Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19 pandemic’

Amtrak to Reduce Service by 8%

January 15, 2022

The Lake Shore Limited, seen here near North East, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 9, 2015, will be operating five days a week starting Jan. 24.

Pandemic related staff shortages are prompting Amtrak to curtail service on most routes starting Jan. 24 for most routes and Jan. 18 on state-supported routes.

The service reductions, which Amtrak said will last through March 27, will affect 8 percent of its schedule. The passenger carrier indicated it might be able to restore service sooner on some routes depending on conditions.

In a statement, Amtrak said the service cuts were due to “staffing challenges resulting from Covid-19 pandemic and the highly active Omicron variant.”

Long distance train service frequency will fall to five days a week for the Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Texas Eagle, Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, and City of New Orleans.

The Silver Meteor will be suspended entirely during the 10-week period, but there will be no service reductions for the Silver Star, Palmetto, Auto Train, Cardinal, and Sunset Limited.

Amtrak said capacity will increase as dictated by demand on the Silver Star and Palmetto to offset some of the service cuts being made to the Silver Meteor.

In corridor services, 8 percent of Northeast Regional weekly departures will be suspended while 6 percent of state-supported weekly departures will be suspended.

Trains magazine reported on its website Friday that already some trains have seen spot cancellations.

The Southwest Chief did not depart Los Angles on Jan. 9 or 12 and did not depart Chicago on Jan. 12 and 15. Some trips of the Coast Starlight also have been cancelled.

Specific cancellations have yet to be announced or posted in the Amtrak reservation system as of Friday afternoon.

Amtrak said in a statement it will contact affected passengers and offer to rebook them for travel on remaining frequencies on all routes.

On routes where there are multiple train frequencies Amtrak said it will seek to offer same-day travel alternatives.

Those unable to travel on other days will be offered a full refund of their fare.

The statement said Amtrak has seen a 25 percent drop in bookings due to the surge in COVID-19 cases coupled with seasonal declines in travel.

The statement also said Amtrak is hiring and training new employees to address staffing shortfalls resulting from last year’s furloughs and early retirements.

The Trains report quoted Amtrak sources as saying 97 percent of its employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but the workforce continues to be hit by COVID-19 infections and exposures.

The illness has affected not just on-board personnel but also backshop workers who maintain and get the trains ready for service.

VIA to Reduce Service Due to Pandemic

January 15, 2022

With cases of COVID-19 surging VIA Rail Canada has decided to temporarily reduce service in its corridors between Windsor, Ontario, and Quebec City, Quebec.

VIA said the affected routes include Montreal-Ottawa, Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa, Toronto-Kingston-Montreal, Toronto-Kingston-Ottawa, Toronto-London-Windsor and Toronto-London-Sarnia.

Business class seating has been suspended and business lounges are closed. VIA said it will gradually restore service during the spring.

In a statement, VIA said it will continue to offer “essential service” on all routes. The service reductions will take effect Jan. 19.

Amtrak Hit by Service Disruptions

January 4, 2022

Much like the airlines, Amtrak found itself canceling trains during the holidays due to workers being out sick and train scheduled being “reset” due to several weather hindering trains en route.

The cancellations affected long distance and corridor trains alike although most service disruptions were for a short duration.

Trains magazine reported on its website that passengers whose travel plans were interrupted were notified via text message or an email message.

Amtrak did not issue a general service advisory about the service cancellations but issued an internal notice to employees that the canceled trains were due to “staffing shortages caused by the pandemic,” the magazine said.

In the Midwest three long-distance trains did not depart on Dec. 31, including the City of New Orleans, Empire Builder and California Zephyr.

Also not departing that day was the Silver Meteor between New York and Miami. The Crescent had a few days when it didn’t depart New York or New Orleans.

In the east several trains were annulled for the period of Dec. 31 through Jan. 6. They included Northeast Regional trains 65-66-67.

Northeast Regional trains 136-143-146-157 were canceled between Dec. 31 to Jan. 2.

Capitol Corridor Service to Increase June 7

June 4, 2021

Amtrak service in California’s Capitol Corridor will increase on June 7.

San Jose-Sacramento service will increase from 16 to 22 trips daily, while Oakland-San Jose service will return to the pre-pandemic level of 14 daily trips.

Café Car service also will be reinstated although with a limited menu.

Capitol Corridor service was last increased in June of 2020 when some frequencies cut the previous March during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic were restored.

Some schedules were modified this past March to improve on–time performance and better service the existing travel patterns.

Illinois, Vermont Trains Coming Back July 19

May 21, 2021

Suspended Illinois-funded corridor trains will resume operation on July 19. On the same day, the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express will also return to service.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said that it is restoring service as part of its Rebuild Illinois capital plan.

One daily roundtrip each will be added to the Chicago-Quincy and Chicago-Carbondale routes while two roundtrips will be restored to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Chicago-Quincy Carl Sandburg was suspended along with the Chicago to Carbondale Saluki and Carbondale to Chicago Illini.

Those suspended trains left Chicago in the morning and returned in the evening.

In Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Transportation said the Vermonter will return between St. Albans, Vermont, and Washington.

Also coming back is the Ethan Allen Express between Rutland, Vermont, and New York.

VIA Accepting Reservations for the Ocean

May 10, 2021

Although no date has been announced for a return to service, VIA Rail Canada has begun accepting reservations travel on the Montreal-Halifax, Nova Scotia, Ocean.

Travel can be booked for trips starting July 2, but VIA cautioned that does not necessarily mean the train will begin operations on that date.

The Ocean has been suspended since March 2020. VIA Rail has cancelled and refunded all reservations for travel on the Ocean up to and including, June 30, 2021.

A VIA spokeswoman said the carrier will continue “to monitor the evolution of the situation and work on a safe resumption plan, which will take into account health and sanitary developments of the different provinces where this long-distance route operates.”

Earlier VIA said its Toronoto-Vancouver Canadian would resume operating the length of its route starting May 17.

Currently the Canadian is operating weekly in western Canada with reduced consists and service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Face Mandate Extended to Sept. 11

May 3, 2021

The requirement that face masks be worn while aboard public transportation has been extended until Sept. 13.

The mandate had been set to expire on May 11 but the Transportation Security Agency said it was extended because the COVID-19 pandemic remains a danger to public health.

“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” TSA said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.”

The mandate applies to air and intercity rail travel. Those refusing to comply will be subjected to fines of $250 to $1,500.

Canada Federal Budget Has Funds for VIA Corridor, Infrastructure Projects

April 28, 2021

Canada expects to budget $4.4 million for planning work on VIA Rail Canada’s proposed “high frequency rail” project.

The project seeks to create a passenger-only route for part of the Toronto-Quebec City corridor.

Also in the budget proposal is $491.2 million over six years, beginning in 2021-22, for VIA infrastructure projects that would support the high frequency rail project.

The budget document said $491.2 million would “help reduce bottlenecks, improve fluidity and connectivity, and allow VIA to take an important step toward high-frequency rail in the corridor.”

In an unrelated matter, VIA said that more stringent travel restrictions imposed last week in Ontario and Quebec are not expected to effect the railroad’s scheduled service.

“Passengers are responsible to comply with provincial restrictions,” VIA said in a statement.

Ontario’s new order prohibits non-essential travel into the province while Quebec has closed its borders to travelers from Ontario, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

Stimulus Money Conveyed to Amtrak

April 28, 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation said this week that it has conveyed to Amtrak $1.69 billion in economic stimulus funds authorized by the American Rescue Act of 2021.

The funding includes $728.6 million for Amtrak’s long distance and regional trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak was directed by Congress to allocate $174 million of that total to offset what the carrier charges states for corridor services.

However, the law does not require states to restore their Amtrak corridor services to pre-pandemic levels.

Most states reduced their corridor services during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a plunge in ridership.

Several states have begun restoring suspended services but others have yet to announce their plans.

Among the routes yet to be fully restored is the Wolverine Service between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The route had three roundtrips pre-pandemic, but since March 2020 the level of service has been a single daily roundtrip.

Some Illinois and Missouri routes also continued to operate below pre-pandemic levels.

The directive also mandated that Amtrak return long-distance service to daily operation if they operated as such before last year.

Amtrak has said daily operation will be phased in over a three-weekly period beginning May 24.

The Northeast Corridor will receive $969.4 million of which $109.8 million will go to states and commuter railroads to cover their share of capital costs Amtrak charges them for using the Northeast Corridor.

Another $100.8 million will be used for debt relief that Amtrak incurred before the legislation was adopted on March 11.

Amtrak Vermont Service to Resume July 19

April 9, 2021

Amtrak service to Vermont will resume on July 19.

The service has been suspended for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the trains suspended since March 26, 2020, are the Washington-St. Albans Vermonter and the New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express.

The routes will be among the last of those suspended during the pandemic to resume service.

“We are very pleased to announce the restart of these vital transportation services for Vermonters and those who wish to travel to and from Vermont by train or bus,” Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said in a statement.

 “With the Governor’s announcement this week of the Vermont Forward Plan to re-open Vermont fully during the next few months, we now have a target date for when we will be able to safely resume Amtrak and transit services.”