Posts Tagged ‘Canadian National’

Service Disruptions Set for March 20 in Illinois Corridor

March 13, 2020

Track work being performed by Canadian National will result in service cancellations and schedule changes in Amtrak’s Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans corridor on March 20.

Trains 390 (northbound Saluki) and 393 (southbound Illini) will be canceled.

Alternative transportation will be provided to all stations between Chicago and Carbondale.

The northbound Illini will depart Carbondale at 7:30 p.m., which is 3 hours, 15 minutes later than normal.

It will operate on that schedule all the way to Chicago where it is expected to arrive at 1:25 a.m.

The southbound City of New Orleans scheduled to depart Chicago on March 20 is also canceled.

It will be replaced by Train 1059, which will leave Chicago at 1:30 a.m., which is 5 hours, 25 minutes later than the normal schedule of Train 59.

It will operate on this schedule all the way to New Orleans.

Earlier this week, CN track work had led to the northbound Saluki operating 30 minutes later than normal on two days from Carbondale to Chicago.

VIA Restoring Service Disrupted by Blockades

March 3, 2020

A tentative deal has been reached to end the blockades of Canadian rail lines by protesters opposed to construction of a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.

However, some indigenous groups said they will continue to seek to block rail lines despite the pact.

The blockades have halted freight and passenger traffic on routes of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific and at one point disrupted Amtrak service into Canada.

News reports indicate that the deal will allow construction of the pipeline to continue but will address future land-rights disputes.

The pipeline is being built across land of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations group, whose ancesteral tribal leaders objected to the constructkion.

Other indigenous groups soon joined in the protests.

Leaders of the Wet’suwet’en said they would review the deal, a process expected to take two weeks.

CN has begun recalling some of its 450 laid off workers and VIA Rail Canada expects to restore this week most service that had been suspended.

VIA had canceled 940 trains through late last week.

The expected timetable for service restoration includes Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto on, March 3; Senneterre-Jonquiere, Quebec, on Wednesday, March 4; the westbound Canadian on, March 4; and the eastbound Canadian on, March 6.

VIA Lays Off Workers in Wake of Blockade

February 21, 2020

VIA Rail Canada has laid off 1,000 workers in the wake of blockages of the tracks of its host railroad.

Most VIA service has been shut down by the blockades, which are being staged to protest construction of a natural gas pipleline across Wet’suwet’en Nation land in northern British Columbia.

Although Canadian National has said that VIA may resume some service in southwestern Ontario and Quebec, a plan to reinstate VIA service between Montreal and Quebec City was canceled after a new blockade sprang up near St. Lambert, Quebec.

VIA officials said in a statement that they would continue the suspension of service on a large part of its network while CN lines remain closed due to the blockades.

VIA Rail President Cynthia Garneau described the situation as unprecedented.

“In 42 years of existence, it is the first time that VIA Rail, a public intercity passenger-rail service, has [had] to interrupt most of its services across the country,” Garneau said in a statement.

CN has temporarily laid off 450 of its workers after canceling more than 400 trains over the past week.

The Montreal-based freight hauler said it has shutdown operations in Eastern Canada until the blockades are removed.

Blockades Still Idling VIA Service

February 14, 2020

VIA Rail Canada service continued to be thwarted by groups blocking Canadian National tracks as part of a protest against construction of a natural gas pipeline.

CN has shut down operations in eastern Canada, which has led to VIA suspending operations through Friday of most of its services.

In a statement on Thursday VIA said it could estimate when service would resume.

The 416-mile pipeline would extend across the Wet’suwet’en land in northern British Columbia. Some members of the tribe oppose the pipeline and say the tribal government does not have the authority to deal with GasLink, which is building it.

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en have been blocking for more than a week rail lines, roads and seaports.

Teamsters Canada has urged the government to end the blockades, saying some rail workers could be laid off if the blockade continues.

Mediation Fails to Reach Settlement with Amtrak, CN

January 28, 2020

Mediators trying to help Canadian National and Amtrak reach an agreement to settle a dispute over train dispatching have notified the U.S. Surface Transportation Board that they have withdrawn.

The mediators notified STB Chair Ann Begeman that despite meeting with the two sides “multiple times over the last several months” no settlement was reached.

The STB ordered the two parties to enter into mediation last August.

Amtrak has filed a case with the STB against CN over how the host railroad handles Amtrak trains, particularly between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, where Amtrak operates three pairs of trains.

In their letter to the STB, the mediators said they remain available to the parties should they decided to revive mediation.

The STB order had appointed the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to serve as lead mediator.

Amtrak and CN have been at odds over a number of issues. Aside from Amtrak’s contention that CN dispatching has unduly delayed it trains, the passenger carrier is upset over a CN minimum axle count mandate that results in longer train consists than Amtrak wants to operate.

CN contends that Amtrak rolling stock has issues with activating grade crossing protection devices whereas Amtrak counters that CN maintenance practices are the problem.

Derailment Disrupted Wolverine Service

December 14, 2019

A fire caused by a freight train derailment disrupted operations of Amtrak’s Wolverine Service in Detroit on Thursday.

Amtrak said on Twitter that it moved passengers by bus between Pontiac and Dearborn.

Officials said 12 to 15 cars of a Canadian National train derailed in southwest Detroit on Thursday morning.

There were no injuries but one freight car appeared to be hanging from the edge of a viaduct over a city street.

A Detroit fire commissioner said five of the derailed cars had contained of hazardous materials, but were empty at the time of the derailment.

Dave Fornell, deputy fire commissioner, said residue from those does not pose any danger to the public.

That All Horizon Fleet Look

December 10, 2019

Amtrark’s northbound Saluki sports a consist of entirely Horizon Fleet equipment as it accelerates away from the station in Effingham, Illinois.

It is not necessarily a rare site, but typically Midwest corridor trains that use Canadian National tracks have a mixture of Amfleet and Horizon equipment.

It is common for Amtrak to use baggage cars in the consist in order to meet the CN-mandated minimum axle count.

I even once saw Viewliner dining car Indianapolis assigned to the Saluki to meet the axle count.

Perhaps during the holidays Amtrak will ensure that all of those coaches are open and available for passengers.

Parley Held to Discuss Lateness on Carbondale Route

November 27, 2019

Poor timekeeping in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor appears to correlate with falling ridership at Champaign-Urbana, Amtrak officials recently said at a conference to discuss the route.

“There is a correlation between poor on-time performance and reduced patronage at Champaign, and that affects Illinois taxpayers who help support the service,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

The conference was held Nov. 22 and involved representatives of Canadian National, Amtrak and officials from communities along the route.

Amtrak officials gave a PowerPoint presentation showing how delays to trains at Champaign seem to be correlated with ridership peaks and valleys over the past decade.

The chart shows that on the whole ridership from Champaign-Urbana, home to the University of Illinois and the largest metropolitan region on the route south of Chicago, has been growing since 2008.

However, the chart also shows that delays have been declining since 2013 when about 60 percent of the trains serving Champaign were late.

Delays fell to about 30 percent in 2015. Since then the percentage of trains arriving late at Champaign has varied between 30 to 40 percent.

In the period 2008 to 2013 delays were in the 50 to 60 percent range.

The corridor is home to the State of Illinois funded Illini and Saluki between Chicago and Carbondale, and the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans.

Between 2008 and 2019 ridership crested at 190,000 in 2013 before starting a steady descent that bottomed out at 160,000 in 2018.

However, in the past year, ridership has sharply rebounded to near its 2013 peak. The ridership low point was 2009 and 2010 when the lingering effects of the Great Recession might have had an influence. Ridership in those years was around 140,000.

The on-time performance has not affected all of the six trains in the corridor the same. The Saluki has borne the brunt of the delays, arriving at its endpoints on time just 26 percent of the time in fiscal year 2019, which ended on Sept. 30.

The City of New Orleans has performed better in part because it has more scheduled padding than the state-funded trains.

“Because the distance from Champaign to Chicago is relatively short [129 miles], we are much more vulnerable to leak ridership from there when taking the train becomes unreliable,” Magliari said.

The conference was not open to the news media or the public, but officials held a news conference afterward. The CN representatives did not participate in the news conference.

Amtrak and CN are currently involved in a case before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board regarding the passenger carrier’s contention that CN gives Amtrak trains poor handling.

The host railroad has required Amtrak trains since 2014 to have a minimum of 32 axles to ensure a proper shunt of signals and crossing gates.

CN has said this is necessary because Amtrak’s Amfleet and Horizon equipment might not otherwise activate grade crossing protection devices in a corridor where the top speed is 79 mph.

Amtrak contends that CN track maintenance procedures and not its equipment is to blame for instances in which safety devices failed to activate.

Another source of delay has been CN’s edict that the Saluki and Illini slow to 60 mph over any highway crossings protected by electronic warning devices between University Park and Centralia.

Those trains carry Amfleet and/or Horizon equipment whereas the City of New Orleans is assigned Superliner equipment.

“The schedule for each train has more than a half-hour of buffer – time added in addition to running time – but the delays still occur,” Magliari said.

He disputed CN’s contention that schedules need to be lengthened, saying the trains arrived early 11 percent of the time.

A Trains magazine report about the conference noted that former CN CEO E. Hunter Harrison, sought to prevent Amtrak from instituting the Saluki in 2006 but backed down after U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) intervened.

Harrison was once CEO of the Illinois Central, which owned the tracks before they were acquired by CN in 1998.

Trains observed that delays to the Saluki have been prevalent in each direction since the train began service.

Durbin recently said he is ready to introduce legislation to give Amtrak a right to sue a host railroad for failure to give passenger trains preference.

But one member of Congress from Illinois, Rodney Davis, believes it is too soon for that.

Davis, who sits on the House committee that oversees Amtrak said giving the passenger carrier a right to sue a host railroad would prolong a solution to on-time performance issues.

He attended the news conference that followed the Nov. 22 conference.

“At this point, I want to try and solve (the on-time performance) problem without going to litigation,” Davis said. “When litigation is involved, it will prolong the final solution.”

Strike at CN Helped Canadian’s Timekeeping

November 27, 2019

A recent strike by the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference against Canadian National proved to be a good thing for timekeeping of VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian.

An analysis by Trains magazine found that the Canadian that departed Toronto on Nov. 24 spent 14 hours and 15 minutes waiting for its scheduled departure times at stations in western Ontario and Manitoba.

That was because during the strike CN rerouted some of its trains through the United States, thus removing some of the freight train delays that Nos. 1 and 2 often incur.

Trains said that on one day the Canadian waited at the crew change point of Hornepayne, Ontario, for three-and-a-half hours until its scheduled departure time. Other waiting times ranged from 15 to 30 minutes.

The Canadian has 65 intermediate stops between Toronto and Vancouver and is allowed to depart ahead of schedule if there are no passengers set to board.

That led to the Canadian leaving Foleyet, Ontario, nearly two hours early on Sunday evening.

The analysis said that CN and VIA agreed in April 2019 to lengthen the running time of the Canadian to ensure that passengers on the westbound train would be able to see the Rocky Mountains in daylight.

The magazine said its review of every departure since the longer schedule went into effect found that has overall been successful.

No. 1 has consistently arrived in Vancouver earlier than its 8 a.m. scheduled arrival time, sometimes arriving early by as much as two to four hours.

VIA does not allow passengers to disembark in Vancouver before 6:30 a.m. and offers a continental breakfast to Sleeper Plus and Prestige class passengers.

Early arriving passengers are permitted to stay aboard as late as 8 a.m.

VIA has also reduced the frequency of operations of the Canadian to twice weekly between Toronto and Vancouver and once a week between Vancouver and Edmonton, Alberta.

CN and the Teamsters on Wednesday announced a tentative contract agreement that ended the strike.

However, it may be as many as eight weeks before the ratification vote is completed.

CN Track Work to Disrupt Saluki on Nov. 19

November 12, 2019

Amtrak’s Saluki will operate only between Chicago and Champaign, Illinois, on Nov. 19 due to Canadian National track work.

Nos. 390 and 391 normally operate between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

In a service advisory, No. 391, which is scheduled to depart Chicago at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in Champaign-Urbana at 10:25 a.m. will turn back there to become No. 390.

No. 390 will depart Champaign at 10:45 a.m., which is 31 minutes later than its normal schedule and operate on that schedule through to Chicago.

Passengers boarding or disembarking at Mattoon, Effingham, Centralia, DuQuoin and Carbondale will ride a bus to and from Champaign.