Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express’

Empire Corridor Service Disruptions Set, Trains to Use New York Grand Central Terminal

May 21, 2018

Amtrak has announced its plans to divert most trains using the Empire Corridor between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York, to Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The diversion will last between May 26 and Sept. 3 and result in the New York section of the Lake Shore Limited being terminated at Albany.

Passengers traveling to and from New York on Trains 48 and 49 will make an across the platform transfer at Albany-Rensselaer.

Passengers on No. 48 will transfer at Albany to Train 244 bound Grand Central Terminal.

Passengers originating in New York and ticketed aboard No. 49 will use Trains 291, 255 or 295 from Grand Central Terminal and Albany.

The Lake Shore Limited during the summer will travel between Chicago and Boston.

Train 449 will depart Albany 30 minutes later than scheduled with other minor timing adjustments.

Empire Corridor trains that will service Grand Central include Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack and Maple Leaf trains.

Trains arriving at and departing from Grand Central Terminal will operate on an adjusted schedule and passengers are urged to contact Amtrak for schedule information.

Amtrak personnel will be available at Grand Central Terminal between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily, to answer questions and provide information. The station also has an information kiosk.

Passengers transferring between New York Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal are being referred to taxi and local transit options. Amtrak is not providing transfer service. The two terminals are located about a mile apart.

Checked baggage service will not be available at Grand Central Terminal.

The service disruptions are being prompted by an infrastructure renewal program at New York Penn Station that also include work on the route leading into the terminal from the Empire Corridor.

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LSL New York Section Suspension Begins May 26

May 12, 2018

The New York section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited will be suspended between May 26 and Sept. 4.

During that time Nos. 48 and 49 will operate only between Chicago and Boston. Passengers bound to and from New York will connect at Albany-Rensselaer with other Amtrak trains.

At the same time, Amtrak’s Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf will begin using Grand Central Terminal in New York.

The service changes are due to an infrastructure renewal program at New York Penn Station and the route leading to it from the Empire Corridor.

This includes construction in the Empire Tunnel and the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge. Workers will also be rebuilding Track 19 at Penn Station.

Work on Track 19 will occur between June 8 and July 20 during which time Amtrak will operate on a modified schedule.

Suspension of the Lake Shore Limited combined with making Washington the temporary eastern terminus of the Cardinal means that there will be no direct scheduled intercity rail passenger service for the first time since the 19th century.

Vermonters Still Wary Of Service Future

May 3, 2018

Although Vermont officials and rail passenger advocates are optimistic that Amtrak service to their state will survive, they are not taking that for granted.

Many in Vermont became alarmed after Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson told a congressional hearing in February that the passenger carrier would likely suspend service using routes that are not protected by positive train control.

Anderson was speaking about the prospect that some of its host railroads might not meet a Dec. 31, 2018, deadline set by federal law to install PTC.

However, the New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express and Washington-St. Albans Vermonter use routes in the Green Mountain state that are not required to have PTC under federal law.

Both trains are funded in part by the State of Vermont.

Following Anderson’s comment an Amtrak government affairs manager tried to downplay the matter, suggesting that Vermont’s trains are likely to continue.

Amtrak is studying how and if to operate on route that are not required to have PTC.

However, of late Vermont officials have sound the alarm again because they say that Amtrak officials have been noncommittal in speaking about the future of the Vermont service.

They say Amtrak has not yet ruled out the possibility at the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express will cease operating to Vermont on Jan. 1, 2019.

Another complication, Vermont officials say, is the prospect that a segment of the Vermonter’s route in Massachusetts may not meet administrative requirements that would reassure Amtrak of its safety.

The segment in question is 49 miles owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that it purchased in 2014 from Pan Am Railways so that the Vermonter would reach a higher population base.

The resulted in rerouting the Vermonter from a route via Amherst to a route via Northhampton.

There are no plans at present to install PTC on that line.

There is little rail traffic on the route and the Federal Railroad Administration might be willing to grant it a waiver from the PTC requirement.

The Vermont Business Magazine said it had spoken with two sources who attended an April 16 meeting in Washington of the Rail Passenger Association, a national advocacy group.

During that meeting, Chris Jagodzinski, Amtrak’s vice president for operations, displayed a map indicating, in practice, the relative likelihood that Amtrak would cease serving certain route segments.

The sources said the 49-mile segment in Massachusetts is rated among the highest-risk routes because its lacks a PTC plan.

Vermont officials fear that Amtrak might refuse to run the Vermonter north of Springfield and instead carry passengers there by bus.

They also fear that once rail service is lost, it might be difficult to get it back.

A MassDOT spokesperson declined to comment on the PTC issue other than to make an innocuous statement in support of rail passenger service and referring specific questions to Amtrak.

Nonetheless, a source told the Vermont Business Magazine that MassDOT is working with the FRA, Amtrak and Pan Am to resolve the PTC issue, which the source said appears to be “solvable” by the PTC deadline.

An Amtrak spokesperson said the carrier is just now beginning to undertake a safety review of the Ethan Allen route and has yet to begin the review of the Vermonter route.

Federal law requires that if service is to be terminated by Amtrak, it must give 180 days notice. If service to Vermont is end or be suspended on Jan. 1, 2019, the notice would need to be given by July 5.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation and Genesee & Wyoming, which owns the tracks used by the Vermonter in Vermont are seeking a $1.6 million grant under the federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program that could be used to pay for safety equipment.

This could includes, for example, the installation of rock slide detectors.

“At this point the ball is in Amtrak’s court,” Michele Boomhower, director of policy planning and intermodal development at VTrans, said. “We have no time frame for anything changing, so we’re operating on a business-as-usual framework, awaiting Amtrak’s safety analysis.”

Ethan Allen Schedule to Change

March 12, 2018

Amtrak said in a service advisory that starting on April 7, Ethan Allen Express No. 292 will run 5 minutes later between Rutland and Albany. The passenger carrier said the 5 minute adjustment was being made to improve performance and help to decrease delays.

Amtrak Backpedals on Talk of Ending Service on Routes Lacking PTC

March 7, 2018

On second thought never mind. Amtrak has quickly backpedaled on comments made by CEO Richard Anderson that lack of progress on installation of positive train control might result in the carrier ending service to Vermont.

 “Right now we have no plans to cease any service on any route,” Amtrak’s Bill Hollister told Vermont Business Magazine.

Of course the operative words in that statement are “at this time.” Amtrak didn’t say that ending service to Vermont would not occur. Yet it has signaled that it is unlikely.

The Green Mountain State funds trains linking the state with New York City from St. Albans (Vermonter) and Rutland (Ethan Allen Express).

Anderson had suggested the service might end due to lack of progress on installing PTC during a congressional hearing.

The issue is not the tracks in Vermont, which are not required by federal law to have PTC, but on those elsewhere.

Some U.S. railroads are facing a Dec. 31 deadline to install PTC and some are not expected to be able to make that deadline.

The strong adverse reaction of Vermont public officials to Anderson’s congressional remarks caught Amtrak off guard. But Vermont officials in turn were surprised by what Anderson said.

Dan Delabruere, director of Vermont’s Agency of Transportation’s Rail and Aviation Bureau said Anderson’s suggestion that the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express would be suspended “kind of shocked a lot of people. We did not know this announcement was coming.”

At a recent meeting of the bureau’s advisory board, Bill Hollister, Amtrak’s senior manager of government affairs for state-supported services in the Northeast, tried to mend fences.

“I want to apologize to Vermont for all the angst [the Anderson statement] caused,” he said. Hollister said Amtrak “did not expect [a reaction] that strong.”

Delabruere said Vermont officials have had several conversations with Amtrak since Anderson’s testimony and learned that the passenger carrier is undertaking an analysis of safety risks on its route network and exploring remedies less onerous than the installation of PTC in Vermont and elsewhere, to address perceived safety risks.

“We’ve got to figure something out,” Delabruere said. “We don’t know what that’s going to mean for us. I can’t even speculate.”

In the meantime, Anderson somewhat softened the stance he took earlier. In testimony to a Senate committee on March 1, Anderson said Amtrak is “reevaluating” future service in light of safety concerns.

“We have to determine whether we continue to operate in non-PTC territory, and apply the principles of our safety management system to mitigate” risks on those rail routes,” he said. “We should establish PTC as the standard for passenger rail in America, including dark territory, and including covering the areas that are today excluded by the law.”

In response to a question from Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire), Anderson said Amtrak has a research and development project underway “to determine whether we can use technologies from Europe that don’t require as much trackside investment, but that would give us speed restriction and signal location.”

“I’m not sure if Anderson even knew the implications of what he was saying,” said Ira Silverman, who worked in Amtrak management for 20 years. “The reality is, when he announces that he’s shutting these trains down, do you believe there isn’t going to be a political reaction?”

Hollister indicated after the meeting in Vermont that a compromise between the status quo and PTC implementation on all of Vermont’s Amtrak routes seems likely.

“The game plan is to work towards mitigation of risks,” he said, adding that it is an ongoing process in which Amtrak and its state partners will draft and implement plans to improve safety on Amtrak routes.

PTC Issues Could Sideline Vermont Trains

February 27, 2018

Amtrak service to Vermont could become a casualty of the wrangling over the installation and implementation of positive train control.

The state funds the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express, both of which link the Green Mountain State with New York City.

In testimony given on Feb. 15 to a congressional committee, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson noted that the tracks Amtrak uses in Vermont are exempt from a federal law that requires that PTC be installed by the end of 2018.

In his testimony, Anderson said he doubted that the Vermont services would continue operating as a result, but Amtrak later clarified that the passenger carrier has yet to make a decision on that.

Anderson had said that Amtrak won’t operate over tracks that are not in compliance with federal law pertaining to PTC.

“[f]or those instances, where we will not have PTC even after the 12/31 deadline because It’s not required by statute, we have a question about whether we’re going to operate at all, and I doubt we will,” Anderson told the committee.

The next day, though, Amtrak assistant vice president for operations Chris Jagodzinski said the carrier is launching a risk analysis of its 21,000 miles of routes.

Jogodizinski spoke at a meeting in Washington with the States for Passenger Rail Coalition with some state officials listening in via a conference call.

“They’re just having their first risk analysis meeting today,” said Dan Delabruere, who heads up Vermont’s passenger rail program at the Agency of Transportation.

Delabruere said Amtrak officials said that the scope of that analysis remains to be determined.

“There certainly wasn’t a hard, fast, ‘We’re going to stop’,” he said, referring to Jagodzinski’s comments in regards to Amtrak’s Vermont service.

Vermont public officials have rallied in support of saving the state’s service.

Senator Patrick Leahy said in an email statement, that Amtrak’s managers “have not made any decisions to halt service in Vermont or elsewhere. I will keep working to secure sufficient funding support for Amtrak so it has the resources it needs to continue providing safe service for Vermonters.”

Dan McLean, press representative for Senator Bernie Sanders, wrote, “Bernie does not want to see service suspended. But he does want to see PTC on all passenger and freight trains as soon as possible” as a matter of upgrading infrastructure.

The track used by the Vermonter is owned by the New England Central Railroad while Vermont Rail System owns rails used by the Ethan Allen Express.

Lee Khan, chairman of the Vermont Rail Action Network rail passenger service advocacy group thinks that Anderson is overreacting.

“It’s ridiculous. Our railroads have been safe – we have two of the safest short lines in the country,” she said. “It’s frightening . . . to cancel service. This is an economic driver in this state. It’s hard to imagine that Amtrak would do this. We’ll fight it every step of the way.”

Schenectady Amtrak Station Being Razed

July 7, 2017

The Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York, is being razed in preparation for the building of a new depot on the site.

Passengers are now using a temporary platform to board trains and the station’s parking lot has been transformed into a construction site that is blocked off with fencing.

Amtrak said parking at the interim boarding site is limited and the ticket office for Schenectady has been closed. Passengers are advised to arrive more than 30 minutes early and to plan on being picked up and dropped off.

Construction of the new station is occurring in two phases, the first of which will cost $5.4 million and involve demolishing the current Amtrak-built station, making concrete and structural repairs along the existing station platform, and installing new concrete culverts underneath the tracks.

The second phase involves construction of the new station. Bidding on that project is expected to begin this fall. The new station is projected to open in late 2018.

The new station is on the site of the former Union Station that was torn down and replaced in 1979 by a modular facility built by Amtrak.

Amtrak handled about 60,000 passengers per year in Schenectady, which is served by Empire Service trains to and from Niagara Falls, New York; the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited; the New York-Montreal Adirondack; and the New York-Rutland, Vermont, Ethan Allen Express.

Amtrak Names Trains That Will Use Grand Central

July 6, 2017

Amtrak has announced which Empire Service trains will be using Grand Central Terminal once the reconstruction of tracks at New York’s Penn Station gets underway.

Three weekday trains originating at Albany-Rensselaer, New York, will use Grand Central and be turned on the the station’s loop track.

The trains set to diverge at Spuyten Duyvil and head for Grand Central are No. 230, departing Albany-Rensselaer at 5:05 a.m.; No. 236, departing at 8:20 a.m.; and No. 242, whose departure time has been moved up to 2:40 p.m. from 3:10 p.m.)

Northbound trains will depart Grand Central at 11:15 a.m. (No. 233, weekdays only), 2:15 p.m. (No. 235), and 5:48 p.m. (No. 239).

The New York-Montreal Adirondack will continue to use Penn Station but will be combined with the Toronto-bound Maple Leaf as far as Albany. The Adirondack will arrive earlier at intermediate stops to Montreal.

The Friday departure time of the Ethan Allen Express will be moved up to the Saturday-Thursday 3:15 p.m. scheduled departure time.

Amtrak plans to cancel six New York-Washington Northeast Regional trains and the New York-Philadelphia portion of three Keystone round-trips.

Another Keystone Service will terminate at Newark, New Jersey, while the New York-New Orleans Crescent will originate and terminate in Washington

Travel between all Northeast Corridor stops will be allowed on the New York-Miami Silver Star and Silver Meteor, and aboard the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Those trains ordinarily stop between New York and Washington to pick up and discharge passengers traveling to and from destinations south and west of Washington.

Unaffected by the changes are Empire Service trains operating to and from Niagara Falls, New York, and the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited.

The schedule changes are effective July 10. The work at Penn Station will continue through Sept. 1.

Third-rail shoes have been modified from over-running contact to Metro-North’s under-running configuration on at least four P32-DM locomotives to power the detouring Amtrak trains.

Only tracks 1-9 and 11 of Penn Station’s 21 tracks will be accessible from the west end during the construction work.

3 Bids Received for Schenectady Station Work

March 31, 2017

Three bids have been submitted for the proposed new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

All of the bids appear to be within the $6 budget for the station.

The bidders were seeking to perform the first phase of the project, which includes razing the current station and doing concrete and structural work around the station platform.

That work is expected to begin this spring once a winning bidder is chosen by the New York State Department of Transportation.

It is the second time that bids have been submitted for the station work.

Last year one bid for the project came in $10 million over budget. State officials decided to break the station project into two phases.

The budget for the project is $15 million, most of which is from federal funding.

The project timeline calls for demolition of the station to be completed this year. Amtrak is constructing a temporary boarding platform at Liberty Street.

The contract for construction of the permanent station is expected to go out for bid this fall with construction starting in 2018.

The new station is expected to resembled the former Union Station, which was razed years ago. The current Amtrak station opened in 1979.

About 60,000 passengers per year board Amtrak at Schenectady, but city officials believe the station could become busier after the opening of the Rivers Casino and Resort.

Capital Region Track To Be Done by Summer

March 20, 2017

Amtrak expects to finish a massive rail improvement project in New York’s Capital Region this summer.

The $163 million program is adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, New York, in order to eliminate a bottleneck on the single-track route used by the Lake Shore Limited, Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, the Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf.

The work also includes upgrading the signal system and improving grade crossings.

An earlier stage of the project involved lengthening two passenger platforms at the Albany-Rensselaer station, primarily for the benefit of passengers boarding and disembarking from the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak officials said the work is nearly finished south of the Capital Region and that the second track between Albany and Schenectady should go into service in late spring or early summer.

A NYDOT spokesman said contractors are still placing ballast on the new track, as well as making deck repairs on the Union Street and Erie Boulevard bridges in Schenectady, cleaning and improving culverts, and removing poles, now that the new signal system is underground.

However, officials say that earlier ides to increase the level of service west and north of the region are uncertain at best.

Michael Franchini, who heads the Capital District Transportation Committee, a government planning organization that oversees the disbursement of federal transportation funds, said there are no serious proposals to extend Empire Service trains now terminating at Albany-Rensselaer to Schenectady or Saratoga Springs.

The New York Department of Transportation will say only that it continues to consider increased service.

Saratoga County residents who are now served by the New York-Montreal Adirondack said that they need additional service to provide them more flexibility in their travel plans.

Some now drive an hour to the Albany-Rensselaer station to take advantage of its higher level of service to New York City.

In a related development, NYDOT officials have been asked to replace the locomotives used between Albany-Rensselaer and New York Penn Station.

The dual model locomotives are able to run on diesel fuel or electric current, but use electric power in the Manhattan tunnels that bring trains into Penn Station.

Replacing the fleet with 25 new locomotives would cost an estimated $250 million.

The current locomotives are old and prone to breakdowns that delay trains.