the Pacific Surfliner and the Hiawatha show that intercity passenger rail can be successful with conventional operating speeds,” Amtrak said.

“As corridors which begin at conventional speeds build ridership and demand, they can be considered for future conversion to high speed service.”

Funding for Connect US would come from a variety of sources, including direct federal funding to Amtrak for corridor development and operation, and discretionary grants available to states, Amtrak and others for corridor development, the report said.

 “This vision does not propose to replace existing grant programs. Rather, it would augment them with dedicated and reliable funding from an intercity passenger rail trust fund … or other source needed to execute on a long-term vision.”

Tags: Amtrak, Amtrak Connect US, Amtrak funding, Amtrak funding request, Congress, William Flynn

Reservations Required on Pacific Surfliners During Peak Summer Weekends

May 27, 2021

Reservations will be required for travel aboard Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains on peak weekends this summer.

The carrier said this will help it manage capacity when more travelers are anticipated.

Among the weekends when reservations will be needed are Memorial Day weekend (May 28-June 1), Fourth of July weekend (July 2-5), the opening weekend at Del Mar racetrack (July 16-19), and Labor Day weekend (Sept. 3-7).

The program allowing use of Metrolink and Coaster tickets on Pacific Surfliners will be suspended on most of these dates, although Amtrak said monthly and 10-ride passes may still be used with a reservation.

Additional dates could be added depending on travel demand.