Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

2nd Penn Station Track Project Begins in January

November 16, 2017

The project will extend through May 28 and involve work performed mostly on weekends.

In a news release, Amtrak said there will be a series of continuous single-track closures that will result in minor modifications to Amtrak and commuter train weekday operations.

“After a successful summer, it is essential that we continue to upgrade the infrastructure so that we can continue to improve the reliability of service for all the customers that use New York Penn Station,” said Amtrak co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman.

The following schedule changes will take place during the infrastructure renewal work:

  • Amtrak is cancelling Northeast Regional Trains 110 from Washington to New York and 127 from New York to Washington.
  • Northbound Keystone Train 640 will terminate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Keystone Train 643 will originate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Train 173 will stop at Newark Airport
  • Southbound Trains 129, 193 and 653 will all have earlier departure times.
  • Train 170 will also depart Washington early, stop at North Philadelphia and Cornwells Heights and resume its schedule from Trenton
  • Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit are also expected to announce service schedule adjustments

The projects will occur in the area of Track 15, which requires a section of concrete demolition and replacement that will be similar to the work done on Track 10 last summer and Track 18, which requires localized concrete demolition with complex steel hardware replacement and rail renewal.

Amtrak also will renew and replace three turnouts in “C” Interlocking, which is at the east end of the station and directs Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains to routes heading east and to Sunnyside Yard.

While Amtrak has maintained and repaired this aging infrastructure, some of which dates to the 1970s, full replacement is now required.

Additional information and updates will be posted on Amtrak.com and Amtrak.com/NYPrenewal

 

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Amtrak Head Acknowledges Need for New Equipment

November 15, 2017

Amtrak needs to replace or overhaul the rail car fleet that serves its long-distance trains, its co-CEO told the National Association of Railroad Passengers earlier this month.

Richard Anderson

Co-CEO Richard Anderson said rebuilding or replacing aging Superliners and Amfleet cars will receive a “first priority.”

He also said the diesel locomotive fleet used to pull that equipment also needs replacement and/or rebuilding

Anderson said that the first up will be renovations of  Amfleet I and Amfleet II cars followed by new Acela Express trainsets.

New diesel locomotives are being placed into service on corridor routes in the Midwest and West.

Amtrak also expects CAF USA to complete soon an order for 25 new Viewliner II diners to be completed. Last on the list that Anderson ticked off was overhauling the current Acela fleet.

Despite saying it is a priority, Anderson did not describe a plan to replace or rebuild the Superliner fleet.

Amfleet II coaches are used on single-level long-distance trains such as the Lake Shore Limited, Cardinal, Crescent and Silver Service.

Anderson did, though, describe the importance of long-distance trains by emphasizing their role in “connecting small and large communities and bringing the most utility to the most Americans across the country.”

He said Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains serve a series of markets with just 6 percent of riders traveling from endpoint to endpoint.

Many of those markets have lost or seen their level of intercity bus and airline service greatly diminished.

Anderson said Amtrak faces “risk points” with host railroads delaying Amtrak trains, the Trump administration’s efforts to end funding of long-distance trains and a dire need for capital.

The latter is most acute in the Northeast Corridor although some might say capital is desperately needed to buy new rolling stock and locomotives.

The former airline executive also said Amtrak needs to become more customer-focused.

2nd Penn Station Project Begins in January

November 15, 2017

Amtrak will begin the next phase of its track rebuilding at New York Penn Station on Jan. 5, 2018.

The project will extend through May 28 and involved work performed mostly on weekends.

In a news release, Amtrak said there will be a series of continuous single-track closures that will result in minor modifications to Amtrak and commuter train weekday operations.

“After a successful summer, it is essential that we continue to upgrade the infrastructure so that we can continue to improve the reliability of service for all the customers that use New York Penn Station,” said Amtrak co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman.

The following schedule changes will take place during the infrastructure renewal work:

  • Amtrak is cancelling Northeast Regional Trains 110 from Washington to New York and 127 from New York to Washington.
  • Northbound Keystone Train 640 will terminate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Keystone Train 643 will originate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Train 173 will stop at Newark Airport
  • Southbound Trains 129, 193 and 653 will all have earlier departure times.
  • Train 170 will also depart Washington early, stop at North Philadelphia and Cornwells Heights and resume its schedule from Trenton
  • Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit are also expected to announce service schedule adjustments

The projects will occur in the area of Track 15, which requires a section of concrete demolition and replacement (similar to the work on Track 10 during the summer of 2017), and Track 18, which requires localized concrete demolition with complex steel hardware replacement and rail renewal within Penn Station New York.

Amtrak also will renew and replace three turnouts in “C” Interlocking, which is at the east end of the station and directs Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains to routes heading east and to Sunnyside Yard.

While Amtrak has maintained and repaired this aging infrastructure, some of which dates to the 1970s, full replacement is now required.

Additional information and updates will be posted on Amtrak.com and Amtrak.com/NYPrenewal

Amtrak Adds NEC Trains for Thanksgiving

October 31, 2017

Amtrak is adding trains and capacity to its Northeast Corridor service for the Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

The carrier said will operate every available passenger railcar to handle the surge in patronage.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said its Acela Express and Northeast Regional services will operate with extended schedules with additional frequencies and added capacity during the week of Thanksgiving. Regular Amtrak booking procedures apply.

Last year, Amtrak carried 760,755 passenger throughout its national network during the Thanksgiving travel period. Similar business is expected this year.

On the other coast, Amtrak said passengers riding Pacific Surfliner trains in California between Wednesday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Nov. 26, will need reservations

During that period, a ticket will only be valid on the train for which a passenger holds a reservation.

Reservations will be not required for our monthly and ten-ride ticket holders.

Additionally, both Rail2Rail programs (Coaster and Metrolink) will observe a blackout period for the same dates, Nov. 22 through Nov. 26.

Amtrak Kicks Off Ready to Build Campaign

October 7, 2017

Amtrak launched a “Ready to Build” campaign this week to spotlight five critical investments that it is seeking to implement.

In a news release, the passenger carrier said the campaign emphasizes needed investments at major stations, including in Chicago Union Station, as well as in infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor.

The NEC carries 260 million intercity and commuter customers each year, but demand for passenger rail service continues to outpace investment, resulting in a backlog of more than $38 billion of deferred capital investments that risks future service expansion and reliability.

“The NEC is a central artery for the greater Northeast, which generates 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and is one of the country’s principle economic engines,” said Amtrak co-CEO Wick Moorman. “These major projects are critical to keeping people, the economy and the nation moving forward.”

Among the five critical infrastructure projects identified by Amtrak are:

Hudson Tunnel Project: Construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel serving New York Penn Station will provide greater operational flexibility and infrastructure resiliency, following damage from Superstorm Sandy.

Portal North Bridge Project (New Jersey): Replacement of the century-old Portal Bridge with a new high-level, fixed-span bridge will result in faster trip times and greater reliability as well as eliminate the need to open for maritime traffic.

Major Stations Development (Northeast and Chicago): Leveraging public-private partnerships and underutilized land and air rights to transform 50+-year-old facilities into vibrant commercial transportation hubs.

Susquehanna River Bridge Project (Maryland): Replacement of existing two-track bridge with two new high-level bridges with a total of four tracks, allowing for increased speeds and eliminating the need to open for maritime traffic.

Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel Project (Maryland): Replacement of the Civil War-era, 30 mph bottleneck with a four-tube tunnel that allows for more reliable and more frequent service.

Amtrak is the majority owner of the NEC infrastructure and its connecting corridors, the NEC is a shared trans­portation asset that runs through eight states and the District of Columbia. It is used by Amtrak, eight commuter rail partners and multiple freight operators that together run nearly 2,200 daily trains.

Anderson Discusses Amtrak’s Priorities

September 6, 2017

Amtrak has dropped the idea of reducing the distance between its seats.

Appearing on the CBS program This Morning, Amtrak’s co-CEO Richard Anderson said that the spacing between seats, known in the industry as pitch, will remain unchanged.

“One of our great advantages is that there are no middle seats,” Anderson said. “Our coach on Amtrak is much, much better than first class on airlines.”

Anderson is a former president of Delta Air Lines. The airline industry is notorious for its efforts over the years to reduce seat pitch in order to cram more passengers aboard its planes.

During the interview, Anderson said that infrastructure repair is the passengers carriers “first imperative.”

The next priority is better service. “We’ve got to clean up our trains, run our trains on time, fix the interiors of our trains, and grow our services in the regions that provide the highest level of service to the communities around the country,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the new equipment that Amtrak has ordered for its Acela Express service will increase capacity in the Northeast Corridor by 40 percent.

He did not, though, say anything about buying new equipment to replace cars used on long-distance trains. Some of that equipment dates to the 1970s. Instead, Amtrak plans to refurbish that equipment.

Increasing service frequency on some routes is an Amtrak goal, but that appears to be limited to densely populated regions.

“If we could get our train speeds up and operate more densely-populated urban corridors, it would be a great service to the traveling public in America,” Anderson said.

Moorman Upbeat About Future of Rail Passenger Service

July 17, 2017

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman gave an upbeat assessment of passenger rail even as he acknowledged that the passenger carrier faces challenges fixing decaying infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, Moorman said Amtrak’s need for federal funding was no excuse for not operating “like a great company.”

Moorman

Nonetheless, Moorman said that getting pressure from government officials and tight budgetary resources have taken their toll.

He said that in the 1990s and 2000s Amtrak lost sight of its customers as a result. As an example he cited carpet cleaning.

Amtrak saved $1 million by not shampooing the carpets in its passenger cars as often, but passengers noticed the dirty carpets.

“That’s not the experience we want to create for our customers,” he said.
Providing a better customer experience has been one of four focuses that Moorman has brought to Amtrak after becoming its president last year.

“The customer experience is ticketing, the station, our employee interactions, and our equipment,” he said.

The equipment used by Amtrak is, in Moorman’s words, starting to look “stale,” but the carrier has taken steps to improve it.

“It’s old, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good,” he said.
Moorman said rail passenger transportation in general is a particularly good business model.

The creators of Amtrak chartered it as a for-profit corporation even though they knew it was not a good business model.

However, Moorman said, they sold at the time to President Richard Nixon and the Congress at the time as a concept of “Create this and [it] will become profitable.”

In essence, Moorman said Amtrak is a government contractor that unlike other contractors can’t always present to government officials a bill that factors in the costs of doing business plus a profit to benefit shareholders.

“We rely on what are in effect user fees – passenger fares,” he said. “And because the marketplace doesn’t sustain the passenger fares we need to make that profit, we ask the government to make up the difference.”

Among Amtrak’s many challenges Moorman said the one that worries him the most is the aging Northeast Corridor infrastructure.

He said the NEC has eight major bridges and only is younger than 100 years old. The B&P Tunnel in Baltimore is 127 years old and well past its “sell-by date.”

Moorman express confidence that the idea of having a national rail passenger network is taking hold and predicted the development of more corridors offering rail passenger service between urban areas.

He also circled back to the need to provide good customer service.

“For 46 years, a lot of people [at Amtrak] were there trying to keep the flame alive, understanding that someday the world would come to the point where people started to say, ‘We really need to have passenger rail as an option.’ I think that day has come,” Moorman said.

“The better we run Amtrak, the better we deliver on projects, the more people understand how good our company is, the easier every funding conversation is,” he said.

In a related note, Moorman said disruptions at New York’s Penn Station may extend in the fall.

He told the New York Post that Amtrak has the ability to finish the remaining work at Penn Station with subsequent weekend outages extending beyond the planned July to early September work curfew.

“We’ve done an exceptional and extraordinary amount of planning on the material side and we know it all fits, and we have a lot of skilled people,” he says.

After those repairs are concluded, Moorman said Amtrak will need to to schedule signal and power system repairs at a later date.

Carolinian Multi-Ride Restrictions Remain in NEC

July 12, 2017

Amtrak advises that its multi-ride ticket restrictions for Train No. 79, the Carolinian, remain in effect.

The carrier made the announcement because Train 79 departs New York Penn Station at 7:25 a.m. and Northeast Regional Train 183, which departs New York at 7:05 a.m. has been cancelled through Sept. 1.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that additional seating has been provided on select Northeast Corridor trains for multi-ride tickets holders.

Passengers are urged to contact Amtrak for other schedule options.

Multi-Ride Tickets are available for travel on many routes, but restrictions vary by route, destination and time of day. Multi-ride tickets may not be used on long-distance trains, certain segments of short-distance trains or Acela Express trains.

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.

Trump Budget Slashes Amtrak Funding by 45%

May 24, 2017

The Trump administration wants to slash Amtrak funding by 45 percent in fiscal year 2018.

The detailed budget proposed released this week proposed giving Amtrak $744 million.

In the current fiscal year, Amtrak received $1.4 billion. The cuts for next year include ending $289 for Amtrak’s long-distance train routes.

The budget document described long-distance trains as “a vestige of when train service was the only viable transcontinental transportation option. Today, communities are served by an expansive aviation, interstate highway, and intercity bus network.”

The document said Amtrak’s long-distance trains represent the greatest amount of Amtrak’s operating losses, serve relatively small populations, and have the worst on-time record.

The Trump administration would instead appropriate $1.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

[The Northeast Corridor] “faces many challenges, and the 2018 Budget proposal would allow Amtrak to right-size itself and more adequately focus on these pressing issues,” the budget document said.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding for the development of New York’s Penn Station by 64 percent from $14 million to $5 million.

The Amtrak funding cuts make up the lion’s share of the 37 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The agency’s parent organization, the U.S. Department of Transportation, would receive $16.2-billion in FY 2018, a decline of 12.7 percent over what it received in FY 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s budget would drop by 37 percent from $1.7 billion to $1.05 billion while Federal Transit Administration will decline by 5 percent from its FY 2017 appropriation of $11.8 billion.

The FTA would receive $11.2 billion, which includes $9.7 billion for transit formula grants. The FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program for new starts would be cut by 43 percent from $2.16 billion to $1.2.

Funding would be continued only for programs that FTA is legally bound to support through full-funding grant agreements.

Funding for the Transportation Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be eliminated.

The budget document said projects that are attempting to receive TIGER funding could still earn grants through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highways Projects fund managed by DOT’s Build America Bureau.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation programs would remain in place, but receive no additional funding.

The National Transportation Safety Board would receive $106 million, which is no change from FY 2017.

The Surface Transportation Board would receive a $5 million boost to $37 million in order to implement regulatory changes under the STB reauthorization law of 2015.

The Trump administration budget proposal is likely to undergo numerous changes as Congress considers federal funding priorities for FY 2018.