Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Illini’

CN Derailment Delays Resumption of Amtrak Service

February 2, 2019

A derailment of a Canadian National freight train in suburban Chicago on Wednesday afternoon set back the resumption of Amtrak service on the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans line that had been canceled due to severe winter weather this week.

The Thursday night departure of the southbound City of New Orleans was canceled as was the Friday morning departure of the southbound Saluki.

The City that was to arrive in Chicago on Friday morning was terminated at Homewood, Illinois, and passengers were taken by bus to Chicago Union Station.

The derailment also knocked out Metra Electric and South Shore Line service because the derailing freight train knocked down catenary supports on the routes used by those railroads.

It was the third consecutive day that Metra Electric and South Shore Line trains had been canceled due to arctic air that sent temperatures tumbling to nearly minus 20 degrees.

The severe cold interrupted overhead electric service to both commuter carriers.

The first southbound Amtrak train that was to depart on Friday was the Carbondale-bound Illini in late afternoon.

Due to the lack of equipment in New Orleans, northbound No. 58 will not originate in the Crescent City today (Feb. 2).

The CN derailment occurred near Harvey, Illinois.

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Polar Vortex Leading to Midwest Cancelations

January 28, 2019

A Polar vortex that is bringing extreme cold to the Midwest has prompted Amtrak to modify its service on Midwest corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Most of the changes are effective between Jan. 29 and 31.

The carrier said it will operate four round trips between Chicago and Milwaukee: Nos. 330, 331, 334, 335, 338, 339, 341 and 342. Nos. 329, 332, 333, 336, 337 and 340 will be cancelled.

Chicago to Carbondale No. 393 will be cancelled Jan. 28-30 while Carbondale to Chicago No. 390 is cancelled Jan. 29-31.

The City of New Orleans will continue to operate as will Nos. 391 and 392.

Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Nos. 351, 352, 353 and 354 will operate but Nos. 350 and 355 are cancelled on Jan. 29-31.

In the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, Nos. 301 and 304 are cancelled between Jan. 29 and 31. All others Lincoln Service trains as well as the Texas Eagle will continue to operate.

There will be no cancellations on routes linking Chicago with Quincy, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Port Huron, Michigan.

In a service advisory Amtrak said it expects the winter storm to reduce travel demand, but it was also acting out of “an abundance of caution.”

Amtrak said passengers holding reservations on the affected trains will be able to change their reservations for travel on other trains, including on other days, at no charge.

Trains in Champaign Not Quite as Late as They Were

January 4, 2019

Passengers board the southbound Illini at the Champaign-Urbana station on May 17, 2000.

The on-time performance of Amtrak’s trains in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor improved slightly in 2018 but not by much.

The News-Gazette of Champaign-Urbana used the online Amtrak Status Maps Archive Database to show that Amtrak’s six trains serving those cities during most of 2018 were about 34 minutes late on average.

That was a slight improvement from the average lateness of 36 minutes in 2017.

However, the newspaper said the average lateness upon departure varied considerably among the trains.

It said the City of New Orleans departed Champaign an average of 42 minutes late northbound but just 19 minutes late southbound.

But it was the opposite pattern for the state-funded Illini and Saluki.

The northbound Saluki left average of 24 minutes late northbound but 49 minutes late southbound.

The northbound Illini was, on average, 35 minutes late northbound and 37 minutes late southbound during 2018.

The News-Gazette report said many of the delays could be attributed to host railroad Canadian National. Amtrak contends CN is one of its worst host carrier with freight trains delaying Amtrak on 90 percent of the trips made on the route via Champaign.

Amtrak contends that CN contributes an average of 26 minutes of delay per day.

But some of the delays are also caused by longer than scheduled loading and unloading of passengers.

That is particularly an issue in Champaign, which serves the University of Illinois, a major generator of traffic in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor.

The newspaper found that the longest delay of 2018 through Dec. 21 occurred on Oct. 4 when the northbound City left Champaign 9 hours and 37 minutes late.

The longest delay for No. 59 was 6 hours, 18 minutes on Dec. 17. The longest delays for the Saluki were 3 hours, 4 minutes northbound on June 290 and 3 hours, 14 minutes southbound on Nov. 21.

The Illini’s record 2018 tardiness northbound was 3 hours, 4 minutes on Nov. 22 and 4 hours, 30 minutes on June 29.

Proposed Bar Next to Amtrak Station Raises Concerns

November 26, 2018

Plans to establish a bar with a limited restaurant menu next to the Amtrak station in Effingham, Illinois, have raised a few eyebrows.

The proposed bar, which would be known as Jennie’s Place, would be located in a former Illinois Central baggage and express building that is also used by Amtrak.

The bar would be located in the south half of the building. Amtrak uses the north half.

Plans for the establishment sparked a lively conversation at a recent Effingham City Council meeting. The council, though, has not yet acted on a request for a liquor license that was filed by Jennifer and Robert Howell

The bar would have live entertainment and, possibly, a few video gaming machines.

It would be open late at night but closed on Sunday. Jennifer Howell told the council that she expects to draw business from Amtrak patrons or those waiting to pick up passengers coming to town by rail.

“We want to have a place for the people who are waiting for the Amtrak train, or those getting off the train, so they can have some place warm to go and sit – or wait and eat, while they are waiting on their loved ones to get off the train,” she said.

The bar would have seating for 30 inside and seating for 12 in an outdoor area that would be fenced off with the only entrance and exit being through the business.

Effingham Mayor Jeff Bloemker said the city wanst to see economic development in the area near the station, but expressed concern about the bar’s close proximity to active rail lines of Canadian National and CSX.

“There has been hope that someone would come along and invest in that area,” Bloemker said. “It is admirable, but it is a tricky area.”

Commissioner Don Althoff asked about parking because, he said, it is his understanding that Amtrak passengers take up most parking in the area.

But the Howells said there should be enough parking in a nearby gravel lot.

Effingham Police Chief Jeff Fuesting called for additional signs being placed in the area to warn bar patrons about oncoming trains.

“I would want to ask about the lighting and the height of the fence and proximity to the tracks,” Fuesting said. “I would just want to ensure that nobody accidentally steps out in front a train, or gets confused where the parking lot is located, and something of that nature.”

Effingham is served by Amtrak’s City of New Orleans and two pairs of Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois trains, the Illini and Saluki.

The latter two trains are funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

SB Illini To Run Later on Weekdays

August 29, 2018

Train work being conducted by Canadian National will result in the southbound Illini operating 1 hour and 15 minutes later on weekdays between Sept. 4 and 21.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the schedule change will be in effect for the length of the train’s route from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois.

The schedule for Train 393 will not change on Saturdays and Sundays.

Wolverines Get New Schedules

July 11, 2018

Amtrak has changed the schedules of some Wolverine Service trains in an effort to improve their connections with other Midwest trains. The changes are effective July 16.

Train 352 will operate 45 minutes later to allow new connections from Trains 300 (Lincoln Service) and 334 (Hiawatha Service).

Train 353 will operate 45 minutes earlier to allow new connections to Train 393 (Illini).

Train 355 will also begin operating 15 minutes later.

CN Track Work Work Delaying Illini, Saluki

June 28, 2018

Amtrak’s Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, trains have long been subject to delays on their host railroad, Canadian National, but now the carrier has formally acknowledged that.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that track work being performed by CN will subject the Saluki and Illini to be delayed 60 minutes or more through July 2

Trains 390, 391, 392 and 393 are funded in part by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The route also hosts the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans, which is operating on an alternative schedule through mid-July due to CN track work.

 

Durbin Wants FRA to Pressure Railroads to Run Amtrak Trains On Time

May 11, 2018

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has joined Carbondale, Illinois, officials in seeking to pressure the Federal Railroad Administration into leaning on Amtrak’s host railroads to operate Chicago-Carbondale trains on time.

During the past year trains on the route were on time on just 32 percent of their trips.

“That’s simply unacceptable and deserves the FRA’s immediate attention and action,” Durbin wrote in his letter to the FRA.

“Amtrak’s Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route continues to be one of the worst preforming routes in the country,” he said. “The Illini and Saluki trains are consistently delayed by CN’s freight interference and the ongoing speed restrictions put in place by CN in 2015.”

The speed restriction that Durbin referenced was put into place along a 200-mile stretch of the 309-mile corridor as a safety precaution following repeated mechanical issues.

However, Amtrak and CN have been in a stalemate over finding a solution to solve that issue and lift the speed restriction.

Durbin wants the FRA to take a more active role to ensure that Amtrak trains operate on time in Illinois and around the country.

“My constituents have waited long enough while the Amtrak service they rely on has suffered,” Durbin said. “It’s time for the FRA to take on a larger oversight role in the ongoing dispute between Amtrak and CN, and I urge you to begin convening regular meetings between the leadership at FRA, CN, and Amtrak that include my staff so the FRA can set deadlines, prevent further delays, and ensure greater accountability.”

Durbin also contended that freight train interference has played a major role in causing delays to Amtrak trains.

“Canadian National in particular has a long history of holding up Amtrak trains and holding back investments that could improve passenger and freight service in downstate Illinois,” Durbin said.

Durbin’s letter came shortly after Carbondale city officials met with him and Amtrak managers to discuss the paltry on-time performance of Chicago-Carbondale trains, most of which are funded by the State of Illinois.

The route also hosts Amtrak’s Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.

CONO Sked Change Delayed

April 5, 2018

Amtrak has delayed a temporary schedule change for its City of New Orleans until April 13.

The change, which is expected to extend through early May, will provide a daytime work window for Canadian National to rebuild segments of the train’s route.

Nos. 58 and 59 will operate three hours earlier, a change that Amtrak originally said would begin on April 4. Notices of the schedule change were posted in stations and on the Amtrak website.

However, not all of those notices have been changed to reflect the delay in the schedule change.

Under the temporary schedules, No. 58 will depart New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 10:45 a.m. versus the regularly 1:45 p.m. departure time. That will put No. 58 into Chicago at 6 a.m.

No. 59 will leave Chicago at 5:20 p.m. instead of its regular 8:05 p.m. departure. It will arrive in New Orleans at 12:47 p.m.

This will mean No. 59 will operate less than two hours behind the Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, Illini, which is funded by the State of Illinois. No. 393 is scheduled to depart Chicago at 4:05 p.m.

Much of the schedule change is oriented toward accommodating CN track work on its Yazoo Subdivision south of Greenwood, Mississippi.

However, some work is also being done in Southern Illinois, which will temporarily affect the schedule of the northbound Illini, causing it to operate 30 minutes later Monday through Friday.

The temporary schedules on the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans line are in effect through May 4.

CN has said it would be most cost-effective to conduct the track work during daylight hours because that would avoid the necessity of paying overtime to workers and the cost of lights for nighttime work.

By contract Amtrak must make adjustments for maintenance of way windows that affect its trains.

CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said “the work block duration for the track work on that subdivision across Northern Mississippi has been shortened, thus delaying the change in the schedule.”

He did not explain why the work window has been shortened.

Amtrak Takes Host Railroads to School

March 26, 2018

Amtrak has launched a quarterly “report card” on its website that evaluates the delays that it incurs on the tracks of its host railroads.  In the first report card, Amtrak said most delays are due to freight trains interference.

The implication is that such delays violate a federal law that gives Amtrak passenger trains preference over freight trains. However, the law has some exceptions.

Amtrak assigned letter grades to six Class 1 railroads that were based on delays per 10,000 train miles.

Amtrak defines that as the number of minutes of host-responsible delay, divided by the number of Amtrak train miles operated over that host railroad, times 10,000.

Canadian Pacific received the only A on the report card. Other railroad grades included a B+ for BNSF, a B- for Union Pacific and a C for CSX. Norfolk Southern and Canadian National both “flunked” by receiving grades of F.

Following are some Amtrak comments regarding hosts railroad performances on specific routes:

• 97 percent of passengers on Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee arrived at their destinations on time. Ninety percent of trips experienced no freight train interference.

• 90 percent of passengers on Carl Sandberg/Illinois Zephyr service arrived on time with less than 4 minutes of delay by BNSF freight trains.

• More than 57 percent of passengers arrived late abroad the Coast Starlight. On an average trip on this route, passengers experienced four separate instances of delay caused by UP freight trains, accounting for 48 minutes of delay on average.

• 50 percent of passengers traveling on the Cardinal arrived late by an average of 1 hour and 27 minutes. On 85 percent of trips, the Cardinal’s 350 passengers are delayed by CSX freight trains.

• Over 67 percent of passengers arrived late at their destinations while traveling on the Crescent. The typical Amtrak train, carrying 350 passengers, is delayed over 1 hour and 40 minutes due to NS freight trains. Many Amtrak trains wait as long as 3 hours and 12 minutes for NS freight trains using this route.

• More than 200,000 passengers arrived late at their destinations on the Illini and Saluki, which operate between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. Amtrak trains were delayed by CN freight trains on nearly 90 percent of their trips.