Posts Tagged ‘intercity rail service’

Texas Central Taps Renfe

October 11, 2018

Spanish company Renfe has been chosen to help operate a Texas high-speed rail service under development.

Texas Central said it has established a partnership with Renfe to operate the proposed service between Dallas and Houston.

Renfe will provide technical advice on design and construction and help Texas Central with operation and maintenance plans.

Another Spanish company, Adif, will help Renfe maintain equipment and signals, and oversee ticketing.

Renfe operates 5,000 trains daily on 7,500 miles of track in Spain.

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NH Coalition Wants Rail Service to Manchester

February 1, 2018

A New England business coalition is trying to drum up support for extending intercity rail passenger service to Manchester, New Hampshire, from Boston.

The group New Hampshire Business for Rail Expansion claims that more than 50 businesses, organizations and individuals support the service, including Northwestern Mutual and University of New Hampshire.

The group is seeking to prod New Hampshire legislators to include the rail service in the state’s 10-year transportation improvement plan, which includes $4 million for the proposed project’s development phase.

That funding would go toward engineering, environmental and geotechnical analysis, as well as a financial plan for funding the service.

“New Hampshire’s economy is strong, but a well-documented lack of in-migration and aging population is hurting businesses that need to fill jobs, which is detrimental to the state’s future,” said coalition spokesman E.J. Powers. “For companies to grow and prosper right here in New Hampshire, they need access to a younger, highly educated workforce.”

The coalition said the route could serve a minimum of 668,000 annual riders.

Brightline to Start Revenue Service Jan. 13

January 11, 2018

Brightline will begin revenue service on Jan. 13 between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach,  Florida.

Fares include a “Try Our Train” fare of $10 per segment for basic service and $15 for Select service with larger seats and snacks and beverages. A segment is one way between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale over tracks of the Florida East Coast.

Service will initially be 10 daily weekday roundtrips and nine on weekends. The end-to-end trip will take 35 minutes with trains leaving as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. Schedules will vary between weekday and weekend service.

In an announcement, Brightline said it expects to expand into downtown Miami in the coming months.

Brightline also said it has shaken up its management team, promoting Patrick Goddard to president in replacement of Chief Executive Dave Howard, who was hired in March 2017.

Trains will operate at a top speed of 79 mph operation on the 67-mile section between Miami and West Palm Beach. Trains are projected to operate at up to 110 mph in the next 133-mile phase of the project to Cocoa Beach.

Brightline May Start This Month

December 5, 2017

All Aboard Florida is now expected to launch Brightline intercity rail passenger service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida, this month, the Fitch Ratings agency reported.

Service to Miami is expected to start in 2018. Brightline has thus far declined to comment on the report.

Fitch said it reached its conclusions as part of an analysis of a $600-million bond issue being set up to pay for the higher-speed passenger service.

The report said Brightline’s financial potential is good based on strong revenue generated by other passenger rail service elsewhere in the U.S.

Fitch expects Brightline to earn $147.6 million in revenue in 2021 and said service can break even with revenue of $90.6 million, ridership of 1.6 million, and average fares substantially lower than those offered on Amtrak’s Acela service between Washington and Boston.

Brightline had earlier indicated that it wanted to launch service five months ago.

The inauguration has been delayed by signal work at grade crossings in Palm Beach County.

The Florida East Coast is hosting the service, the first since FEC ended its own passengers trains in 1968 in the wake of a protracted union strike.

FRA OKs Atlanta Corridor Review

October 2, 2017

The Federal Railroad Administration has released an environmental impact statement of the Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee, high-speed rail corridor.

FRA said in a news release that the completion of the Tier I combined Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the High-Speed Ground Transportation marks the completion of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act and documents FRA’s identification of a preferred corridor.

“This project will benefit both Atlanta and Chattanooga with more efficient transportation, while also providing rail access to the rural communities in the region,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a statement.“This has been a long time in the making and represents a response to numerous transportation needs along the Interstate 75 corridor.”

The proposed corridor would parallel for 120 miles I-75 and feature eight stations, including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at the proposed airport-Southern Crescent station. Trains would make the journey in 88 minutes.

The Georgia Department of Transportation studied the corridor as part of Georgia’s 1997 Intercity Rail Plan, which recommended further study – specifically with an emphasis on high-speed rail service.

Georgia DOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation have identified 15 potential corridors between Atlanta and Chattanooga, but have narrowed the list to three.

A decision on the exact alignment will be part of a Tier II environmental study, if additional funding is approved.

Columbus to Help Fund Passenger Rail Study

June 12, 2017

The city of Columbus has agreed to contribute $250,000 toward the planning efforts to establish intercity rail service between Ohio’s capital city and Chicago.

That amount will be added to the $350,000 already committed by other cities, businesses and others.

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, reported in its June newsletter that some central Ohio entities that it didn’t name might contribute another $100,000.

Work on the proposed Chicago-Columbus route is being conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration and the engineering firm HNTB.

Their planning efforts are currently focused on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline between Lima, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana, that was once used by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Broadway Limited and Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

The preferred route from Columbus is the CSX Toledo Terminal and Scottslawn subdivisions, which cross the ex-PRR mainline at Dunkirk, Ohio.

In a related move, the FRA is reported to be well along in creating a Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study.

That document will create a 40-year vision that builds on the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative that was proposed more than a decade ago but has never been implemented.

The Midwest Midwest rail concept would cost an estimated $2.5 billion for new locomotives, passenger cars, upgraded tracks, modernized stations, increased train frequencies and faster travel times.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission is participating in the plan, which will establish the priorities, and studies and investments needed to implement projects in the coming decades.

Eau Claire Support Rail Service — Again

March 31, 2017

The Eau Claire city council this week voted to support a proposal to establish passenger-rail service between the Wisconsin city and St. Paul, Minnesota.

The vote came after a presentation by the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition, which is supporting a private section plan to start the service.

It is the third vote by the council in support of passenger rail, but other resolutions went nowhere due to lack of funding.

Eau Claire has never had intercity rail passenger service during the Amtrak era.

Pa. Lawmaker Optimistic About Added Service

August 30, 2016

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is predicting that additional Amtrak service could begin in western Pennsylvania within a year.

Amtrak logoUsing a football anology, Bryan Barbin, a Johnstown Democrat, said that additional trains are not at the first and goal position yet, but are five yards or less away from the goal line.

Barbin serves on the House Transportation Committee and spoke with Pennsylvania news media after a meeting of that committee.

He said Norfolk Southern will soon tell the state how much it would cost to increase passenger service.

Currently, the route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is served only by the daily New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian. The region has been lobbying for years for increased service.

Although expanded service has support on both sides of the political aisle, lawmakers say that the price and technical details must still be negotiated.

“This won’t come to a matter of if, but how much it costs,” Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, said.

Lawmakers might gulp if NS demands costly new switches and track improvements.

“You’ve got to take one step at a time,” Barbin said. “But what do you need to make the western corridor more like the eastern corridor? You’d have to make improvements on both sides of the Allegheny Mountain.”

He said federal grants could help cover the costs for track improvements.

“Any time you have a tight budget like we have, it’s never small potatoes. But it’s possible to do it,” Barbin said.

Expanded rail passenger service to Pittsburgh has the support of Pittsburgh city government, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.

Barbin said some in western Pennsylvania have been contrasting the paltry level of rail service in their end of the state with the scale of commuter rail operations in eastern Pennsylvania, particularly the Keystone Service trains from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and New York.

Group Eyes Eau Claire-St. Paul Rail Service

January 28, 2016

A group of western Wisconsin residents is seeking to bring back intercity rail passenger service to Eau Claire, which has not seen a passenger train in 52 years.

The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition was formed in 1999 and is seeking to convince transportation officials in Wisconsin and Minnesota to develop an Eau Claire-Menomonie-Hudson rail passenger corridor.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has been studying development of rail passenger routes from the Twin Cities to Duluth, Rochester and Eau Claire.

WisconsinThe Wisconsin Department of Transportation has been focusing more on improving the Amtrak Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago, but has also collaborated with Minnesota officials in seeking to develop addition intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

The West Central group hopes to persuade transportation officials to route trains through Eau Claire via a Union Pacific route that once  hosted the famed Chicago & North Western 400 trains between Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul that ran 400 miles in 400 minutes.

They have pointed to information from MnDOT showing that more than 100,000 vehicles cross the St. Croix River at Hudson every day with many of those drivers coming from the St. Croix and Chippewa valleys.

MnDOT has estimated that rail service could attract 1,000 to 1,400 passengers a day, which would be 5 percent of the travel market and potentially enough to cover the daily operating cost of rail service.

The West Central group believes that there is a market for four daily roundtrips between Eau Claire and St. Paul. Fares would range between $25 to $40. With an 80-mph speed limit, trains could cover the distance in an hour and 15 minutes.

A public-private partnership might be needed to make the service a reality.

The West Central group formed an organizing council last year that will explore financing options as well as capital needs to rebuild the track between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities.

The service would not necessarily be provided by Amtrak. The West Central group pointed to the public-private partner behind All Aboard Florida and noted that Iowa Pacific Holdings took over from Amtrak the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

To learn more about the coalition, go to http://www.westwisconsinrail.org, or http://www.facebook.com/westcentralwisconsinrail, or twitter.com/WestWisRail

Detroit-Grand Rapids Rail Service to be Studied

March 17, 2015

A proposed Detroit-Lansing-Grand Rapids intercity rail service has reached the study phase.

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority approved a $100,000 contract with Transportation Economics and Management Systems for a ridership and cost estimate study.

The study also will examine demand and feasibility for the corridor that also would serve Holland. Planners will look at the economic and financial impacts of establishing the service.

AAATA is acting as a conduit for pass-through grant funding on behalf of the Michigan Environmental Council, which is taking the lead on the study.

“We provide public transit locally and we are in general in favor of providing public transit to connect this region with other regions,” said Michael Benham, the AAATA’s strategic planner. “There are a number of cities in Michigan that are not connected with one another, and so this is kind of the beginning of an effort to do that.”

Benham said that Amtrak only serves a limited number of cities and the proposed Detroit-Grand Rapids corridor could increase the number of Michigan cities connected by rail.

On the eve of Amtrak, the Cheapeake & Ohio operated two roundtrips between Detroit and Grand Rapids via Lansing, but Benham said a number of alternative routing options will be considered.

One route might have the trains pass through Ann Arbor, although he conceded that might be difficult to do because of the lack of connections between the rail lines that the train would need to use.

For several years, Ann Arbor and state transportation officials have eyed establishing commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit, and between Ann Arbor and Howell.

The Michigan Department of Transportation even acquired former Metra bi-level commuter coaches for the service, which still lacks a funding source.

The cars are being stored in Owosso and the state is making lease payments on them even though they have nowhere to operate.

Of late there have also been discussions about establishing rail passenger service between Ann Arbor and Traverse City with intermediate stops in Cadillac, Mount Pleasant, Alma, Owosso and Howell.

That service would be a continuation of the proposed WALLY commuter rail line between Ann Arbor and Howell.

Reinstating Detroit-Grand Rapids rail service has been talked about at times over the past four decades, but the latest efforts began in 2010 when the Michigan by Rail team, made up of the MEC and the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, collected public input for Michigan’s State Rail Plan that favored establishment of rail service between Michigan’s east and west coasts.

In the 2011 Michigan State Rail Plan, an alternatives analysis and environmental review were recommended for the Detroit-Lansing-Grand Rapids corridor.

In 2013, MEC and MDOT came out in favor of studying Detroit-Holland service. The AAATA received a $100,000 grant from MDOT for the study.

AAATA issued a request for proposals in November and received three bids from interested firms. MDOT must approve the study contract with TEMS before it can be signed.

Benham said it’s unlikely the Detroit-Lansing-Grand Rapids corridor project would involving new tracks.

“All the routes that are being looked at are intended to be routes that already have tracks between the two points,” he said.

AAATA board chairman Charles Griffith describes passenger rail service between Detroit and Grand Rapids as another piece of a larger puzzle.

Although he said he is encouraged that expansion of intercity passenger rail and the establishment of commuter rail have received much attention, there is still much to be done.

“A lot of these things are still in the study phase, so in some ways it doesn’t feel like we’re any closer to actually having rail as an option,” he said.

“It hasn’t exactly become clear to me what the pathway is to actually getting the service up and running and securing the funding.”

As for those idle passenger cars, MDOT is considering subleasing them or getting rid of them. Through May 2014, MDOT had spent $9.5 million to lease and refurbish seven cab and 16 coach cars and is still on the hook for another $2.7 million, according to a state audit that concluded MDOT did not effectively oversee the lease. Planned restroom upgrades for some of the cars could cost another $3.7 million.

However, Benham described that spending as an investment.

“We talk about public involvement. The railcars really give us an opportunity to involve the public in a hands-on way,” he said.

“People wonder what is this commuter rail thing. They see the cars, they get on them, they look around, they go, ‘Ah, this is what you’re talking about.’ Most people get pretty excited about that and it becomes more real and less of this abstract project.”

AAATA recently launched an 18-month feasibility study for the proposed WALLY commuter rail line using a $650,000 federal grant. Consulting firm SmithGroup JJR has been hired to oversee that study.