Posts Tagged ‘Canadian National’

CN Pledges Better Handling of Amtrak Trains

July 21, 2021

Canadian National pledged on Monday to do a better job hosting Amtrak trains on its network.

During an investor’s call to discuss second quarter earnings, CN CEO J.J. Ruest said his company knows hosting Amtrak service is part of CN’s social license to operate in the United States.

Ruest acknowledged there’s always room for improvement in how CN handles Amtrak trains.

Amtrak and CN have been at odds for years over dispatching and other matters, particularly how Amtrak trains are dispatched between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

CN has imposed a minimum axle count on Amtrak trains, forcing them to run with deadhead cars to meet that standard. The two railroads have also clashed over track safety performance issues.

CN managers said during the earnings call that the Montreal-based carrier has an open mind about how to be a better partner with passenger service as well as Amtrak.

That comment might have been aimed in part at criticism of CN’s handling of VIA Rail Canada trains.

CN is seeking regulatory approval in the United States to acquire Kansas City Southern.

The comments made by CN executives were aimed, at least in part, at Amtrak’s opposition to CN plans to place KCS stock into a voting trust while the merger is reviewed.

Opponents of the CN-KCS combination have pointed out that KCS owns a route between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that might be used for future Amtrak service.

During the earnings call, CN executives said it will work with Amtrak to launch that service if funding can obtained for the service.

CN executives said that in the latest Amtrak report car of its host railroads CN was rated as one of the top railroads in terms of service and this is evidence it will continue to work with the U.S. intercity passenger carrier.

Amtrak Raises Doubts about CN-KCS Merger

July 8, 2021

For years the Southern Rail Commission has talked about instituting intercity rail passenger between New Orleans and Baton Route, Louisiana.

But those efforts have been stymied by the refusal of would-be host railroad Kansas City Southern to allow an inspection train to examine the route or even to talk with the Commission about instituting the service.

The future of the proposed service has become a point of contention in the efforts of Canadian National to acquire KCS, a matter now pending before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

In an attempt to mitigate concerns that the CN-KCS merger will reduce rail competition in the New Orleans-Baton Route corridor, CN has offered to sell the KCS route between the two cities.

But that offer comes with a catch. CN would retain the right to offer freight service over the route.

Amtrak recently weighed in on the matter by telling the STB in a filing that this would make institution of passenger rail service much more difficult.

The Amtrak filing said CN’s plan is “the equivalent of a homeowner selling their house but reserving the right to continue to live in it.”

Canadian Pacific also wants to buy KCS and has pledged to cooperate with Amtrak in restoring New Orleans-Baton Rouge service.

In a letter to Louisiana Transportation Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson, CP CEO Keith Creel cited “CP’s proven track record of co-operating and operating passenger trains on its network.”

The letter acknowledged the route need extensive infrastructure work to bring it up to passenger standards, but said, “If we are successful [in acquiring KCS], we would be in a strong position to ensure the level of maintenance is up to a mainline standard that would efficiently support both freight and passenger operations.”

Aside from New Orleans-Baton Rouge service, the SRC also has pushed to create a Dallas section of the Crescent that would operate on KCS tracks west of Meridian, Mississippi, via Jackson, Mississippi, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

The Creel letter said  CP would be committed to reviewing and participating in studies with the goal of introducing a (passenger) train pair in the Meridian-Dallas corridor

However, Creel said that would be contingent on getting the support of Norfolk Southern, which with KCS has a joint venture to improve the route.

The proposed Dallas section of the Crescent would be expected to use Union Pacific tracks west of Shreveport because the KCS roué to Dallas is circuitous.

VIA Looks Toward Murky Future

June 2, 2021

VIA Rail Canada released this image of a new Charger locomotive that it recently received.

VIA Rail Canada officials during gave an overview of where things stand with the passenger carrier last week during an online presentation that showed how damaging the COVID-19 pandemic has been.

CEO Cynthia Garneau said VIA also suffered setbacks in early 2020 when First Nation groups and their supporters blockaded tracks used by VIA.

More than 1,000 trains were canceled in February 2020 due to the blockades.

More cancellations followed in the spring as the pandemic took root. Combined this led to ridership falling 77.1 percent even as expenses declined by 21.2 percent.

Garneau said VIA received Ca$135 million (US$112 million) in additional funding to cover the revenue shortfall.

VIA officials said no date has been set for the return of the Ocean service to the Maritime provinces because non-essential travel between provinces continues to be banned.

When the train does return it is expected to have consists of heritage and Renaissance fleet equipment.

Economy class passengers will ride in former Canadian coaches, while Renaissance sleeping, dining and service cars might be augmented with some Chateau-class stainless steel sleepers.

Service to Gaspe, Quebec, remains in limbo but VIA said trains will resume operations once the track is able again to host passenger service.

The Toronto-Vancouver Canadian is now operating once a week and VIA management expects to “fully resume the Canadian when conditions allow it.”

However, the planned  “fleet modernization” of 71 heritage cars used on the Canadian won’t be completed until 2024.

VIA officials said they are studying fleet replacement for the Canadian and other regional trains, but gave no indication as to when that might occur.

In the meantime, VIA will be taking delivery of new equipment being built by Siemens, but that equipment will be used only in corridor service between Quebec City and Windsor via Montreal and Toronto.

The new equipment will be tested later this year and is expected to begin revenue service in 2022.

Although VIA continues to work toward establishing passenger-only routes between Quebec City and Montreal, and between Ottawa and Toronto, it has no timeline for when that project will be realized.

The plan calls for building tracks on abandoned Canadian Pacific right of way that is now a trail in some places. VIA trains could continue to use Canadian National track in Toronto and Montreal.

No funding has been secured for the project and its cost remains undetermined.

In an unrelated move, VIA said this week that ridership and revenue in the first quarter of 2021 were down 80.2 percent and 80.9 percent respectively when compared with the same period in 2020.

Operating expenses were down by 34.1 percent. In a statement, Garneau said VIA “continued to deliver our public service when circumstances allowed it, and to work on and adjust our resumption plan to ensure that we are ready to welcome all our passengers back once the situation improves.

She said VIA remains committed to resuming all routes across the country “once conditions permit us to do so.”

New Venture Cars Tested in Illinois

April 15, 2021

Amtrak made test runs this week of three Siemens Venture coaches pulled by Charger locomotives between Edgewood and Kinmundy, Illinois, on Canadian National tracks.

The test trains evaluated the ability of the new equipment to shunt electric current between rails on CN’s former Illinois Central mainline.

Scheduled Amtrak operations on the CN line between Chicago and New Orleans are required by the host railroad to have a minimum of 30 axles.

Studies conducted by CN, Amtrak, and the Federal Railroad Administration have yet to conclude what track, wheel, or rolling stock issues might cause an interruption of a shunt, which is necessary to activiate signals and highway warning devices.

The test train had three Viewliner II baggage cars, but those were reported to be excluded from the tests, which were to use various locomotive and passenger car combinations.

CONO Sked Changed for Track Work

February 9, 2021

Track work being performed by Canadian National will result in Amtrak’s City of New Orleans operating later on certain days between Feb. 9 and March 12.

On Wednesdays and Fridays,Train 58 will operate as Train 1158 and depart New Orleans at 2:45 p.m, 60 minutes later than normal and operate on a later schedule at all stations from New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi.

Train 1158 will hold at Jackson until 7:14 p.m., 90 minutes later than normal and operate on a later schedule at all stations between Jackson and Chicago.

Train 58 will operate normally on Sundays during this period of time.

CN Track Work to Disrupt Illinois Service

January 13, 2021

Track work being conducted by host railroad Canadian National will result in the cancellation of Amtrak’s northbound Saluki and southbound Illini between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, on Jan. 15.

In a service advisory Amtrak said no alternative transportation is being provided to any of the stations on the affected day.

Instead, it recommended that passengers choose an alternative date for travel.

The advisory said passengers traveling to or from Champaign or Carbondale would be able to use Amtrak Thruway buses or vans as an alternative.

Those services link Carbondale with St. Louis and Champaign with Normal, Illinois, where passengers would be able to transfer to another Amtrak train.

However, the advisory said travel times via those options will be longer than the normal Amtrak service.

Although service suspensions in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor due to CN track work have occurred before, Amtrak usually provided bus transportation to accommodate displayed passengers.

Buttigieg Had Experience With Transportation Issues as a Mayor

December 18, 2020

Although U.S Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg has never worked in the transportation field, he has experience with transportation issues from his time as a mid-size city mayor.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend, Indiana, between 2012 and 2019, The city of 100,000, is served by major freight rail lines of Canadian National and Norfolk Southern, and is a stop for Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

South Bend is the eastern terminus of the South Shore commuter line to and from Chicago and has an airport served by several airlines.

A report on the Trains magazine website said Buttigieg as mayor supported a project to add 16.9 miles of double track to the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City in Indiana.

That work is part of a $460 million project that includes four new bridges, nine new station platforms and the addition of more than 1,300 parking spaces at four stations.

The South Shore has been awarded a $50.6 million Capital Investment Grant from the Federal Transit Administration for the project.

During his time as mayor, Buttigieg also sought federal funding to extend the South Shore Line from South Bend International Airport to the city’s downtown.

The Trains article said the most controversial rail issue Buttigieg faced as a mayor was the revocation by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2017 of the city’s “quiet zone” on CN and NS because it failed to install median barriers at 11 grade crossings.

Various railroad trade organizations on Wednesday issued statements on Wednesday that were generally supportive of Buttigieg’s nomination, which required U.S. Senate approval.

His resume include having served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve where he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. In the Navy Buttigieg rose to the rank of lieutenant.

He is a South Bend native who graduated from Harvard University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

Buttigieg also has severed as a a consultant at McKinsey & Company in Chicago.

SB Illini to Run 30 Minutes Later Due to CN Track Work

October 30, 2020

Canadian National track work will result in temporary schedule changes for Amtrak’s Chicago to Carbondale, Illini, between Nov. 2 and 20.

Train 393 during that period will depart Chicago at 4:35 p.m., 30 minutes later than normally scheduled, on Monday through Friday.

Train arrival times will be 30 minutes later than scheduled at all stations to Carbondale.

The normal schedule will be in effect on Saturdays and Sundays.

Track Work Affects CONO Schedules

September 3, 2020

Track work being performed by host railroad Canadian National will affect the operations of Amtrak’s City of New Orleans through Sept. 7.

The northbound CONO will depart New Orleans at 4 p.m., which is 2 hours and 15 minutes later than its normal schedule, and operate as Train No. 1058.

No. 1058 will operate on this later schedule from New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi, where it will be held until 8:34 p.m.

Upon departing Jackson, No. 1058 will be operating 2 hours, 40 minutes later than scheduled and hold to that schedule at all stations to Chicago.

The southbound CONO will depart Chicago at 7:20 p.m. Sept. 6-7 and operate 45 minutes earlier at all scheduled stations to New Orleans, operating as No. 1059.

Broken Rail Blamed in VIA Derailment

August 15, 2020

A December 2019 derailment of a VIA Rail Canada train in Manitoba was caused by a broken rail investigators have concluded.

A fracture caused a 34½-inch gap that led to the derailment that resulted in injuries five people.

The Transportation Safety Board said the fracture occurred at a joint bar where a section of rail had been replaced in March 2019.

The rail had down signs of fatigue fractures for some time.

An October inspection by a track car had shown flaws below the level requiring immediate action.

Truck-mounted track inspection equipment failed to note defects during a passage in November.

The fracture is believed to have occurred when an empty Canadian National crude-oil unit train passed over the rail three hours before the VIA No. 692 operating between Winnipeg and Churchill, Manitoba at 6:45 a.m. west of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

The two VIA locomotives overturned and baggage car left the rails.

Two crew members in the locomotive, a passenger crew member, and two passengers were injured in the derailment.

CN has since changed its track maintenance procedures regarding maintenance in the vicinity of a rail joint.