Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Cardinal’

Cardinal Passengers Were Stranded in Culpepper

February 5, 2018

Somewhat lost in the news about last week’s collision between a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican congressmen and a garbage truck was what happened to two other Amtrak trains that use the same route.

The westbound Cardinal was halted at Culpepper, Virginia, stranding 90 passengers. Also halted was its eastbound counterpart. Both tri-weekly trains operate on Wednesdays through Virginia.

The collision between the Amtrak special and the truck occurred near Crozet, Virginia. One passenger in the truck was killed and two others injured.

Some of those aboard the Amtrak train suffered minor injuries. The GOP congressmen were en route to a political retreat at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

While many passengers took the delay in stride, several were frustrated that Amtrak wasn’t providing any information. They said they didn’t receive a text, a call or see any information on Amtrak’s website.

A website that tracks Amtrak movements reported that No. 51 departed Clifton Forge, Virginia, 4 hours and 27 minutes late and eventually arrived in Chicago more than eight hours late.

It showed that eastbound No. 50 departed White Sulphur Spring an hour and a half late but has no data for any stations west of there.

Brian Hambrick was headed for Clifton Forge, but said he wasn’t in a hurry.

“I’m just curious how long something like this takes,” said Hambrick, who was returning from New York City after seeing the Grammy Awards on Sunday. “I’m sure the whole Congress element adds a whole other level to it.”

Hambrick laughed and told a reporter, “You never know what the day holds, right?”

Bart Danielson who was returning home to West Virginia, said he rides Amtrak about twice a month.

“I’m eating junk food I normally wouldn’t eat,” he said before adding, “I don’t think the train’s going anywhere soon.”

Amelia Hannah and Chris Wright were headed to Charleston, West Virginia, The couple from Manchester, England, said the delay wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.

“Luckily, we are a bit of carefree,” Wright said. “If we are here for a few hours, we can still get to our hotel and get a good night’s sleep before seeing Charleston.”

Culpeper tourism director Paige Read said some passengers who arranged ride from Uber or a taxi company to finish their trip.

But others visited Culpeper’s shops and restaurants on Davis Street because they knew “they aren’t leaving any time soon.”

The Museum of Culpeper History hosted younger passengers. “A God send,” said Pam Mitchell, a parent of two children, heading home to West Virginia.

“The tourist center here has been very open and welcoming,” one passenger said. “They’ve just been wonderful.”

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Amtrak Posts New National Sked Few Changes Made to Heartland Train Schedules

January 22, 2018

Amtrak has a new national timetable posted online and only a few changes have been made to the schedules of its trains that serve the nation’s heartland, many of them minor.

Most  of the changes affect the six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The running times on the route are being shortened

Effective Jan. 22, No. 350 will depart Pontiac 5 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 15 minutes earlier than the current schedule. No. 353 will leave Pontiac 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago eight minutes earlier. No. 355 will depart Pontiac 20 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 32 minutes earlier. Times at stations en route have been adjusted.

No. 350 will leave Chicago at its current scheduled time, but arrive in Pontiac 24 minutes earlier. No. 353 will depart Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 27 minutes earlier. No. 354 will leave Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 14 minutes earlier.

The eastbound Blue Water will depart Chicago at its current time, but will be scheduled to arrive in Port Huron, Michigan, seven minutes earlier. There are corresponding changes at intermediate stations.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Blue Water or the Pere Marquette in both directions.

Effective Jan. 8, the Pennsylvanian began arriving in Pittsburgh from New York six minutes earlier.

There are no changes in the schedules of the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited or eastbound Cardinal. The westbound Cardinal is now scheduled to arrive in Chicago five minutes earlier, but there are no changes in time at intermediate stations.

No changes were made in any schedules of trains operating in the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans corridor. Likewise, all Lincoln Service schedules between Chicago and St. Louis and Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, remain the same.

Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee has not changed.

The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are scheduled to arrive one minute earlier in Quincy, Illinois, but the rest of the schedules on the route are unchanged.

The counterparts of the same trains will arrive in Chicago two minutes earlier without any changes in times at intermediate stations.

The westbound Southwest Chief is departing Los Angeles five minutes earlier but its Chicago arrival time is unchanged. Some times have changed at intermediate stations. This change became effective last November.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Southwest Chief, or the California Zephyr, Empire Builder or Texas Eagle.

The Heartland Flyer arrives in Oklahoma City from Fort Worth, Texas, four minutes earlier, a change that took effect last October. The southbound Heartland Flyer schedule is unchanged.

Amtrak has not printed a national timetable since January 2016, but has posted one at its website since then.

The latest timetable features an image of the Maple Leaf traveling through snowstorm.

Missing from this timetable is a letter from Amtrak’s president, which had been a standard feature of previous timetables.

The typography is largely the same as in the previous timetables, but the schedule headings have been tweaked. The schedules were compiled before Amtrak said it was discontinuing the Pacific Parlour Car on the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

Cardinal Ridership Up 7.25% in FY2017

November 21, 2017

Amtrak’s Cardinal saw a 7.25 percent ridership boost in fiscal year 2017.

Figures released by the national passenger carrier show the tri-weekly Chicago-New York train carried 112,432 passengers, up 7,601 from FY 2016.

“It’s been inching up, but to have that kind of an increase is a good thing,” said Chuck Riecks, a vice president with the national Rail Passengers Association and co-chairman of West Virginia-based the Friends of the Cardinal group.

Riecks described the ridership figures as encouraging given the on-time issues Nos. 50 and 51 have had during this year’s operational problems on host railroad CSX.

He said Amtrak’s addition of business class service to the Cardinal in January 2016 helped to boost patronage.

The Cardinal serves eight stations in West Virginia and most of them saw an increase in ridership.

White Sulphur Springs handled 5,878 passengers, a 12.6 percent increase. The station serves passengers headed for the famous Greenbrier resort and was a beneficiary of the business class service, which features 18 leather seats, complimentary beverages and a lounge area reserved for business class and sleeper car passengers.

Thurmond — the smallest town in America with regularly scheduled passenger rail service — saw the largest proportional jump, an 18 percent increase to 345 passengers.

Other stations posting slight increases included Charleston (9,812 passengers), Prince (2,988) and Alderson (449).

The ridership figures for Huntington and Hinton fell in FY 2017, in part because Amtrak had attributed to those stations passengers riding Amtrak coaches on the New River Train.

That added about 2,800 passengers each year to each city’s ridership figures.

Hinton’s Cardinal ridership in FY 2017 dropped by 81 passengers from 7,344 to 4,463.

Huntington’s ridership fell by 14.5 percent from 10,723 to 6,925 passengers, or a decline of 998 passengers.

During the past year Amtrak removed its ticket agents from Huntington, thus ending ticket sales and checked baggage at that station.

“That clearly reflects the loss of the station agent,” Riecks said of the decline in Huntington passengers.

Montgomery also saw a decline in ridership, dropping from 669 to 500 passengers.

In the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited route, the two West Virginia stations posted ridership gains.

Martinsburg handled 11,267 passengers, up 146, while Harpers Ferry saw a 12 percent increase in passengers to 8,267.

Hoosier State OT Performance Improving

October 23, 2017

The on-time performance of two Amtrak trains in Indiana has shown some improvement of late.

From a 37.1 percent rating in August the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State improved to 56 percent in September.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal, which uses the same route, had an on-time performance of 58 percent during the month

Brittany White, stakeholder and marketing manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the on-time performance for the Hoosier State for the month of October thus far has been close to 80 percent.

Amtrak has said most of the delays to the trains have occurred on CSX tracks between Indianapolis and Dyer, Indiana.

These run the gamut between malfunctioning signals to freight train interference.

CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the delays have resulted from issues stemming from implementation of a new operating model known as precision scheduled railroading.

He said changes in how freight cars are sorted at the railroad’s Avon Yard west of Indianapolis resulted in unanticipated congestion that contributed to service issues for Amtrak.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has seen a slow but steady increase in on-time performance.

INDOT has hired a consultant to identify areas for improvement in Amtrak, CSX and INDOT operations. That report is expected to be completed in early 2018.

MHSRA Seeks Phased Network Approach

September 12, 2017

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is calling for a “phased network approach” to implementing high-speed rail service in the United States, including the Midwest.

In a 50-page white paper, the group said a combination of high-speed trunk lines and upgraded feeder rail routes coupled with dedicated bus services can increase mobility.

Rather than focusing on a point-to-point fast train systems between major cities, the MHSRA plan would provide a blueprint for systems that serve multiple markets and as many constituencies as possible.

The report cited such existing networks in France, Germany and Japan that provide multiple connections from their main stems.

One example would be Chicago-Cincinnati corridor. The report said a combination of upgraded Metra Electric tracks from O’Hare International Airport through Chicago, a high-speed trunk connecting the Windy City with Indianapolis, and conventional feeders to other communities could reduce Chicago-Indianapolis rail travel times from five hours, ten minutes to 90 minutes.

Upgrading existing track to Cincinnati once used by New York Central’s James Whitcomb Riley could result in a three-hour Chicago-Cincinnati overall travel times.

The running time of the current Amtrak Cardinal is eight hours, thirty minutes.

“The core point is that rather than only trying to keep projects affordable, we should be figuring out how to put more people on trains,” said MHSRA Executive Director Rick Harnish. “We need a new ridership and revenue model that combines commuter, feeder, and intercity trips in a way suited to the geography and demographics to the Midwest.”

CSX Denies Deliberately Delaying Amtrak

August 25, 2017

CSX is denying that it has been short-changing Amtrak trains in favor of its own freight trains.

In a statement, a CSX spokesman said that the railroad “recognizes the important benefits that passenger rail service can provide to the public.”

Spokesman Rob Doolittle said that CSX has a long history of supporting passenger service across its network and that it provides Amtrak preference in accordance with federal law.

But the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier reported that those comments are at odds with a directive given by a CSX supervisor to dispatchers.

“Give high priority to [freight trains] Q031/Q032,” the supervisor  wrote in an email obtained by the newspaper. “If we are meeting with Amtrak make the delay on Amtrak first. If Amtrak is running down one of these trains go ahead and get to the point Amtrak is seeing the (end of the freight train) before we get them around.”

The Journal & Courier said that Amtrak’s own on-time performance statistics show that delays have become frequent while on CSX.

“We are one of the customers who have been disappointed by CSX’s performance on this and other routes around the country,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, making a specific reference to the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor used by Amtrak’s Hoosier State and Cardinal.

“CSX has made a series of operational decisions and dispatching decisions that have not given these trains the priority to which we’re entitled and the reliability that we  expect.”

Magliari said Amtrak has begun tracking how much money it has lost across its network due to CSX’s problems. That includes compensation for displaced passengers, the cost of getting passengers to other train stations to make connections, and additional crew costs.

“There has not been improvement in August thus far [in on-time performance], and there’s only a few days left,” Magliari said.

Amtrak crews will communicate to passengers why delays are occurring. “The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and we are very transparent about how sweet or sour this pudding is,” Magliari said.

Hoosier State Struggled to Run on Time in June

August 3, 2017

Amtrak trains are struggling to operate on time in the Chicago to Indianapolis corridor and the passenger carrier says its contract railroads are to blame.

Just one in three trains bound for Indianapolis arrived on time in June. On the other hand, the on-time performance of trains running from Indy to Chicago was nearly 90 percent during the month.

Combined, that represents an on-time rate of 62 percent, which is down from the 80 percent rates that the route had been posting.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said almost all the delays have been caused by freight-train interference and dispatchers giving priority to freight trains over Amtrak trains.

“We made it clear to them that we’d like June to be an outlier performance,” Magliari said.

Since taking over the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State from Iowa Pacific Holdings earlier this year, Amtrak has launched business class, food and beverage services, free Wi-Fi and the ability to make reservations for carry-on items in an effort to match the level of service that IP provided.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is working with an engineering firm to study the ways to shorten the travel time, including the possibility of using a different route.

The Hoosier State operates on days that the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.  Both trains serve intermediate stations in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.

New Thruway Links Cardinal with W.Va. Cities

July 18, 2017

Amtrak has launched a Thruway bus route to link its Chicago-New York Cardinal with cities in north central West Virginia.

The bus will connect the eastbound Cardinal with Morgantown, Fairmount, Clarksburg/Bridgeport, Weston, Sutton/Flatwoods, and Clendenin.

The bus route will serve the Amtrak station in Charleston, where No 50 stops on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

The bus will depart from Morgantown at 4:50 a.m. on the days that the Cardinal operates to Charleston.

Arriving in Charleston at 8 a.m., the bus is scheduled to return to Morgantown and all intermediate cities at 8:45 a.m. The Cardinal is scheduled to stop in Charleston at 8:21 a.m.

Baron’s Bus lines is operating the service and uses motor coaches equipped with Wi-Fi and electrical outlets.

Amtrak 29 Suffers Another Bout of Severe Lateness

July 16, 2017

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited rolls through Olmsted Falls, Ohio, late on Saturday morning.

For the third consecutive weekend, a very late Amtrak train made a daylight appearance in Northeast Ohio.

On Saturday, the westbound Capitol Limited halted in Cleveland at 10:44 a.m. and left at 10:55 a.m., seven hours and 56 minutes late.

The train had departed Washington on  Friday 4 hour and eight minutes late and lost another two hours before leaving Rockville, Maryland, 6 hours and 21 minutes down. Washington and Rockville are 16 miles apart.

An unconfirmed online report said that failure of the air conditioning system in two coaches was the cause of the delay leaving Washington.

It is not clear why No. 29 lost two more hours before getting out of the Washington metropolitan region.

After leaving Cleveland, No. 29 left Elyria at 11:23 a.m. and Sandusky at 12:08 p.m. It was nine hours and 15 minutes late when it departed Toledo at 2:37 p.m.

Needless to say, the Capitol Limited missed all of its connections with the western trains in Chicago, where it finally arrived at 5:42 p.m., which was 8 hours and 27 minutes late.

Also having severe timekeeping problems on Saturday was the westbound Cardinal. Between White Sulphur Springs and Alderson, West Virginia, it lost considerable time.

An online report suggested that No. 51 had a locomotive failure. The report said the train was seen with a CSX locomotive leading it.

The Cardinal arrived in Cincinnati at 8:34 a.m., 7 hours and three minutes late, and was 6 hours and 38 minutes late when it arrived in Indianapolis.

It finally reached Chicago at 3:59 p.m., for a final accounting of 5 hours, 59 minutes late.

Operating went much more smoothly for Amtrak on Sunday. No. 29 departed Cleveland

39 minutes late while its eastbound counterpart, No. 30, was 38 minutes late.

No. 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited was on time out of Cleveland after arriving 16 minute early. The westbound Lake Shore Limited was 27 minutes late at Elyria and 22 minutes down out of Toledo.

Caretaker for Maysville Station Still Open Question

June 7, 2017

Renovations of the Amtrak station in Maysville, Kentucky, are underway, but the question of a caretaker for the depot remains open.

Amtrak is spending more than $500,000 to renovate the station, which is a stop on the route of the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

The improvements will make the station ADA-compliant as well as improve sidewalks, signs, the restrooms and the parking lot.

However, Amtrak wants another organization to take over the task of providing a caretaker and maintaining the station.

Specifically, the passenger carrier wants the city to buy the station, a request that has been spurned by city commissioners. The station is currently owned by CSX.

“We don’t want to [own the building], but if it’s a stipulation of the grant we may have to,” City Manager Matt Wallingford says. Instead, the city is hoping to lease the station rather than buy it.

The city is amendable, though, to working with CSX and Amtrak to provide janitorial services as well as a caretaker service.

Maysville officials are also talking about making other improvements to the station to give it better aesthetic appeal.

That work would use $860,000 in federal grant money with city providing a 20 percent match.

Maysville is located about 65 miles southeast of Cincinnati and is along the former Chesapeake & Ohio mainline.