Posts Tagged ‘Joe Manchin’

Manchin Wants Study of Daily Cardinal

June 27, 2021

Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is pushing for a study of making Amtrak’s Cardinal a daily train.

Nos. 50 and 51 currently operate tri-weekly, departing Chicago on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; and New York on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Manchin said in a news release that he was able to win approval of a measure to fund the study in the Surface Transportation Investment Act that is being considered by the Senate.

“The language I secured in the Surface Transportation Investment Act will require a study on potential options to restore the Cardinal line daily service, which provides access to and from much of West Virginia, Manchin said in statement.

“This is an important first step towards restoring the Cardinal line and I look forward to reviewing the results of this important study to determine how we can best move forward.”

Ridership of Cardinal in W.Va. Fell 31% in FY2019

December 14, 2019

Although ridership of Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal was up 12.6 percent in fiscal year 2019, it collectively fell 31 percent at the eight stations the train serves in West Virginia.

The tri-weekly Cardinal stops in the Mountain State at Huntington, Charleston, Montgomery, Thurmond, Prince, Hinton, Alderson, and White Sulphur Springs.

Those stations served 24,731 passengers in FY2019, but had handled 35,840 in FY2018.

Total ridership for the Cardinal in FY2019 was 108,935 compared with 96,710 the previous year.

That increase came despite Nos. 50 and 51 not serving the New York-Washington segment for eight a half months in 2018 due to construction at New York Penn Station.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin in a statement blamed adverse actions taken by Amtrak that have made it difficult for some to ride the train.

He singled out Amtrak’s closure of ticket offices, including the one in Charleston, the state capitol, on June 6, 2018.

No station served by Amtrak in West Virginia, including those on the route of the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited in Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg, has a ticket office.

“Without a station agent, disabled West Virginians have difficulty accessing the train, and those without access to the Internet cannot buy tickets before they arrive,” Manchin said in his statement that also pointed out that he has heard from residents of the state who have been affected by the loss of agents at Amtrak stations.

Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews said that ridership typically declines at stations that lose a ticket agent.

In Charleston, ridership fell 26 percent from 11,251 passengers in FY2018 to 8,280 in FY2019.

Ridership in Huntington fell 55 percent from 10,784 passengers in FY2018 to 4,870 passengers in FY2019, while Hinton lost 58 percent of its ridership, falling from 5,836 to 2,456.

In White Sulphur Springs ridership dropped from 5,230 to 5,191, while ridership increased at Alderson (433 to 578) and Thurmond (285 to 364). Montgomery saw ridership decline from 347 to 275.

On the Capitol Limited route, ridership at the two West Virginia stops increased by 2.2 percent.

Ridership at Martinsburg nudged up from 10,784 to 10,917, while ridership at Harpers Ferry rose from 7,638 to 7,920.

Manchin has introduced a bill that would require Amtrak to have a station agent in every state that it serves.

He attempted to add similar language to FY2019 transportation appropriations but it was amended to require part-time station caretakers.

Those caretakers do not sell tickets or handled checked baggage.

This year, Manchin introduced stand-alone legislation that would mandate station agents in each state.

The Cardinal also serves Cincinnati and Indianapolis on a route that is primarily hosted by CSX.

2019 New River Train Now Set to Go

August 2, 2019

The long awaited announcement of the return of the New River Train will be made Friday by Rail Excursion Management Company.

The train will operate under the name Autumn Colors Express on the weekend of Oct. 25-27 between Huntington and Hinton, West Virginia.

Ticket sales will begin Aug. 5.

Amtrak agreed earlier this week to a contract with Rail Excursion for the 2019 trains after some prodding by West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.

Manchin had said on Twitter in May that the New River Train would return, but various operational issues had to be ironed out before it was official.

The former operator of the train, the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, had in February canceled the train, citing financial issues.

Rail Excursion said it believes it can reduce the cost of the excursion by keeping its operations to one weekend, therefore avoiding car storage costs.

It also plans to replace a commissary car with additional seating and serving food to all passengers in their seats.

In previous years the New River Train operated over two weekends.

As in past years, private rail cars will be used as part of the excursions.

Providing support for the excursion will be the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society.

The latter has operated excursions behind its 2-8-4 Nickel Plate Road No. 765.

Sponsor Says Excursion Train Still a Go

July 9, 2019

The operator of a proposed fall excursion train that will replace the discontinued New River Train in West Virginia expects to announce shortly details about the excursion.

Lou Capwell of Rail Excursion Management told a Huntington, West Virginia, newspaper the process of organizing the train has been complicated and all he can say at this point is that the excursion will happen.

It is expected to be named the Autumn Colors Express and operate roundtrips on Oct. 25, 26 and 27.

Capwell’s statements came nearly seven weeks after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced that the October Huntington to Hinton excursion trains would run this year after all.

For years the New River Train was sponsored by the Colis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society but that group has been dormant since earlier this year.

News reports said that group had operating losses of $180,000 on last year’s New River Train.

Last February, the Society said it would not operate the New River Train in 2019 due to higher costs and more restrictive policies for operation of private cars and excursion trains imposed by Amtrak.

By focusing operations over one weekend Railexco expects to save the cost of storing rail passenger cars in Huntington due the week. The New River Train had operated over multiple weekends.

Capwell said Railexco is working with state and local government entities, Amtrak, the CSX railroad, and liability insurers to make the excursion train possible.

Amtrak is expected to provide locomotives and operating crew members.

A spokesperson for Manchin said it was the senator’s understanding that an operating agreement for the fall excursion train is close to being finished.

New River Train May Run This Year Afterall

May 25, 2019

A U.S. senator from West Virginia said this week that the New River Train will operate this October after all.

Senator Joe Manchin tweeted this week that he has been working to Amtrak to keep the famed excursion train operating and said he’ll have more details soon.

The train, which operates between Huntington and Hinton, West Virginia, is sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society.

The group said last February it was ending the excursion’s 52-year run due to high costs and financial losses that it attributed in part to increased fees imposed by Amtrak.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that Manchin’s office would not elaborate on the tweet other than to say more information would be released next week.

Manchin Trying to Force Amtrak to Return Agents

June 8, 2018

A West Virginia senator wants federal law to require that every state served by Amtrak have at least one station agent.

Joe Manchin of West Virginia amended a pending fiscal year 2019 transportation appropriations bill to include the requirement after his state lost its last Amtrak ticket agent.

Amtrak closed the ticket office in Charleston, West Virginia, on June 8.

Manchin’s amendment also requires Amtrak to justify its decision to increase prices for special and charter trains, and to stop accepting private passenger cars in Huntington, West Virginia.

In a statement, Manchin said removing the agent at the Charleston station will make it harder for Amtrak to attract new customers and retain the ones it already has.

“Amtrak has told me that most of their sales are now online, but West Virginians buy far more tickets at the Charleston station than most places around the country. That’s not surprising, as nearly 30 percent of West Virginia is without internet access, and mobile broadband access is also difficult in my state’s rugged, mountainous terrain, making online ticket sales difficult,” he said.

Charleston is served by the Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

Senators Plead to Keep Ticket Offices

May 22, 2018

Two U.S. senators are seeking to get Amtrak to delay plans to close ticket offices in their states.

Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) wrote to the passenger carrier to express “serious concerns” about the criteria Amtrak used to determine which ticket offices to close.

In a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, Manchin said removing the ticket agent from Charleston on June 6 “will not only deprive the state of West Virginia of its last Amtrak ticket agent, but will also compromise safety and upkeep of the facility, and make access more difficult for potential customers.”

Manchin said that Charleston handled 9,749 passengers in federal fiscal year 2017, which works out to more than 62 passengers per day for each day that the tri-weekly Cardinal operates there.

He said Amtrak’s decision to calculate ridership on a weekly basis ignores the fact that the Cardinal does not operate daily. “The policy penalizes Charleston’s station for part-time service without allowing it to be a full-time station.”

Manchin also said 30 percent of West Virginia lacks Internet access and that mobile broadband access is limited in many parts of the state.

Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) sought to keep the ticket offices in Havre and Shelby open during a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

He also called on Amtrak to create a station stop in Culbertson.

“The Empire Builder is critically important to keeping our rural communities connected, transporting out-of-state visitors to some of Montana’s pristine landscapes and supporting local economies,” Daines said. “Amtrak must take action to ensure the needs of Montanans and rural travelers are met.”

Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Amtrak, said during the hearing the carrier is supportive of adding a stop at Culbertson once station infrastructure is in place.

W.Va. Officials Optimistic About Saving New River Train

April 25, 2018

West Virginia officials say they had a productive meeting with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson about continuing the annual New River Train and expressed optimism that a deal will be worked out.

In a news release, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said the service has had a stellar record with no operational issues or citations

“I made sure that Amtrak knew the impact this would have on our economy and local non-profit,” Manchin said in the release. “Richard Anderson and I both agree that we need to find a solution and I received a commitment from him that they are committed to continuing their partnership with Collis P. Huntington and finding a solution that both sides are happy with.”

Echoing that was Rep. Even Jenkins who said the meeting has moved the New River Train one step closer to operating.

“There are still some issues that remain to be resolved, but every single person in the room wants to keep the New River Train running,” he said in a news release. “I will continue to work to ensure the New River Train runs for a 52nd year this fall and am encouraged by the results of today’s discussion.”

The New River Train has operated for 51 years, most recently between Huntington and Hinton.

It continued existence has been threatened by a new Amtrak policy that bans most special and charter movements.

Of late, Amtrak has expressed some willingness to allow a limited number of specials that use routes covered by scheduled Amtrak trains.

In the case of the New River Train, it uses CSX tracks also used by Amtrak’s Cardinal.

West Virginia interests have said the New River Train generates $5 million in tourism dollars.

Jenkins said that Anderson understands that the New River Train has a 50-year history and economic impact that distinguishes it from other charter trains.

Amtrak, W.Va. Officials to Talk About New River Train

April 16, 2018

Amtrak executives will meet on Tuesday with public officials from West Virginia to discuss the future of the New River Train, which operates annually in the fall between Huntington and Hinton.

The train, which has operated for the past 51 years, was reportedly in danger of being canceled after Amtrak said last month that it would no longer operate specials and charters.

The passenger carrier has also been restricting the use of its trains by privately-owned rail cars although a formal policy in that regard has yet to be announced.

Last week some West Virginia officials indicated that Amtrak had said it would make an exception to its policy to enable the New River Train to continue operating.

There has been discussion that Amtrak might be amendable to allow select specials on routes over which it runs regularly scheduled trains.

The New River Train uses the route of the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

The train, sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, has been touted for its economic impact, which has been put at $5 million.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin asked Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson for a meeting to discuss the future of the New River Train.

“I will continue doing everything I can to fix this problem,” Manchin said in a news release.