Category Archives: AMTRAK

Website ready with full info on Hartford Line

BERLIN – A full buildout of the website for the upcoming CTrail Hartford Line passenger rail service is now live.

Accessible at hartfordline.com, the website provides future riders with information on the service’s launch on June 16.

“Our enhanced Hartford Line website offers quick and easy navigation to trip planning, station information, schedules and fares,” stated state Transportation Commissioner James Redeker in a release. “It also offers wide-ranging information about easy-to-reach destinations from the Hartford Line.”

When service begins, 17 trains will run between New Haven and Hartford, with 12 of them continuing on to Springfield, Mass., up from six trains previously run solely by Amtrak.

Amtrak trains and trains specifically designated for the Hartford Line will travel up to 110 mph. A trip from New Haven to Springfield will take 81 minutes.

Service will be free on June 16 and June 17, with full weekday service starting June 18.

Parking will also be free through Sept. 4, and then $2 daily or $20 monthly, free on weekends and federal holidays. The Berlin station will have parking for 220 vehicles when complete.

The $769.1 million project using federal and state funding built new stations in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin to go along with New Haven Union Station, New Haven State Street Station, Hartford Union Station, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield Union Station.

Future stations are expected in North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield.

The entire southbound and a portion of the northbound platform of the Berlin station will be complete when service begins, with the whole northbound platform expected to be done by fall, DOT representative Judd Everhart has said. The rest of the passenger bridge, which houses ticket machines and an elevator, is complete.

The station was supposed to accompany a over-100-year-old train station before that building burned at the end of 2016.

Fire officials called the cause “undetermined” after months of investigation, partially held up by insurance claim battles with the DOT.

Development of a mixed-use residential and retail building is in the works for the land adjacent to the train station.

The Berlin Historical Society has been pushing for a rebuild of the station and use of remaining renovation and insurance funds for the project, but DOT officials have said those funds have been directed toward the renovation and cleanup of the site.

The DOT has said it is willing to cooperate with the historical society and the town on any future ideas for the land.

For more information, visit hartfordline.com or follow Hartford Line on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Amtrak grades host freight railroads’ performance

Progressive Railroading

Amtrak has begun posting a quarterly “report card” that rates how long its trains are delayed while traveling on host freight railroads’ tracks.

The majority of Amtrak’s network operates on track owned, maintained and dispatched by freight railroads. Amtrak delays on host railroads are caused primarily by freight railroads that require passenger trains to wait so that freight trains can operate first, Amtrak officials said in the report card.

Federal law requires that Amtrak passenger trains must be given preference over freight trains using any rail line. There are only a few exceptions to that rule, according to Amtrak.

Amtrak’s first Host Railroad Report Card gives letter grades to six Class Is based on delays per 10,000 train miles. Specifically, that is defined as the number of minutes of host-responsible delay, divided by the number of Amtrak train miles operated over that host, times 10,000.

The first report card covers January through December 2017. Amtrak gave Canadian Pacific a grade of A for performance, BNSF Railway Co. a B+, Union Pacific Railroad a B-, CSX a C, and Norfolk Southern Railway and CN an F.

Following are some Amtrak comments regarding hosts’ performance on sample routes:
• 97 percent of passengers on Amtrak’s Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha service, which operates on CP track, arrived at their destinations on time. Ninety percent of trips experienced no freight train interference.
• 90 percent of passengers on Amtrak’s Carl Sandberg/Illinois Zephyr service arrived at their destinations on time with less than 4 minutes of delay by BNSF freight trains.
• More than 57 percent of passengers arrived late at their destinations on the Coast Starlight service, which operates on UP track. On an average trip on this route, passengers experienced 4 separate instances of delay caused by UP freight trains, accounting for 48 minutes of delay on average.
• 50 percent of passengers traveling on the Amtrak Cardinal service on CSX track arrived late at their destinations by an average of 1 hour and 27 minutes. On 85 percent of trips, the Cardinal’s 350 passengers are delayed by CSX freight trains.
• Over 67 percent of passengers arrived late at their destinations while traveling on Amtrak’s Crescent service, which operates on NS track. The typical Amtrak train, carrying 350 passengers, is delayed over 1 hour and 40 minutes due to NS freight trains. Many Amtrak trains wait as long as 3 hours and 12 minutes for NS freight trains using this track.
• Over 200,000 passengers arrived late at their destinations on the Illini/Saluki service, which operates on CN track. Amtrak trains were delayed by CN freight trains on nearly 90 percent of trips on this service.

To read the Amtrak report card, click on this link

Funding for Gateway and Amtrak as Trump signs spending bill

President Trump on Friday signed the $1.3-trillion omnibus spending bill, keeping the government running through September and freeing up federal funding for Amtrak and the Gateway project he had opposed.

As much as $541 million is available for Gateway, which would construct a new tunnel underneath the Hudson River linking New Jersey and New York, and replace the century-old Portal Bridge on the Northeast Corridor leading to Manhattan.

Approval for the funds would circumvent opposition from the Department of Transportation; Seceretary Elaine Chao had wanted New York and New Jersey to finance most of the massive project.

According to reports, Amtrak is expected to contribute a minimum of $388 million to Gateway though its Northeast Corridor Account, while New York and New Jersey will receive an additional $153 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s High-Density States and State of Good Repair grant programs.

While negotiations are ongoing, Gateway will likely receive 60% of the original federal dollars intended for it within omnibus. Trump had threatened to veto the spending bill if it included funds for Gateway, among other reasons.

Although DOT reviews Amtrak’s operations, reports said it will have limited ability to withhold $650 million for the Northeast Corridor Account under the omnibus, for projects throughout the region.

At the same time, Gateway can compete for additional money through the New Starts Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, which is slated to receive $2.645 billion.

Gateway has two pending applications for the grants, to replace the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in northern New Jersey, and for the Hudson Tunnel project.

USDOT will have $27.3 billion in discretionary appropriations for FY18, but the House Appropriations Committee says that in total budgetary resources, including offsetting collections, the bill provides $86.2 billion to improve and maintain transportation infrastructure.

The popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program will get a $1 billion boost over FY17 levels with $1.5 billion available. Language in the bill ensures that at least 30 percent of these grants will go to rural communities.

Federal investments in rail infrastructure and safety programs are funded at $3.1 billion. Amtrak is provided with $1.9 billion, which includes $650 million for Northeast Corridor (NEC) grants and $1.3 billion to support the national intercity network. Also included is funding for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants at $250 million to address critical rail investments nationwide and on the NEC. Rail safety and research programs are funded at $287 million to fund inspectors and training, plus maintenance and safety investments to the physical rail infrastructure.

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants are funded at $593 million to fund capital and safety improvements, planning, environmental work and research. There is also $250 million included for grants available to rail operators in install Positive Train Control.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program receives a $25 million allocation for the first time and $350,000 has been allotted to help short line and regional railroads apply and take advantage of the program.

The Federal Transit Administration is provided with $13.5 billion in total budgetary resources, which include $9.7 billion “to help local communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems.” Within the $9.7 billion is $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants transit projects. “New Starts” projects are funded at $1.5 billion, Core Capacity projects at $716 million and Small Starts projects at $400 million.

Hudson rail tunnel gets boost from Congressional spending bill

There is new hope Thursday for the Gateway Project to build a much-needed additional rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River to be used by both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit along the Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest.

As part of a new spending package to keep the government running past Friday, Congressional lawmakers have agreed to more than half a billion dollars for the project.

President Donald Trump has opposed the new tunnel that supporters say are desperately needed to to keep train running amid an aging infrastructure, in part because it is a top priority of Senate Minority Leader Senator Charles Schumer.

Related: 7 On Your Side Investigates: New rail tunnel needed to avoid transportation Armageddon

“People in New York are very happy with the results we achieved,” Schumer said Thursday.

A smiling Schumer announced that he got key Republicans to agree to put the money in the budget to jump start the project. While the $500 million commitment is less than 5 percent of the $11 billion tunnel price tag, Schumer praised the agreement.

“We provided a reliable pathway for one of the most important infrastructure projects in the country,” he said.

Last month, an Eyewitness News investigation showed exclusively how the existing 107-year-old tunnel is crumbling due to its age and damage from Superstorm Sandy.

“Every day, salt and chlorides left behind are eating away at the tunnel walls and infrastructure protecting high voltage cables,” Amtrak’s Craig Schultz said.

Amtrak knows the time is coming, soon perhaps, when patching the crumbling concrete won’t be enough.

“It’s that urgent,” Schultz said. “Every day that we don’t begin construction on a new tunnel, we increase the risk of an infrastructure failure on the old one.”

Both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy have committed to picking up half of the $11 billion price tag. The commitment from Congress keeps the project alive, but barely.

“One big step, with a lot more that needs to come,” Murphy said. “But we need the federal government to be a full partner in this project. But a big step in the right direction.”

Construction of the estimated $11 billion tunnel is planned for next year. Under the current spending bill, they also can compete for $2.9 billion in federal grants for the project.

Amtrak also praised the appropriations bill.

“Amtrak applauds Congress for providing increased funding for intercity passenger rail, including grants to Amtrak, in the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill,” Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement. “Amtrak thanks Congress for recognizing the importance of intercity passenger rail and the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The increased NEC capital funding will allow us to address many important needs along the Corridor and we look forward to working closely with the Department of Transportation on investing these funds to advance the most critical projects.”

Amtrak Downeaster may expand for the summer

The Amtrak Downeaster, which currently runs from Boston to Brunswick, could go as far north as Rockland this summer if the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) approves a pilot program in March. NNERPA wants to ensure that Maine communities will be active Amtrak partners before it finalizes the service, the Maine Free Press reported last week.

The program would include additional stops in Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle and Rockland. NNEPRA is currently holding forums in each of these towns. The Downeaster would use existing railroads that primarily carry freight trains.

The summer expansion would mainly target tourists coming up from Boston. Maine Eastern Railroad previously ran a summer service between Brunswick and Rockland but ended it in 2015, according to U.S. News.

2 dead, 70 injured as Amtrak train collides with freight train in South Carolina

At least two people were killed and 70 injured early Sunday when an Amtrak passenger train collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina — the third deadly wreck involving Amtrak in less than two months.

The crash, which involved Amtrak Train 91 heading from New York to Miami, occurred at 2:35 a.m. in Cayce, S.C., about 10 miles south of Columbia, according to Derrec Becker of South Carolina Emergency Management.

Both fatalities were Amtrak employees on the passenger train, Gov. Henry McMaster said in a press conference Sunday.

The CSX train was parked on what appears to be a side track when the Amtrak train slammed into it at about 59 mph, McMaster said. Of the 139 people on the Amtrak train, 116 people were taken to hospitals, he said.

Palmetto Health Director of Emergency Preparedness Dr. Steve Shelton says one patient is in critical condition and two are in serious conditions, with the rest suffering minor injuries, like cuts and bruises.

Passenger injuries ranged from scratches to broken bones, Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill said.

3 cars on Amtrak train with 311 passengers derail, none hurt

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3 cars on Amtrak train with 311 passengers derail, none hurt
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An Amtrak passenger train sits in New York City's Pennsylvania Station, U.S. April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Three cars on an Amtrak train carrying more than 300 passengers on a route from Miami to New York derailed in snow-covered Savannah after a fierce winter storm, but no injuries were reported.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said Silver Meteor train 98 was backing slowly into the Savannah station about 10 p.m. Wednesday — hours after the storm clobbered the Southeast coast — when two sleeper cars and a baggage car derailed.

“All three cars — a baggage car and two sleeper cars — are fully upright,” Abrams said in an email statement early Thursday to The Associated Press.

He said there were 311 passengers on board, in addition to crew, but he had no reports of anyone hurt.

Abrams’ statement said the main train was to continue its journey north though some of the sleeping car passengers had to be put aboard a different train.

He didn’t say what caused the derailment, and the statement also gave no immediate indication whether the storm that coated Savannah with a rare snowfall on Wednesday was a factor.

The National Weather Service said Savannah’s first measurable snowfall since February 2010 was recorded Wednesday in the normally balmy Southern City at 1.2 inches (3 centimeters). It was the first snow in Savannah that exceeded an inch (2.5 centimeters) in 28 years. The fast-intensifying storm on Thursday had moved further up the East Coast.

News footage from the site showed police and other emergency vehicles with flashing lights crunching over snow and ice and converging near tracks where the derailment occurred.

Passenger Joel Potischman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he boarded the train early in the day in Delray Beach, Fla., to head home to Brooklyn, New York. He said the train was en route north amid winter scenes of snow and ice.

Another passenger, Mike Zevon, told the newspaper that it was the last three cars that derailed.

Abrams’ statement didn’t elaborate on how many cars were in the formation and conditions with the weather or the tracks at the time.

The more we learn about Amtrak derailment the stranger it gets

From TheHill.com

As a retired National Transportation Safety Board railroad and rapid transit accident investigator, the more I hear about the Dec. 18 derailment of Washington state Amtrak Cascades train 501, the stranger it gets. Confirmed “facts” seem to be very few so far.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, which killed three people and injured more than 50 others, and is still trying to determine the probable cause and prevent such accidents in the future.

People have an innate need to know, particularly with unexpected public transportation accidents as part of their own sense of security and trust. The sooner we know, the better.

But we could be waiting a while before we hear from the safety board about what led to the derailment. The length of time the safety board has taken to produce “the facts,” let alone a public report, has greatly lengthened over the past two decades, mostly due to safety board management.
An accident investigation has gone from nine months to over two years for a “major” investigation such as this accident. The prolonged process has been sold to Congress and to the public as a way to produce more thorough reports and recommendations, although the success of these efforts is debatable. In the interim, the public is left guessing.

At this point in the investigation, the “field phase,” safety board investigators work fairly quickly to garner the facts, which will be consolidated into a single report. After this stage the process slows down, especially with high-profile accident investigations involving public hearings and senior-level managers. Ultimately, a final report is far in the future.

With this incident, there appear to be a number of safety issues, including the choice and costs associated with the railroad route itself. The most important looks like a human performance safety issue.

It appears that there were two people in the lead locomotive control cab of the train who were both injured and hospitalized: an instructor engineer, and another engineer who was learning the territory and qualifying to operate the train along the route.

The derailment occurred on the first day of higher-speed service. The propriety of conducting such training on the inaugural run of the service is debatable. Railroad union hearsay alleges that the two locomotive engineers lost track of where they were because much — if not all — previous route qualification training had taken place at night when busy freight railroad traffic could accommodate the luxury of a non-revenue passenger train on multiple training runs. As a result, on the maiden run the two engineers had difficulty associating daytime landmarks with their ever-changing location.

To a large extent, this is the main tool engineers use to track their location. The environment’s physical characteristics are crucial to knowing one’s location, just like when we drive our cars. However, there are additional aids available depending on the train control systems in place.

In addition, there are allegations that these prior night training sessions had upwards of six people in the locomotive cab in order to qualify as many engineers as possible to operate trains along this route in the short amount of available time before service started.

This crowded training occurred despite the fact that there are usually only two seats in the rather small cab. Training for a route varies depending on the experience of the engineer and can require as little as two trips to as many as 10 or more.

Thus, it is alleged that none of the qualifying engineers were getting the undivided attention needed to memorize the route without distraction. In a nutshell, this is what is rumored.

If true, it places the onus on those managing this operation and their judgment and experience, or lack thereof. The lack of competent oversight by management and/or policy may lie at the root cause of this accident. But we, the public, won’t know for sure until the National Transportation Safety Board gets a sense of urgency and tells us.

Amtrak train derails in Washington state, leaving car dangling over highway

Live from CNBC news

An Amtrak train derailed in Washington state Monday morning, leaving at least one of the cars dangling from an overpass over a highway, officials said.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, there were “injuries and casualties” in the incident but it was not clear how many or how severe.

Some 75 people were on board the train, which was headed south, a Washington state Department of Transportation spokesperson said.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said the derailment was blocking all southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Mounts Road in Pierce County.

All SB lanes of I-5 blocked near Mounts Road in Pierce County due to derailed train car. Avoid area!

Workers to make 137 rail passenger cars in Central Valley, California

Central Valley BusinessTimes

Jobs for Central Valley workers are being created through a $371 million contract to build railroad passenger cars in Sacramento.
The California Department of Transportation says Sumitomo Corporation of Americas along with Siemens will be fulfilling the multi-state contract for the new railcars, 49 pf which will be used by Caltrans and 88 by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Building the new passenger coaches will support hundreds of skilled and high-wage manufacturing jobs in California, Caltrans says.
The cars are to be 100 percent “Buy America” from suppliers in California and across the country.
“This contract is moving full-speed ahead and that is good news for Californians, both in terms of job creation and better passenger rail service,” says Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.
Each car will be built at the Siemens rail manufacturing hub in Sacramento. The plant, which has been in operation for more than 30 years, is also powered in part by renewable energy. The Sacramento facility features full design, engineering, and manufacturing capabilities for not only passenger coaches, but across the rolling stock industry including electric and diesel-electric locomotives, light rail, and streetcars.
Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rolling Stock, says the new coaches “will use the industry’s latest, proven rail technology to provide passengers with a safe, modern and highly comfortable ride.”
The new railcars will be used on the intercity rail lines throughout California that serve almost 6 million passengers annually on the San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner Amtrak routes. The new cars will come with interiors that focus on passenger comfort and convenience, such as wi-fi, spacious seats with power outlets, large windows for all passengers, bike racks, overhead luggage storage, work tables, state-of-the-art restrooms with touchless controls and full ADA accessibility throughout the cars.
The first cars are expected to begin production within the year.