Tag Archives: AMTRAK

Why Can’t America Have Great Trains?

Does not get enough into the reasons why United States has not kept up with the World in rail travel. Perhaps it is because freight railroads have not wanted to give up space to passenger rail? American freight railroads have merged into huge operations and are extremely profitable. Who owns freight rail? Big companies, powerful owners. Let’s start with Warren Buffet.
Yes, there are other alternatives. One under development is Florida East Coast Railway. Already a strong regional freight carrier, they are building an important passenger rail project in Florida: All Aboard Florida, which will provide a fast rail connection between Miami and Orlando.
AllAboardFloridaColoredTrain
Amtrak is somewhat bureaucratic in nature because of it’s close government relationship. Joe Boardman is a career-long bureaucrat at both the Federal and New York State level.
Yes, the infrastructure requires improvements. Much of the money has gone to improving the Northeast Corridor between Boston, New York City and Washington. Otherwise, many improvements are needed. For example, passenger rail across the Hudson River at Albany uses a bridge begun when Abraham Lincoln was President.
LivingstonAvenueBridge
Advertisements

Philadelphia Proposal: Bring Amtrak Trains to Center City

Recently there was an article in PhillyMag about bringing Amtrak into the Center City, using the existing tunnel. It’s the easiest thing in the world to board an Amtrak train in Philly and be in New York barely an hour later. Would it be an even better process if Philadelphians could board that train in Center City? There is already a tunnel , Why not use it?

It goes from 30th Street Station to Suburban and Market Street stations and is  used by SEPTA. Just let a couple of Amtrak trains per hour use that tunnel, he says, and the results might be startling:
Transit expert Bob Previdi thinks so “Having Amtrak operating in the Center City Tunnel would not only be good for business and tourism, it could also make the housing stock of Philadelphia and its suburbs more commutable to NYC. Most people in Philadelphia do not understand just how bad commuting distances are in in NYC and what opportunities there are to attract home buyers. For example, 14,000 cars a day park at the Long Island Rail Road’s Ronkonkoma Station in Suffolk County to take one hour and 20 minute train ride to/from Penn Station each way! Combine the long trek with a New York State tax rate of nearly 9 percent and even with the high monthly ticket fee of Amtrak we can still promote living in Pennsylvania as a real value.”

There’s a lot that’s appealing about this idea. 30th Street Station, grand though it is, is across the river from the heart of the city.

But in saying that the only thing standing in the way of operating Amtrak service through the Commuter Tunnel is the political will to bring the passenger and freight railroads together to implement the through-tunnel service.
Philadelphia Market East Station
Philadelphia Market East Station
The next day, PhillyMag had another article about how you can’t do it. Amtrak service through the Commuter Tunnel sounds like a great idea. But there’s this little engineering issue …

The problem with the proposal is this: Once Amtrak trains would exit the Commuter Tunnel’s east portal, there would be no way for them to get back to the tracks heading to New York Penn Station. That’s because the tracks feeding the tunnel from the north belonged to the Reading Railroad, and the Reading had no physical connections to its crosstown rival, the Pennsylvania.

The Reading did operate its own Philadelphia-New York trains, to be sure. They followed the route of what’s now SEPTA’s West Trenton Line and used the Jersey Central to reach a terminal in Jersey City, where passengers could catch ferries to Lower Manhattan.

The Jersey Central and the Jersey City train station are both gone. And even if a new terminal were built there, it would simply trade inconvenience in New York for inconvenience in Philadelphia.

A new, high-speed connection would have to be built to allow Amtrak Northeast Regional trains to run between Washington and New York via “Philadelphia City Hall.” And that would cost some money and require some land.

The good news is that there is a place where such a connection could be built. It’s near Woodbourne station on the West Trenton line. South of this station, the West Trenton line tracks pass under the former Pennsylvania Railroad Trenton Cutoff, which connects with the main Northeast Corridor line at Morrisville, just across the Delaware from Trenton. A two-track flyover there from south of the crossover to east of it would allow for the through Commuter Tunnel service.  Build that, and restore the catenary from the junction to Morrisville, and we’re in business.

It would cost less to build this than it would to build the north-south tunnel under Philadelphia with stations at the airport and Market East.

 

Read more about railroads and transit in Philadelphia. Read more about tourism in Philadelphia.

High Speed Rail

If you follow us, you know we have the most complete news on Florida.

Dallas Houston Bullet Train
Dallas Houston Bullet Train

 

KC Jones has been following Texas Central Railway’s plan to build a Dallas-to-Houston bullet train.

California Bullet Train
California Bullet Train

 

On to California. Their biggest problem has been finding. But now private investors are warming to California high-speed rail. Does this means maybe a 50-mile segment called “The Pepsi Trail”; or maybe naming rights for stations: “next station stop is Goldman Sachs”? The Sacramento Business Journal sees many possibilities. Nine companies, mostly large construction, engineering and infrastructure firms that have worked on high-speed rail elsewhere, have written letters saying they are interested in financing part of what would be the state’s largest-ever infrastructure project. “We would be very interested in participating in the competition for the construction and financing of California high-speed rail projects,” reads part of a letter from AECOM, a major engineering firm. Other companies writing to bullet train planners include Grupo ACS, Sener, Vinci ConcessionsSiemens, Railgrup, Sacyr, Acciona Concesiones and Astaldi SpA.

AmtrakLincolnService04

The New York Times has presented a report on the almost $11 billion spent on High Speed Rail by the Obama Administration.

High-speed rail was supposed to be President Obama’s signature transportation project, but despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere and the United States still lags far behind Europe and China.

While Republican opposition and community protests have slowed the projects here, transportation policy experts and members of both parties also place blame for the failures on missteps by the Obama administration — which in July asked Congress for nearly $10 billion more for high-speed initiatives.

Instead of putting the $11 billion directly into those projects, critics say, the administration made the mistake of parceling out the money to upgrade existing Amtrak service, which will allow trains to go no faster than 110 miles per hour. None of the money originally went to service in the Northeast Corridor, the most likely place for high-speed rail.

Continue reading the main story

On a 30-mile stretch of railroad between Westerly and Cranston, R.I., Amtrak’s 150-m.p.h. Acela hits its top speed — for five or 10 minutes. On the crowded New York to Washington corridor, the Acela averages only 80 m.p.h., and a plan to bring it up to the speed of Japanese bullet-trains, which can top 220 m.p.h., will take $150 billion and 26 years, if it ever happens.

Amtrak Northeast Corridor
Amtrak Northeast Corridor

New Jersey News 12 has reported on “Feds take first step in bringing high speed rail to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in NJ”

The federal government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bring high speed rail to the Northeast.

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, running from Washington, D.C. to Boston, is the crown jewel of the nation’s railroad system. 

Trains traveling 160 mph could soon fly across the rails, and New Jersey’s tracks are the key to the whole plan.

 

Chinese Electric Locomotive
Chinese Electric Locomotive

Finally, a Forbes story on Chinese High Speed Rail.

Those Smelly Old Oil Trains YET Again, Why Are They Secret?

What a crazy scene we have. Oil trains are like a military secret. Wheat and other crops rot on docks while we run oil trains. The only expert anybody seems to find is Warren Buffet. OK, a cool guy. Made lots of coins trading stocks. Otherwise, he has no concern with the American farmer, Amtrak passengers (who owns Amtrak stock?), rich heritage of the BNSF railroad: probably sell it in a New York minute to CSX or NS. He is quoted as an insurance expert: probably owns a few insurance companies.

Two loaded and two empty crude oil trains operate daily over Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in Maryland and Delaware, according a document submitted by the passenger railroad in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Last month, Norfolk Southern, the freight railroad that operates the crude oil trains, went to court in Maryland to block the state Department of the Environment from making the same information available to McClatchy and The Associated Press.

The Amtrak document also contains some details of Norfolk Southern’s crude oil train operations in Pennsylvania. That state last month denied requests from McClatchy and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to provide information about the shipments.

Dave Pidgeon, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, declined to comment.

In May, following a series of derailments, fires and spills involving crude oil trains, the U.S. Department of Transportation required railroads to notify states about train shipments of 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil to help emergency responders better prepare for an incident.

There is no federal law that shields the crude oil train information from public release. Nonetheless, railroads asked states to sign confidentiality agreements, and some states, including Maryland and Pennsylvania, complied.

However, other states, including California, Washington, Illinois and Florida, did not sign the agreements and have made the crude oil train details available to McClatchy and other news organizations.

In Maryland, according to documents filed on July 23 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, state Attorney General Doug Gansler’s office had voided the confidentiality agreements that a state official had signed. However, both Norfolk Southern and rival carrier CSX contested the attorney general’s ruling and sought an injunction to prevent the imminent release of the records.

Pennsylvania is one of the largest single destinations in the country for Bakken crude oil by train. On Monday, McClatchy appealed the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency’s denial of an open records request for crude oil train details there.

Amtrak owns or controls lines in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware that Norfolk Southern uses for freight. The national passenger railroad is subject to the federal Freedom of Information Act.

According to Amtrak, Norfolk Southern’s crude oil trains operate over 21 miles of the Northeast Corridor, the busiest passenger train route in the country. The crude oil trains travel between Perryville, Md., and Newark, Del., sometimes alongside Amtrak’s passenger trains. They also use a portion of a line east of Harrisburg, Pa., that Amtrak controls.The trains are generally 100 cars and weigh 13,500 tons loaded and 4,000 tons empty. By contrast, Amtrak’s flagship Acela Express trains include two locomotives and six cars, weighing a total of 624 tons.

Freight trains commonly operate over the Northeast Corridor at night, but some run during the day. Amtrak restricts Norfolk Southern’s crude oil trains to 30 mph from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Overnight, the trains can operate at 50 mph.

Norfolk Southern crude oil trains cannot exceed 135 cars on Amtrak lines.

The Norfolk Southern trains supply the PBF Energy refinery in Delaware City, Del. The facility closed in 2009, only to be revived with rail deliveries of domestic crude oil.

Most freight railroad insurance policies couldn’t begin to cover damage from a moderate oil train accident, much less a major disaster. And the Department of Transportation’s own database of oil train incidents is flawed because some railroads and shippers provide incomplete information that far understates property damage.

Those conclusions come from a DOT analysis of its own rule proposed to address the series of troubling derailments across North America as shipments of oil by rail surge.

The department issued the analysis Aug. 1, the same day it published its proposed oil train safety rule that is meant to create what Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx calls a “New World Order” in oil trains regulations, including by requiring sturdier tank cars, tightened speed limits and improved brakes for the trains carrying an ever-greater amount of crude oil through communities from Southern California to Albany, N.Y.

The rule would not expressly address the insurance issue, except to cite the general liability landscape as part of the need for the rule, which seeks to prevent the worst disasters from happening and mitigate damages from those that do.

Gaps in insurance coverage became an issue after the July 2013 disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which occurred when a train that had been left unattended careened down an incline, derailed and charred much of the downtown area, killing 47 people. The damages from that wreck could stretch into the billions of dollars, but the railroad responsible for the derailment carried only $25 million of insurance and wound up declaring bankruptcy.

DOT’s analysis says most of the largest railroads commonly carry around $25 million in insurance, though that can rise to as much as $50 million for trains hauling certain kinds of hazardous chemicals. Smaller railroads — such as the one in the Lac-Mégantic disaster — often carry much less than that.

But the agency’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration estimated that the average derailment that spills crude oil will mean $25 million in total costs — bumping up against most of even the largest railroads’ current insurance limits.

(For “higher-consequence events” — such as the one in Lac-Mégantic — “it appears that no amount of coverage is adequate,” the analysis says. That’s because the maximum amount of coverage available on the market is $1 billion per carrier, per incident.

“You should know the railroads are used to running bare — without adequate insurance,” said Fred Millar, an independent rail consultant who has criticized the government’s oversight of oil trains. “And the situation that is described in the [analysis] from Lac-Mégantic is only just the tip of the iceberg. The railroads basically know that they have cargoes that can cause massive, enormously greater death and destruction than what happened in Lac-Mégantic.”

Devorah Ancel, an attorney for the Sierra Club, said insurance coverage “needs to catch up with the heightened risk that is part of this industry now,” because otherwise “taxpayers end up covering it.”

The Association of American Railroads declined to comment, saying the group is still reviewing the pending rule and its supporting documents, including the regulatory analysis, and the American Petroleum Institute said it would file its comments as part of the public comment period.

(We are working closely with regulators and the rail industry in a comprehensive effort to enhance safety through accident prevention, mitigation and response,” API said.

But railroads know they’re underinsured and have groused about the status quo, particularly considering the fact that energy companies that ship oil and ethanol largely do not bear any liability for an incident once their product is loaded onto a train. And under “common carrier” regulations, railroads cannot refuse a shipment any kind of material assuming it meets proper regulations.

Warren Buffett’s BNSF railroad, the pioneer in the oil train industry, has been requesting that railroads get some of the same protections now afforded to the nuclear power industry, using the Price-Anderson Act as a model. That law requires power companies to contribute to an insurance fund that would be used in the event of an accident, and it also partially indemnifies the nuclear power industry.

The DOT analysis also points to a systemic weakness in the way the federal government collects data on derailments of crude oil and ethanol trains. In the section dealing with the probability of major rail accidents, the analysis observes that it’s “impossible to isolate the derailment rate of only crude oil and ethanol trains” due to “limitations in the reported data.”

(That’s because PHMSA requires an incident report to be filed only if the incident led to the release of a hazardous material — so derailments that did not result in a spill aren’t included. As a result, even some dramatic accidents aren’t included in the database — for instance, one earlier this year that resulted in a crude oil train dangling over Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River.

Separately, DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration maintains data on derailments, including how much hazardous material was released — but doesn’t identify what type of substance it was. “As a result, it is impossible to use FRA data to identify crude and ethanol derailments,” the department said.

And the data that is reported, particularly to PHMSA, is often inaccurate, largely because it is self-reported by railroads or shippers, according to the analysis. And these self-reports often underestimate the damages done in spill incidents.

According to the analysis, damage information reported to PHMSA is typically “only the most basic costs” such as the value of spilled petroleum and damage to tracks and cars.

“PHMSA believes that response costs and basic cleanup costs, when they are reported, do not represent the full costs of an accident of the response,” the report said.

Underreporting damages, particularly for environmental cleanup costs, ends up hiding the true impact of a spill from policymakers, Sierra Club’s Ancel said. She hopes the pending rule will address the issue.

“It is extremely important that the industry is required to adequately report — and there should be some sort of mechanism in the rule where the agency has inspectors that are ensuring that they are,” she said. “So not only should the industry be on the hook for reporting, but the agency needs to be able to have the resources to ensure that they are.”

 

 

Connecticut To Seek Operators For New Haven-Springfield Commuter Rail Line

Image

Newington Junction Station in 1930’s

Newington Junction is a section of the town of Newington, Connecticut. It is centered at the intersection of Willard Avenue (Route 173) and West Hill Road in the northwestern part of the town, in the area generally just south of the Hartford city line. The name of the area refers to the railroad junction where the railroad line from New Haven meets with the railroad line from Bristol and Waterbury. The depot on the left was built in 1891 by the New York & New England RR. The passenger station on the right and the freight depot behind it were constructed by the NYNH&H in 1890.

Thanks to Tyler City Station, The most authoritative source for information on Connecticut railroad stations

The Hartford and New Haven Railroad of Connecticut was chartered in 1833 to build a railroad between Hartford and New Haven. The Hartford and Springfield Railroad was incorporated April 5, 1839. It built the Massachusetts portion of the Hartford-Springfield route, which opened in 1844. In 1847, it was united with the Hartford and New Haven Railroad. The H&NH was consolidated into the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1872. Ownership of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line passed to Penn Central and was sold to Amtrak when Conrail was formed. During Amtrak ownership, the second track was ripped up. Can’t blame them, but Governor Malloy’s predecessors should have stepped in and paid to keep it.

Update April 3, 2014

Connecticut is looking for providers to operate a planned high-speed commuter rail service between New Haven and Springfield.

Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration says it will begin accepting competitive proposals from railroad companies in the next six to twelve months to operate the shuttle, which is scheduled to begin service in late 2016.

Deputy Transportation Commissioner Anna Barry says the process is designed to get the best quality operation and customer service along a key corridor.

We’re making improvements to the line to improve speeds up to a maximum of 110 miles an hour,” Barry says. “And we think we’ll offer a competitive travel time for folks who are traveling between New Haven and Springfield and points in between. And we think it will provide a tremendous opportunity for folks traveling between those points for work, school, recreation and overall economic development.”

Barry says Amtrak, which owns the tracks, is being encouraged to compete to provide the shuttle service that is slated to start with about ten round trips a day  Lot of good competitors out there too, starting with MTA Metro-North. Put Veolia in there too.

Saw recently that the Governor arranged for a special train to New York City for fans of University of Connecticut going to their successful basketball finals. But the train started in New Haven! Last I knew, UCONN was east of Hartford in Storrs. No rail there, transportation is provided by the Mary Martin bus company. But just a few miles away is Manchester served by freight railroad Connecticut Southern Railroad. Wave some dollar bills in front of them, and I bet they would let a special train use their tracks. No, the problem was probably between Hartford and New Haven with, of course, Amtrak.

Like the I-95 corridor across southern Connecticut, the I-91 corridor through the center of Connecticut is a vital artery for economic development and jobs growth,” Governor Malloy said.  “Enhancing commuter rail service between New Haven and Springfield will benefit commuters and their employers, and will reduce traffic congestion by taking cars off the road, with the added bonus of reduced pollution.”

The Governor continued, “As the gateway to New England, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail program will also facilitate improved service to Massachusetts, Vermont and eventually Montreal.  New train service will connect communities, generate sustainable economic growth, help build energy independence, and provide links to travel corridors and markets within and beyond the region.”

Amtrak will remain responsible for existing services on the line. For current services, visit www.amtrak.com

The New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) Rail Program (www.nhhsrail.com) will provide significant new regional passenger rail service options as a key component of a robust and vibrant multi-modal regional transportation system.  With funding from the new High-Speed Intercity Rail Program created in 2008, the NHHS Rail Program will provide the infrastructure and trains to operate some of the nation’s best passenger rail services.  As the gateway to New England, the NHHS Rail Program will also facilitate improved service to Massachusetts, Vermont and eventually Montreal.

In the future, NHHS rail service will operate at speeds up to 110 mph, cutting travel time between Springfield and New Haven to as little as 73 minutes.  Travelers at New Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield will be able to board trains approximately every 30 minutes during the peak morning and evening rush hour and hourly during the rest of day, with direct or connecting service to New York City and multiple frequencies to Boston or Vermont (via Springfield).  Future train stations also are planned at North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield.

Denver Amtrak Reopens at Union Station

Image

Above This is the canopy covering the Amtrak platforms now open at Denver’s 133 year-old Union Station.  Although most of Union Station is still under construction, and not yet open to passengers, this marks the first major milestone in the reopening of the station. For now Amtrak passengers will still use temporary facilities to wait, buy tickets, and retrieve luggage, according to the DenverUrbanism Blog.

See our WebSite about Rail and Transit in Denver

Amtrak’s California Zephyr has resumed service to platforms at Denver Union Station after a three-year absence and as a nearly $500 million restoration of the historic Denver rail hub continues.

What if the Airlines owned the passenger rail service in the USA?

Image

Got a couple of great opinions on rail passenger service. Check them out and enjoy!

At top is our high speed rail picture on the Northeast Corridor

Penney

What if the Airlines owned the passenger rail service in the USA?

Thomas Stagliano, Senior Aerospace Engineer

Imagine travel between NYC and Boston or Washington DC done solely on high speed trains? 100 min center-city to center city…… And you bought your ticket from Delta?
.
And if you wanted to fly from Boston to Istanbul, and the best flight was from JFK airport, you took a high speed train from BOS to NYC and transferred to a special subway car that took you directly to JFK terminal. And you passed TSA screening while on the train, and checked you bags to your final destination on the train.
.
Multi-modal seems to be the next big step in Public Transportation. And instead of dealing with Delta Airlines or Amtrak or Greyhound, you dealt with a Transportation company that booked all of your multi-modal travel on One Ticket.
.
The Federal Government subsidizes the airports and manages the ATC system, and subsidizes the highways. Why not have the Feds build the high speed rail system (~200 mph peak speeds) and that would free up valuable gate space at the airports for longer distance travel.
The sky is the limit…..

Now for the second opinion

The Economist explains

Why don’t Americans ride trains?

Aug 29th 2013, 23:50 by N.B. | WASHINGTON, DC

AMERICA has by far the largest rail network in the world, with more than twice as much track as China. But it lags far behind other first-world countries in ridership. Instead of passengers, most of America’s massive rail network is used to carry freight. Why don’t Americans ride trains?

Rail ridership is usually measured in passenger-kilometres—one passenger-kilometre represents one passenger travelling one kilometre. One 1,000-person train travelling 1,000 kilometres would on its own account for a million passenger-kilometres. Yet American railroads accounted for just 17.2 billion passenger-kilometres in 2010, according to Amtrak, America’s government-backed passenger rail corporation. In the European Union, railways accounted for nearly 400 billion, according to International Union of Railways data. When you adjust for population, the disparity is even more shocking: per capita, the Japanese, the Swiss, the French, the Danes, the Russians, the Austrians, the Ukrainians, the Belarussians and the Belgians all accounted for more than 1,000 passenger-kilometres by rail in 2011; Americans accounted for 80. Amtrak carries 31m passengers per year. Mozambique’s railways carried 108m passengers in 2011.

There are many reasons why Americans don’t ride the rails as often as their European cousins. Most obviously, America is bigger than most European countries. Outside the northeast corridor, the central Texas megalopolis, California and the eastern Midwest, density is sometimes too low to support intercity train travel. Underinvestment, and a preference for shiny new visions over boring upgrades, has not helped. Most American passenger trains travel on tracks that are owned by freight companies. That means most trains have to defer to freight services, leading to lengthy delays that scare off passengers who want to arrive on time. Domestic air travel in America is widely available, relatively cheap and popular. Airlines fear competition from high-speed rail and lobby against it. Travelling by cars is also popular. Petrol is cheaper than in Europe (mostly because of much lower taxes). Road travel is massively subsidised in the sense that the negative externalities of travelling by car, including the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, are not fully offset, and most major highways—which cost tens of billions to maintain—are still free of tolls. And finally, Barack Obama’s embrace of high-speed rail has heightened a political battle over rail that doesn’t exist quite in the same way in other countries (although the fraught debate over high-speed rail in Britain comes close). Opposition to rail is now often seen as essentially conservative, and Republican governors oppose rail projects to boost their conservative image. 

America’s national-level politics are unlikely to become more functional in the near term. So all this leads to an inevitable conclusion: what happens with California’s planned high-speed rail system matters a lot. If it is completed, works and is popular—all of which are uncertain—other states will undoubtedly take note. If California’s high-speed dream fails, it may be a long time before America has true high-speed service. And by that point, America may be ready to put in a call to Elon Musk. Hyperloop, here we come!

 

MTA Metro-North Railroad accident at “Sput” (Spuyten Duyvil)

ImageImage

Image

A MTA Metro-North train derailed at Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx this morning. The accident killed at least four people and injured 63. The train was en route to New York’s Grand Central Station from Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The derailment occurred at approximately 7:20 a.m. Five of the train’s seven cars derailed, but none went into the water.According to Metro North, the train left Poughkeepsie at approximately 5:54 a.m. and scheduled to arrive at Grand Central at 7:43 a.m. Service has been suspended indefinitely on the Hudson Line between Grand Central and Croton Harmon.

This would have been the first Poughkeepsie train of the day, but other trains from Croton-Harmon had passed by before this one.

From the MTA: Hudson Line service is suspended between Tarrytown and Grand Central due to the derailed train in the vicinity of Spuyten Duyvil. Bus service is being provided between White Plains and Tarrytown. Station for customers wishing to travel in and out of Grand Central. Customers at stations between Irvington and Yankees-E. 153rd St. Station are urged to use the Harlem Line, NYCT Subway and/or bus service. Hudson Line tickets will be cross honored for these services.

From AMTRAK: Amtrak Empire Line Service is currently being held between New York City and Albany due to an early morning derailment of a Metro-North commuter trainin Spuyten Duyvil, New York in the Bronx. The incident occurred on property owned and maintained by Metro-North Railroad. No estimate for restoration of Empire Line service is available from Metro-North at this time. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service between Boston and Washington is not affected.

 

Metro North Railroad Electrical Disaster

Image

Image

Top picture is a diesel train running because the electricity is out.

Bottom picture is no more: it was the New Haven Railroad’s Cos Cob coal-powered power station. The railroad used to make its own power before jumping in bed with Con Ed.

Partial service could be restored to Metro-North’s New Haven Line this weekend following a massive power failure on Wednesday that brought service to a crawl and clogged the highways, Gov. Dannel Malloy said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

A feeder cable serving an eight-mile portion of the New Haven Line’s electric fleet failed on Wednesday. The de-powered section includes four towns and four stations between Stamford and New York.

Malloy warned that repairs could take “as long as three weeks or more,” but said the MTA and power company, Con Edison, are working to restore partial energy to the line as early as Saturday.

He said the plan is to bring in three transformers to provide 13,000 kilowatts of energy to the track.

Con Edison officials said this is something they have not tried before and thier engineers are studying the process.

This is only a fraction of the normal 100,000 kilowatts that service the line, and authorities will conduct tests this weekend to determine the number of trains that can run on this limited-power system.

Malloy said he hopes to release an updated plan no later than Sunday so commuters can arrange their work weeks.

The governor said communication is vitally important and promised a “better protocol” going forward.

“We didn’t receive immediate notification yesterday morning,” he said on Thursday, adding that this made it difficult to alert commuters.

Until the problem is solved, Metro-North is offering limited service on diesel trains, which can accommodate about 30 percent of the New Haven Line’s daily ridership.

Twenty-four diesel trains are now operating on the New Haven Line, according to the MTA. The line normally runs four diesel train sets.

One train is running per hour in both directions and commuters are expecting the commute to be long and crowded. The power problem primarily affects the Metro-North New Haven Line, so train service to and from the New Haven station is limited.

“We realize this is not nearly enough,” the MTA said in a statement on Thursday night. “Customers endured crowded conditions; longer travel times or had to seek alternate means of travel. It is, however, at this time the most service that can be offered in a safe and organized manner given that there is no power for an eight-mile section of the road.”

Malloy has also suspended all roadwork on Interstate 95 to keep traffic flowing during the Metro-North outage, and has offered to move Connecticut trains across the state line to help with increased traffic running through New York.

He encouraged the MTA to reimburse commuters riding the New Haven Line and said he hopes the repair work on a second feeder cable can be expedited to restore power by Oct. 7.

Currently, the maintenance work is scheduled to finish up on Oct. 14, but Malloy said that’s not soon enough.

Con Ed said it could take two to three weeks to repair the 138 kilovolt feeder cable that failed just after 5:20 a.m. Wednesday.The cable brings high voltage power from the Con Ed grid to the railroad’s overhead catenary wires, which power both Metro-North and Amtrak trains through the New Haven line corridor.

A second feeder cable was already out of service for repairs when the failure occurred, according to Con Ed and Metro-North. The railroad was performing upgrades to the power supply in that stretch of track, a spokeswoman said. Without the second feeder cable, Metro-North and Amtrak have resorted to diesel-powered trains running on the hour between Stamford, Conn. and Grand Central Terminal, severely limiting capacity for riders.

Amtrak, which runs over Metro-North’s tracks on the New Haven Line, also suffered “significant delays,” according to a service announcement posted later Wednesday morning. Acela express service was halted between Boston and New York. Some regional service was running, also using diesel-powered locomotives instead of electric locomotives, which draw power from catenary wires over the tracks. Delays from the reduced service radiated along the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak said, as far south as Washington, D.C.

Ms. Anders said the outage had occurred in an area where the railroad and the Connecticut Department of Transportation had been planning to increase the supply of electric power. The Connecticut DOT pays 65% of the operating expenses of the New Haven line.

Workers tried to find ways to restore some power to the crippled New Haven Line before commuters return on Monday, while New York environmental crews assessed a chemical spill at the Mount Vernon, N.Y., substation where the power failure originated, officials said Friday.

Wendy Rosenbach of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation said about 1,000 gallons of fluid — which is under pressure in the electric wires and is used as a coolant — leaked when the wires failed on Wednesday morning. The dielectric fluid does not contain PCBs.

Malloy also said Con Edison planed to test three transformers this weekend in the hopes of getting a portion of the electricity needed to the New Haven Line, Metro-North’s busiest line, which serves Connecticut and parts of suburban Westchester County. There is a good chance that Metro-North and the utility would be able to substitute some kind of power source to provide electrified catenary power to the Pelham, N.Y. through Rye, N.Y. stretch of track before one or the other feeder cable is fixed and put back in service.

In the wake of service problems in past years Metro-North officials have often noted that even with the arrival of the state’s fleet of new M-8 commuter rail cars the New Haven Line requires billions in long deferred investment is needed to modernize the rail line and ensure reliability.

David Hendricks, a member of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council said that he missed two important meetings Wednesday morning as a result of the sudden outage.

Hendricks said that the ability for any one power source to halt electric train service between a swath of track between Stamford and Grand Central Terminal was alarming.

“I’m surprised that there is a single point of failure for electricity serving Metro-North Railroad and that a cable could go out in one place and all service would be disrupted for 50 miles,” Hendricks said. “It’s surprising and also disconcerting.”

Hendricks said that the incident underlines the discussion of recent months about the need for greater investment to ensure the reliability and safety of the New Haven Line, calling the 70-mile railway the “economic lifeline to the region.”

“It’s just one more thing MTA and Metro-North has to deal with and it looks like the list is getting longer,” Hendricks said. “To me it begs more understanding about needing more investment because the more stress we put on the line the more likely things like this are going to happen. It can’t go down, and if it does go down, it has to be back up fast.”

Metro-North and utility company officials plan to throw the switch Saturday afternoon a jury-rigged system that would provide enough power for some electric trains to pass through a section of track knocked out earlier this week after a 138,000-volt feeder cable failed. The mishap brought train service on the nation’s second-busiest rail line to a virtual standstill.

Although there is light at the end of the tunnel for a temporary fix, several of Connecticut’s political leaders continue to insist the railroad work faster to bring service back to normal.

Over the past three days, Con Edison crews have worked feverishly to install three heavy-duty transformers near the Harrison, N.Y., station that will draw power from the local neighborhood and convert it for use by the railroad.

“What we’ve sought to do is almost build another substation overnight,” Con Edison spokesman Bob McGee said Friday. “The idea is to get power that Metro-North can use as quickly as possible.”

That power will replace what was lost when a large feeder cable for the railroad’s electricity gave out early Wednesday in Mount Vernon, N.Y., setting off three days of travel chaos.

The temporary system will provide less than 10 percent of the normal power to the line, but Metro-North believes that should be enough to get at least one electric train through the affected area every 15 minutes. Officials said they will have an idea if the fix is working by Sunday night.

Amtrak Second Track to Schenectady is Moving Ahead

ImageFinally!

Ties have been delivered, access roads and staging areas built, and work is getting under way on nearly $200 million in passenger rail improvements in the Capital Region.

The wooden ties will be used to rehabilitate the existing single track between Albany and Schenectady, which has caused delays for years as trains waited for other trains traveling in the opposite direction to clear the track.

A fourth track was always planned for the Rensselaer rail station, but was postponed when money ran out.

The result: Trains often have to wait just outside the station for other trains to clear one of the three existing tracks.

While the improvements — which also include new signals south of Rensselaer that are more resistant to adverse weather, as well as improvements that will make road crossings safer — won’t speed your trip, they’re intended to reduce delays that can add minutes and occasionally hours to your trip.

The Empire Corridor is one of Amtrak‘s busiest. Nearly 100,000 people used the line between the Capital Region and New York City in July alone.

From Rensselaer, passengers can also take trains east to Boston, north to Montreal and Rutland, and west to Chicago.

So where do the improvement projects stand?

State Department of Transportation spokesman Beau Duffy said Amtrak would request proposals from a short list of contractors later this fall for work that includes the second track between Albany and Schenectady, and the fourth track and platform work at the Rensselaer station.