FRIENDS OF AMTRAK HOME PAGE--For the latest and most recent news on Amtrak and legislation affecting Amtrak please go to the Friends of Amtrak home page. CLICK HERE
Ireland's Railway--July, 1999. At left is a southbound Iarnód Éireann intercity train at Killiney. At right is a colorful consist on the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) just south of Dublin. Click on the thumbnails to see the larger images.
Throughout the holiday weekend, Amtrak will double the number of staff monitoring train operations from Amtrak's
Amtrak will operate its normal schedule, however, ridership will be lighter than in past years. In the Northeast
AMTRAK PACIFIC NORTHWEST SERVICE REPORTS STEADY RIDERSHIP RISE --December 29, 1999. SEATTLE--Annual Amtrak ridership on the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor hit an all time high of 570,000 during 1999. The ridership trend represents a three percent increase compared to the same period last year. Amtrak and state officials attribute the continued rise in Pacific Northwest ridership to the launch of the new Amtrak Cascades service and the introduction of new, European-style train equipment, custom-built for the region. Earlier this summer, an additional Bellingham-Seattle service was also added. Amtrak Cascades continue to rank among Amtrak's top 10 services for customer satisfaction nationwide. "Travelers are discovering the benefits of passenger train travel," said Amtrak West President Gil Mallery. "Amtrak Cascades have helped revitalize rail service as an alternative to driving. Working with our state partners, the service is in a good position to play a major role in meeting future transportation needs for the region." According to the states of Washington and Oregon, Amtrak service diverted more than 31 million miles of traffic from regional highways and prevented more than 717 tons of air pollution. Amtrak Cascades Business Class service, introduced in the past year, accounted for more than 12 percent of the total ridership in 1999. Business Class customers enjoy wider, more comfortable seating; priority boarding and de-boarding; and complimentary snack, non-alcoholic beverage and newspaper.
The Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor extends 466 miles from Eugene, Ore. to Vancouver, BC. Corridor service is provided in partnership with the states of Washington and Oregon. The daily Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight also serves the
MOODY'S RAISES AMTRAK'S CREDIT RATING CITING IMPROVED FINANCIAL OUTLOOK -- December 24, 1999. Moody's Investment Services raised Amtrak's credit rating to A3 this week. After assessing Amtrak's finances and its Strategic Business Plan, Moody's assigned the A3 rating that means a "stable outlook" and noted that it "reflects Moody's assessment of the financial strength of Amtrak in relation to its unique operations and prominence in the U.S."
Further, Moody's noted that the rating is based on " .Moody's expectation that operational self-sufficiency will be achieved, but that the Federal government will continue to provide financial support for Amtrak's capital program."
CLINTON ADMINISTRATION'S FY 2001 BUDGET PROPOSAL -- updated --December 15, 1999. This is an urgent message from NARP regarding the FY 2001 budget:
The Clinton Administration's FY 2001 budget process is well underway, and this week could be crucial. [Federal Fiscal Year 2001 begins on October 1, 2000.]
The Administration long ago indicated its intention to request $521 million for Amtrak, consistent with what Amtrak has said could get it to "operational self-sufficiency" by the end of FY 2002. HOWEVER, THIS LEVEL WOULD NOT PERMIT ANY MEANINGFUL GROWTH IN SERVICE.
Because of that important caveat, 26 governors signed a November 17 letter to President Clinton urging him to include in his FY 2001 budget the full amount authorized for Amtrak, $989 million. We understand that the Department of Transportation submitted a request well above $521 million.
Unfortunately, however, we hear that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in its first review of the DOT's request, pared Amtrak back to the "minimum-for-survival" level of $521 million. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal last week reported that DOT in general was a "big loser" in the internal budget review process on grounds that Congress is likely to restore funds the Administration cuts. When it comes to intercity passenger rail, however, this Congress tends to treat Administration funding requests as ceilings.
The internal Administration process is proceeding quickly. For Amtrak to get more than $521 million, The White House needs to hear from individuals and organizations who favor the $989 million.
You can e-mail the White House by going to this web address:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/Mail/html/Mail_President.html. I urge you also to send a copy of your letter by regular mail to:
Please send copies of your correspondence to:
--courtesy: Ross Capon, NARP
AMTRAK BEGINS COUNTDOWN TO NEW LOS ANGELES-LAS VEGAS SERVICE -- December 14, 1999. LAS VEGAS--Governor Kenny Guinn and U.S. Senator Harry Reid will be joined by Governor Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's Chairman of the Board, and Amtrak President George Warrington today to unveil the custom-designed passenger train that will begin service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in September 2000.
Current plans call for one daily round trip between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, with one intermediate stop in Montclair, CA, a community east of Los Angeles. During the five-and-a-half hour trip, guests will enjoy on-board entertainment, wide comfortable seats, and formal and casual dining. Amtrak also hopes to add two additional round trips as consumer demand grows. The eastbound train will depart Los Angeles at 9 a.m. and arrive in Las Vegas at 2:30 p.m. in time for local hotel check-ins. The westbound train will depart Las Vegas at 4 p.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 9:30 p.m.
In the coming months, Amtrak will construct a platform with a canopy at a location near The Strip in Las Vegas. In addition, infrastructure improvements will begin along the 340-mile route including the construction of 20 miles of second mainline track between Cima and Kelso. The trains will operate on tracks owned and maintained by the Union Pacific Railroad, the Burlington Northern Railway and the Southern California Regional Rail Authority. Although the trains are designed to travel 125 mph, maximum track speed will be 79 mph.
AMTRAK TO PAUSE FOR Y2K -- December 14, 1999. Amtrak will pull its trains into stations briefly on New Year's Eve to ensure that Year 2000 computer problem doesn't affect tracks, railroad crossings or safety equipment. To compensate for the delays, Amtrak plans to hold onboard celebrations and give riders commemorative train whistles inscribed, "I rode Amtrak into the new millennium."
"We believe we are Y2K compliant. This is just a precaution," Amtrak spokesman John Wolf said Tuesday.
NEW KENTUCKY CARDINAL -- December 13, 1999. Its official, effective Dec 17 eastbound and Dec 18 Amtrak will create daily, overnight Chicago - Indianapolis - Jeffersonville service. Westbound train 850 and train 851 will operate to/from Jeffersonville Ind, across the river from Louisville. The major purpose of the train is to handle express shipments.
Trains will operate daily. On the four days of the week when the "Hoosier State" now runs, that train will simply be extended to Jeffersonville. On the three "Cardinal" days, the new train will run as a section of the "Cardinal" between Chicago and Indianapolis.
Trains will arrive in Jeffersonville at 8:40 am and depart at 10:25 pm. Trains will carry Reserved Coaches and a Superliner sleeper. Food Service arrangments pending. One way coach fares range from $34.00 to $65.00. Sleepers start at $61.00 for a standard room and $122.00 for a Deluxe room.
This is an historic event marking the first passenger service between Indianapolis and the Louisville area since the early 1970's, and the first service to the Louisville area from anywhere since 1979.
Located within Amtrak's Maintenance Facility at 1480 South Lumber Street, the new facility will join ChicagoUnion Station's mail operations to make Chicago the hub of Amtrak's Mail and Express business. Itincorporates eight covered rail car docks, seven covered truck docks, and 4,000 square feet of enclosedheated area for temporary storage, maintenance, staging and general office use. It is served by two stub endtracks and has truck access from Roosevelt Road and Canal Street.
Amtrak's Mail and Express business achieved record-breaking growth in fiscal year 1999, (Oct. 1, 1998 -Sept. 30, 1999), earning $98 million in revenue, an 18 percent increase over fiscal year 1998 in whichAmtrak achieved Mail and Express revenue of $83 million.
S.1144 UPDATE --December 3, 1999. Congress has now adjourned for the 1999 session without taking any further Senate action on S.1144, a bill that would give states the flexibility to spend transportation funds on Amtrak. The bill was never filed although it gained approval from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this fall. Filing early in January is likely.
HR. 3446 INTRODUCED -- December 3, 1999. Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), has introduced HR.3446, which would extend to commuter authorities the same rights of access to freight railroad trackage that Amtrak has enjoyed since 1971, including the right of appeal to the Surface Transportation Board in the event of failure to reach agreement.
Continuation beyond that time will be determined after evaluating ridership for the holiday period.
This train normally carries one sleeper, 3 coaches, a dining car and a lounge car."
I'm glad to see this news. Now lets fill em up and keep the extra sleeper past the Holidays.
As most of you know this Eagle operates directly from Chicago to California. One sleeper is not enough for this train.
State demand for improved passenger rail service has increased momentum in past few weeks. Amtrak and Pennsylvania unveiled a $140 million partnership to build high-speed rail between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa. The states of Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin announced plan to purchase high-speed trains. And, Virginia Governor James Gilmore announced his state's intention to upgrade the line between Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C., to connect with Amtrak's new Acela high-speed service in the Northeast.
AMTRAK UNVEILS NEW "PACIFIC SURFLINER" PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE FOR THE CENTRAL COAST AND SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
New Wave of Train Service to Begin in Spring 2000
"SHAKE-UP" AT AMTRAK -- November 20, 1999. What some folks are calling a "shake-up" has taken place at Amtrak with Ed Walker becoming the new Intercity Business Unit V.P., replacing Lee Bullock. It is said that Mr. Bullock was made the Freight Railroad Affairs Corporate Vice President.
In addition, Anne Hoey became Service Operations vice president, heading the Corporate Operations Department (responsible for food and beverage contracts, equipment and mechanical services, safety, environmental, crew management services, operations standards). NEC President Stan Bagley gained responsibility for the national operations center, headed by Ron Frazier (now System Operations and Police Services vice president). Ron Scolaro is High Speed Planning and Development vice president, reporting to Vice President David Carol.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST SERVICE RATED AMTRAK'S BEST IN 1999 -- SEATTLE -November 18, 2000. In the year since the launch of the new Amtrak Cascades service annual ridership on the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridorhit a record high of more than 565,000 passenger trips during 1999. Thisis a 150 percent increase since 1993 when Amtrak began its partnershipwith Pacific Northwest states.
Amtrak Cascades were also rated number one for customer satisfaction inAmtrak's 42-route national system in 1999. Each month customers whotravel aboard Amtrak are randomly selected to respond to a series ofquestions to measure their satisfaction level in specific areas ofservice-everything from comfort of seats to the cleanliness of thebathrooms, from food quality to station and on-board crews.
"We are proud of the steady ridership growth and extremely pleased thatAmtrak Cascades are consistently ranked best in meeting and exceedingcustomer expectations," said Amtrak West President Gil Mallery. "AmtrakCascades provide a viable alternative to driving. Working with our statepartners, the service can play a major role in meeting futuretransportation needs for the region."
Amtrak service diverted more than 31 million miles of traffic fromregional highways and prevented more than 700 tons of air pollution hadPacific Northwest Amtrak customers used other means of transportationduring 1999, according to the states of Washington and Oregon.
Amtrak and state officials attribute the continued rise in PacificNorthwest ridership to the launch of the new Amtrak Cascades service andthe introduction of new, European-style train equipment, custom-builtfor the region.
Amtrak Cascades Business Class service, introduced as part of the newAmtrak Cascades service, accounted for more than 12 percent of the totalridership in 1999. Business class customers enjoy wider, morecomfortable seating; priority boarding and de-boarding; andcomplimentary snack, non-alcoholic beverage and newspaper.
The Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor extends 466 miles from Eugene, Ore.to Vancouver, BC. Corridor service is provided in partnership with thestates of Washington and Oregon. Three daily roundtrips serve Seattleand Portland, with one extending to Eugene. One daily roundtrip servesSeattle and Vancouver, BC and one daily roundtrip serves Seattle andBellingham, with guaranteed motorcoach connections to Vancouver, BC. Thedaily Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight also serves the corridor.
Regular one-way adult fares between Seattle and Portland start as low as$21; Seattle and Vancouver, BC, $21; Portland and Eugene, $14; andEugene and Seattle, $29. A one-way Business Class upgrade is a low as$15. Passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early to obtainlowest fares. Reservations are required.
AMTRAK ENTERS REFRIGERATED COMMODITIES MARKET MAIL AND EXPRESS BUSINESS POSTS RECORD-BREAKING YEAR -- November 15, 1999.Amtrak today announced its entry into the refrigerated produce market with the signing of a long-term agreement with the Michigan-based shipping firm ExpressTrak, LLC. The partnership will ultimately provide up to 350 refrigerated rail cars capable of operating at passenger train speeds for the movement of fresh produce.
The first of the 57-foot refrigerated boxcars being rebuilt under the 15-year agreement is expected to go into operation in April 2000, with the last car delivered by Fall 2001. Amtrak and ExpressTrak have been participating in a pilot program to test the movement of refrigerated produce on Amtrak trains.
"We're pleased to be entering the refrigerated produce market with a business partner such as ExpressTrak," said George Warrington, Amtrak's president and chief executive officer. "This is another step in Amtrak's strategic business plan to dramatically grow our Mail and Express revenues. This agreement comes on the heels of a year in which Amtrak achieved record-breaking growth in our Mail and Express business," Warrington added.
ExpressTrak specializes in moving produce, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as other temperature-sensitive commodities. Because Amtrak can move these products across the country at passenger train speeds up to 90 mph on tight, consistent schedules, the service ensures product freshness for buyers in distant markets. This enables Amtrak and ExpressTrak to offer time-competitive delivery of temperature- sensitive commodities that need to be shipped cross-country, for example, from California to grocery stores in the Northeast. Amtrak is also working with other vendors in the refrigerated goods business to expand the variety of products carried by rail.
1999 Revenue Performance
Amtrak's growing Mail and Express business achieved $98 million in revenue in fiscal year 1999 (October 1, 1998 - September 30, 1999), an 18 percent increase over fiscal year 1998 when the Corporation earned $83 million. The Express business showed particular strength in the final two months of the fiscal year, as additional equipment has permitted Amtrak to meet the growing demand for this service. That bodes well for fiscal year 2000.
The express portion of Amtrak's business (the expedited transportation of time-sensitive shipments) grew by 93 percent in fiscal year 1999. The corporation formed strategic alliances with freight railroads including the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway and Norfolk Southern, as well as with companies such as Mark VII and with premium motor carriers such as Swift.
Amtrak's mail business revenue, primarily the movement of periodicals for the United States Postal Service, grew by 9 percent in fiscal year 1999 as the corporation expanded its service offering to include more direct service to the Area Distribution Centers of the United States Postal Service, Amtrak's largest commercial customer.
"Amtrak expects to grow its mail business as well by targeting first-class mail and periodicals," said Warrington. "We will continue to pursue new business with rail and motor carriers and will seek additional opportunities to reduce highway congestion by converting truck business to rail," he added.
New Facilities and Equipment
Mail and Express facilities around the nation were expanded in fiscal year 1999 to accommodate the growth in the goods handling business. New facilities were built in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Springfield, Mass.; and Harrisburg, Pa. Numerous additional Mail and Express facilities will come on line in fiscal year 2000 and several current facilities will undergo expansion.
Amtrak currently operates a variety of equipment to meet the full range of expedited service needed by its Mail and Express customers. The corporation's Board of Directors recently approved the acquisition of 200 additional RoadRailers and 100 new Express boxcars. This new equipment will be added to the current Mail and Express fleet of 456 RoadRailers and 250 boxcars. Also, over 200 privately owned RoadRailers are now qualified to operate on Amtrak trains.
While Amtrak's core business will always be serving the needs of the traveling public, its growing Mail and Express business supplements revenue generated by passengers and improves Amtrak's overall financial performance. Amtrak has focused increasingly on growing its Mail and Express program, making it a critical element of the corporation's strategic business plan to reach operational self-sufficiency by 2003.
NEW AMTRAK SERVICE IN INDIANA -- November 14, 1999. Jon Owen of the Kentucky Rail Task Force is quoting an Amtrak spokesperson as saying, "I am pleased to confirm that Amtrak will begin service from Chicago to Jeffersonville, Indiana, within the next two months. We are working toward staffing and equipment startups. We hope you will be riding with us!
CLINTON VETO KILLS GOP CUTS--November 5, 1999. President Clinton vetoed a GOP plan for FY 2000 that would have cut all programs including $5.5 million from the $571 million already enacted for Amtrak for fiscal 2000.
TIME TO LOBBY THE SENATE TO PASS S.1144 The following is from NARP and is of critical importance to Amtrak. I urge you to write and call your U.S. Senators to see that this crucial piece of legislation is enacted! THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. NOW IS THE TIME FOR YOU TO ACT!
The death of John H. Chafee (R-RI), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, obviously will make it tougher to get S. 1144 passed. He championed the provision in that bill which would let states use their TEA-21 (federal transportation) funds for intercity passenger rail. Please ask your senator to urge Senator Lott (Republicans) and Senator Daschle (Democrats) to get S. 1144 floor time BEFORE adjournment.
To reach the Congressional switchboard call 1-202-224-3121.
AMTRAK REVENUES UP!--October 30, 1999. Amtrak released some fiscal 1999 results this week. Ridership was up 2 percent, passenger-related revenues up 5.8 percent, and mail/express revenue was totaled $98 million - up 18 percent.
This is from Amtrak's press release:
WASHINGTON--Amtrak, the nation's intercity passenger rail corporation, is reporting the highest total revenue in the corporation's 28-year history, $1.84 billion for fiscal year 1999 (Oct. 1, 1998 - Sept. 30, 1999), up 7 percent from the previous year. Revenue growth has helped Amtrak exceed the bottom-line target set in the corporation's business plan for the second consecutive year-this year by $8 million-meaning Amtrak is on course to achieve operational self-sufficiency by 2003.
Amtrak increased the number of trains operating in nine states, highlighted by the reintroduction of service to Oklahoma for the first time in 20 years. For the first time ever, Amtrak's ridership has increased three consecutive years due to growing demand. Total ridership for 1999 was 21,508,700, up 2 percent from last year and nearly 10 percent since it began rebounding in 1997.
"This year's growth in revenue, implementation of initiatives to improve efficiency, and America's demand for passenger rail, demonstrate the increasing fiscal strength of Amtrak and brings the goal of operational self-sufficiency well within our sights," said Gov. Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's chairman of the board.
For the full press release go to:
HIGH SPEED RAIL INVESTMENT ACT--October 30, 1999. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D/NJ) has unveiled The High Speed Rail Investment Act (no bill number yet) which authorizes Amtrak to sell $10 Billion in HSR Bonds over 10 years to develop high speed corridors across the nation. The Act would let the federal government give tax credits to bond holders in-lieu of interest payments. States would provide a match of at least 20 percent. The bill's initial co-sponsors are Jeffords (R/VT), Moynihan (D/NY), Cleland (D/GA), Kerry (D/MA) and Biden (D/DE). It is important that more Senators sign-up as co-sponsors.
UPDATED: 11/5/99 -- New co-sponsors are Boxer (D/CA), Kohl (D/WI), Leahy (D/VT) and Robb (D/VA).
TRANSPORTATION BILL PASSES BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS--updated October 29, 1999. The House approved the final version of HR.2084, the fiscal year 2000 transportation appropriations bill on Friday October 1st. The Senate did the same late Monday night the 4th. The bill has been signed by the President.
CITY OF NEW ORLEANS TO BEGIN STOPS IN MARKS, MISSISSIPPI--October 29, 1999. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has announced that Amtrak would begin stopping the CITY OF NEW ORLEANS at Marks, MS at the end of the year. Marks is in the middle of a 124 mile non-stop stretch of the route between Memphis and Greenwood. It's 18 miles east of Clarksdale, which is a big town in the delta region and only 20 miles west of Batesville, a town that lost train service when the CITY OF NEW ORLEANS was rerouted in 1995. The city and parish (county) are building a new station.
NORFOLK SOUTHERN CONTINUES ITS POOR PERFORMANCE - FREIGHT GIVEN PRIORITY OVER PASSENGER SERVICE--October 27, 1999. Is Norfolk Southern on a mission to destroy Amtrak? One could come to this conclusion considering how frequently Amtrak trains are held behind late NS freights by the private railroad's dispatchers. One Friends of Amtrak contributor has been tracking the on time performance of Amtrak's eastbound Three Rivers train for months and tells me that it is not uncommon for this train to run five hours late!
In an editorial of October 26, 1999 the "Johnstown Tribune Democrat" called the NS record since the Conrail takeover "ghastly." The editors wrote, "If Norfolk Southern can't get its trains running on time, the federal government needs to find a company that can...travelers are being forced to wait for Amtrak trains that show up hours late." Referring to a string of broken promises by Norfolk Southern the editorial continued, "The railroad needs to be fined and the federal government government needs to look for another operator."
CONSORTIUM NOTIFIES AMTRAK OF MANUFACTURING DELAY ON HIGH-SPEED TRAIN - updated October 23, 1999.
WASHINGTON, D.C --The Consortium of Bombardier and ALSTOM - manufacturers of the Acela Express high-speed trains - recently informed Amtrak that they will be unable to provide a thoroughly tested trainset and high-horsepower locomotive in the fall of 1999 to ensure high-speed rail revenue service by the end of this year.
The Consortium attributes the delay in part to the need for additional testing and refinements. Excessive wheel wear has been exhibited during testing of the equipment at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado. However, the train has demonstrated its ability to achieve top speed.
"This delay is unfortunate but not unusual when new technology, although proven, is being introduced in a new environment," said Jacques Laparé, President of Bombardier Transportation, North America. "The trainset needs additional testing to validate the high-speed rail system, which will benefit the whole program on the long term," he added.
Amtrak has been working on an aggressive schedule to complete the three major elements of the high-speed rail program - upgrading the Northeast Corridor's infrastructure, installing a catenary system to electrify the New York to Boston route, as well as introducing the new high-speed trainsets. The infrastructure work will be substantially complete and the complex electrification work and catenary testing is on target for December.
"Nobody wants delays, and we've worked hard to avoid them," said Amtrak President and CEO, George Warrington. "We are faced with a choice - cut corners to get the train out, or get it right the first time. I am absolutely committed to making sure this train is right, and meets our standards of excellence. We will not disappoint our customers. In fact, we plan to take advantage of the other completed improvements to introduce faster service, more seats, and refurbished trains in January between New York and Boston as part of our Acela Regional service."
This delay will prevent the introduction of the high-speed trainsets as originally planned. The Consortium has set a revised, tentative delivery timeframe of spring 2000. However, Amtrak will not announce a final service launch date for 60 days, when the manufacturers will be in a position to commit to a new delivery schedule.
Both Amtrak and the Consortium are concentrating their efforts on solutions for resolving the outstanding issues and meeting Amtrak's standards of excellence in the most timely manner.
Amtrak also announced today that the corporation will launch new Acela Regional electric service between New York and Boston in January. With two roundtrips daily, Acela Regional will offer travel times of less than four hours and refurbished trains with interior designs similar to Acela Express. Amtrak will add 800 more seats to the route between Boston and New York, and offer improved travel times on all trains on the route of up to an hour and 40 minutes better than today's schedules.
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD RULES IN AMTRAK'S FAVOR IN BOSTON TO PORTLAND, ME DISPUTE--October 23, 1999. Finally the STB has ruled in the long dispute over Amtrak's bid to run passenger train service from Boston to Portland, ME. Guilford Transportation, which owns the track, has resisted moves by Amtrak over the years to do so by placing one obstacle after another in Amtrak's way. The final (let's hope) decision in this case was rendered by the STB in favor of Amtrak:
Surface Transportation Board (Board) Chairman Linda J. Morgan announced today that the Board has set the terms and conditions under which the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) may operate at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour (mph) over certain rail facilities owned by the Guilford Rail System (Guilford) between Plaistow, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine. The Board's decision resolving the dispute that the private parties brought to it should help Amtrak and Guilford move closer to reestablishing passenger rail service between Boston, Massachusetts and Portland.
Freight railroads must permit Amtrak to operate over their lines, provided that Amtrak pays the "incremental costs" that the freight railroads incur through Amtrak's use of their facilities. If the parties cannot agree on the terms and conditions of Amtrak's access, they may bring their dispute to the Board for resolution. In a decision issued in this matter on May 29, 1998, the Board resolved a variety of issues that the parties had brought before it relating to Amtrak's compensation to Guilford for Amtrak's use of the line at issue.
Subsequently, Amtrak asked the Board to resolve a dispute over the appropriate weight of continuous welded rail that must be installed on the line to permit safe operation of Amtrak trains at speeds of up to 79 mph. Amtrak wanted to be able to use 115-pound rail to conduct its 79-mph operations, while Guilford argued that the operations could be safely conducted only over 132-pound rail. In support of their positions, the parties filed a variety of pleadings through August 9, 1999.
With assistance from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal agency with expertise on safety issues such as this one, the Board, generally reflecting the position taken by Amtrak, concluded that Amtrak will be able to operate safely at speeds up to 79 mph over 115-pound rail, provided that the line is rehabilitated to, and maintained at, a level that meets certain engineering standards, and provided that the line otherwise satisfies FRA's track safety standards for rail passenger train operations up to such speeds.
The Board noted that other passenger trains have been able to operate safely at speeds of up to 79 mph over 115-pound track, and it expressed confidence that the parties will be able to upgrade the track sufficiently to permit such speeds. The Board indicated that it would remain available to resolve future disputes between the parties, but it encouraged them to resolve such matters privately in accordance with the Board's focus on promoting private sector resolution where possible.
AMTRAK AND FLORIDA EAST COAST RR STILL LIGHT YEARS APART-- October 23, 1999. Amtrak and the Florida East Coast RR (FEC) are still light years apart after more than two years of negotiations to bring passenger train service to Florida coastal communities. Amtrak would like to put its NY to Miami Silver Meteor train back on FEC freight tracks between Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, returning passenger train service to seven cities after a hiatus of more than 30 years. Tight freight train schedules and costs to upgrade the tracks (this may sound familiar to folks in Maine) are thought to be the reasons behind the breakdown in the talks between the two railroads. Meanwhile the state of Florida has committed to spending more than $7 million of public funds to make improvements to the private railroad's lines.
Courtesy of Andrew Kirk.
AMTRAK ADVISES OF LATE EASTERN TRAINS DUE TO FREIGHT CONGESTION-- October 14, 1999. Amtrak has issued the following advisory to its employees.
"Amtrak trains that operate on what is now the Norfolk Southern Railroad east of Chicago have been experiencing delays as the NSRR integrates these former Conrail lines into its system.
"Amtrak Intercity requests that agents use the following dialogue to customers when booking space on #29/30, #48/49, #448/449, #40/41, #43/44, and #50/51:
NEW AMTRAK CALENDAR FROM THE WEEKEND CHIEF The 2000 Amtrak Calendar from the Weekend Chief is now available. Note that this is not an official Amtrak calendar insofar as it is not from Amtrak. However, it is a twelve month, a page a month, calendar with a host of fine Amtrak photos. The calendar may be purchased directly from the publisher for $9.95 + $2.00 shipping.
The Weekend Chief Publishing Company
P.O. Box 165
Hicksville, NY 11802-0165
THE STORY BELOW HAS BEEN UPDATED AGAIN ON OCTOBER 14, 1999.
START UP NEW BOSTON - CHICAGO TRAIN POSTPONED--October 14, 1999. The start-up of the proposed new Boston-Chicago service, trains 38/39, has been postponed indefinitely, this according to Amtrak's Arrow computer. No other information is available at this time.
A split of the Boston and New York sections of the Lake Shore Ltd. was said to be in the offing. Responding to a request by UPS, Amtrak would run the Boston train to Chicago along CSX trackage west of Cleveland. The proposal has been awaiting CSX approval.
If the proposal develops the train could leave Boston around midnight, stopping in Springfield, MA to pick up roadrailers, and arriving in Chicago the next evening at 8:35 p.m. Eastbound the train would leave the windy city at around 9:05 a.m. and arrive in Boston the next morning at 7:03 a.m.
PASSENGER DISASTER FAMILY ASSISTANCE ACT PASSES HOUSE-- October 9, 1999. The House approved a bill - HR.2681, the Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act, on Monday October 4th. The bill requires Amtrak and other potential intercity passenger railroads to present written plans of action for dealing with accidents. It also prohibits attorneys from soliciting victims' families for 45 days following an accident and requires the National Transportation Safety Board to assign a liaison to work with the affected families. The bill requires the railroads to provide as complete a passenger manifest as possible.
S.1114 PICKS UP MORE SUPPORT--October 9, 1999. S.1144, the bill giving Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, also known as TEA-21, flexibility with states who want to invest in passenger rail has picked up more sponsors recently. They are Specter (PA), Hollings (SC), Schumer (NY) and Biden (DE). The bill should be more attractive to Democrats now that a labor-sensitive non-rail provision has been removed.
S.1114 ADVANCES IN SENATE--September 29, 1999. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this morning approved S.1144, the bill that (among other things) would allow states the flexibility to spend some of their federal TEA-21 funds on intercity passenger rail capital projects.
However, there was an unsuccessful attempt to strip the bill of the pro-rail language. This came in the form of an amendment from Senator Bond (R-MO).
Committee Ranking Democrat Baucus (MT) also argued against the pro-rail language, saying it was "ad hoc, not well thought out, willy nilly".
The Bond amendment, fortunately, failed on a 6-12 vote. The vote follows below. If your Senator appears below, thank him or her for their pro-rail vote (and express your displeasure at the anti-rail votes).
NEW BOSTON - CHICAGO TRAIN IN THE OFFING--October 8, 1999. A split of the Boston and New York sections of the Lake Shore Ltd. is said to be in the offing. Responding to a request by UPS, Amtrak would run the Boston train to Chicago along CSX trackage west of Cleveland. The proposal is awaiting CSX approval.
If the proposal develops the train could leave Boston around midnight, stopping in Springfield, MA to pick up roadrailers, and arriving in Chicago the next evening at 8:35 p.m. Eastbound the train would leave the windy city at around 9:05 a.m. and arrive in Boston the next morning at 7:03 a.m.
The Ohio Association of Railroad Passengers is ecstatic about the plan, and should help to increase the ridership at Cleveland, which is up 40 percent since the Pennsylvanian was extended from Pittsburgh west to Chicago via Cleveland and Toledo. The Lake Shore split would add a fourth daily round trip from Cleveland to Chicago, for the first time since the late 1960s. It would mean the first schedule at reasonable hours between Cleveland and upstate New York locales like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.
It is rumored that the new train will be called the New England States. but the latest word I have is that this is not the case since the name does not accurately reflect the route of the train.
The latest word I have is that the start up of this train has been delayed until October 16.
Amtrak's computer shows two schedules for the train... One that will be in effect short-term, until the Fall/Winter schedule comes out Nov. 1. The second will be a slightly different schedule to be published in the Fall/Winter schedule. However, the schedule difference at various points along the route will be no more than 20 minutes.
LATEST SCHEDULE FOR THE NEW ENGLAND STATES:
Amtrak Train #38, begins 11OCT99: (tentative)
(First column is miles between stops)
0905A CHI 16 0934A HMI 80 1158A NPI 117 0220P FOS 85 0448P CLE 94 0615P ERI 93 0749P BUF 61 0911P ROC 79 1028P SYR 54 1124P UCA 78 1241A SDY 18 0138A ALB 49 0250A PIT 52 0413A SPG 54 0535A WOR 23 0603A FRA 20 0631A BBY 1 0703A BOS
Amtrak Train #39, begins 11OCT99 (tentative)
1215A BOS 1 1220A BBY 20 1246A FRA 23 0116A WOR 54 0235A SPG 52 0446A PIT 49 0645A ALB 18 0710A SDY 78 0827A UCA 54 0926A SYR 79 1044A ROC 61 1149A BUF 93 0136P ERI 94 0340P CLE 85 0537P FOS 107 0809P NPI 80 0825P HMI 16 0935P CHI
HOUSE-SENATE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE SET TO MEET ON TRANSPORTATION BILL --September 25, 1999. A House/Senate Conference Committee on the fiscal 2000 Transportation Appropriations Bill might meet Tuesday September 29th or 30th. Chairman Shuster has been objecting to various provisions that infringe on his committee's jurisdiction. The House and Senate bills have the same money for Amtrak - $571 million. The end of the fiscal year is less than a week away so its becoming likely that transportation will be among the programs that have funding continued beyond October 1st with a last minute continuing resolution.
S.1114 MARKUP EXPECTED SOON!--September 24, 1999. S.1144, the bill giving states flexibility to spend some TEA-21 money on intercity passenger rail, is tentatively set to be "marked-up" (approved) by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday morning the 29th.
TEXAS EAGLE SPECIAL--September 24, 1999. The Texas Eagle will be carrying an extra coach to accommodate the State of Oklahoma special movement to the OU/Texas football game in Dallas. Amtrak will sell seats on this coach (rather than the usual practice of "deadheading" it back and forth). This will be done with a "Free Companion" fare plan just for the trips this coach will run on the Eagle.
This coach will move on train 21 Chicago-Fort Worth on October 5, and on train 22 Fort Worth-Chicago on October 12. Other conditions--
--It is good only between Chicago and Fort Worth (and intermediate points) and vice-versa.
--It can be booked only through an Amtrak agent.
--If you book a trip using this fare, you must tell the agent you want "Fare Order X246".
--NARP and AAA discounts do not apply.
--Normal hold limits apply.
Courtesy of NARP.
SENATE TRANSPORTATION BILL GOES FORWARD--September 12, 1999. The Senate's Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 Transportation Appropriations Bill took a big step forward on Thursday Sept. 9th. A scheduled closure vote, which would have limited the amount of transit money going to California and New York and redistributed the excess to other states, was defeated 49-49. The Senators from those those two states promised to filibuster the bill if the provision passed. That could have put the whole bill, including Amtrak funding, in legislative limbo for some time to come. Shortly after the closure defeat, Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, who authored the transit provision, backed off from it and indicated he would let the bill go forward without the provision. That clears the way for the Senate floor vote relatively free of controversy. A subsequent House/Senate conference will follow to work out any differences. Nevertheless, there are very few legislative days left in the fiscal year and some sort of continuing resolution to transportation may be necessary to carry programs forward through October when the new fiscal year begins.
AMTRAK SERVICE DELAYED BY FREIGHT-RAIL CONGESTION--September 7, 1999. Amtrak said its trains face delays as long as several hours because of freight congestion from this year's split-up of eastern railway Conrail Inc.
The biggest backups are on former Conrail tracks between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that are now owned by freight railroad Norfolk Southern Corp., Amtrak said. There also have been delays on trains that pass over CSX Corp.-controlled portions of the former Conrail system west of Pittsburgh.
Passenger routes affected include the Three Rivers, which connects New York and Chicago through Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvanian, which connects New York and Pittsburgh.
Less significant delays have hurt passenger routes on Norfolk Southern-owned tracks between Cleveland and Chicago, affecting the Washington-to-Chicago Capitol Limited and the Boston-to-Chicago Lake Shore Limited.
Amtrak trains faced similar long delays in the wake of the UP - SP merger. Why the private sector railroads and government oversight bodies didn't learn from this debacle is a mystery to many passenger rail supporters.
U.S. SETS RULE ON TRUCKERS WHO DODGE RAIL CROSSINGS--September 7, 1999. The federal government has issued final rules that would disqualify commercial vehicle drivers who are convicted of disobeying railroad crossing signals.
The new Federal Highway Administration regulations published Thursday, September 3, would also levy penalties on companies that knowingly allow, authorize, or require a driver to violate railroad crossing rules.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS BACK AMTRAK FUNDING--September 7, 1999. The Chatham County (NC) Sierra Club has been lobbying Congressman David Price on behalf of intercity rail passenger service. The following was issued by the group:
RESOLUTION FOR MASS TRANSPORTATION
WHEREAS the 4th Congressional District Convention recently passed a resolution in favor of establishment of a Trust Fund for mass transportation with a dedicated revenue source;
WHEREAS Sierra Club believes reduction of low density "Sprawl" development will conserve open space & farmland, minimize consumption of limited natural resources, reduce pollution, and strengthen our communities;
WHEREAS Sierra Club believes passenger rail systems are the most effective means to stimulate compact development patterns, increase public transit patronage, and reduce motor vehicle use, all of which are necessary to curtail Sprawl;
WHEREAS Sierra Club strongly supports more prudent use of natural resources including fossil fuels;
WHEREAS Intercity passenger rail travel, at 2500 BTU per passenger mile is vastly more efficient than air travel at 4500 BTU/PPM;
WHEREAS High-speed intercity trains can be significantly time-competitive with air travel over inter-regional routes, and provide substantially more comfortable transportation to a broader segment of the population;
WHEREAS we believe intercity passenger rail, commuter rail and other forms of mass transportation are profoundly underfunded;
WHEREAS we believe the nation's rail infrastructure is woefully outmoded;
WHEREAS intercity rail must be viewed as an integral and essential part of the Nation's mass transportation system; and
WHEREAS Sierra Club supports institution of taxes that promote the conservation of fuels and energy, and opposes economic incentives that promote energy consumption;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Orange Chatham Group of Sierra Club urges the NC Congressional delegation to sponsor legislation, a "Surface Transportation Renaissance Act," to provide substantially increased funding for all forms of mass transportation, especially for intercity passenger rail,commuter rail and bus feeder services. The centerpiece of this legislation will be a Railroad Infrastructure Trust Fund comprising a budget resource with dedicated revenues, for the expansion, upgrade and maintenance of the nation's rail passenger and freight network, with emphasis on construction and maintenance of high-speed regional routes.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this initiative to modernize the nation's rail passenger system will be funded from dedicated and continuing revenue sources. Initially this might be a tax on gasoline, a pollution tax, reduction of economic subsidies to energy industries with the resulting revenue gains earmarked for mass transportation, and/or revenue bonds. As the rail passenger network grows and garners substantially increased ridership, user fees can be phased in.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support full "flexibility" wherein each state is able to use its federal transportation funds for all modes of projects including intercity passenger rail.
WORCESTER, MASS UNION STATION RESTORATION NEAR COMPLETION-- September 7, 1999. The Worcester (MA) Redevelopment Authority is wrapping up a $24.8 million renovation of Union Station this fall and the results are nothing but spectacular. The project began in July 1997. The restored landmark train station is set to be the regional transportation hub with commuter rails, Amtrak trains, shuttles and local buses. The WRA's goal is to fill Union Station's tenant spaces with stores and restaurants that could keep people moving through the building all day and into the evening. But the key to the success of the station is revitalization of the area around it and the area project appears to be a day late and a dollar short. While the station renovation is on schedule the overall development project is not. There is still a lot of development needed to complete the whole project.
SUPPORT S. 1144--updated August 12, 1999. The "Voinovich-Chafee" Senate bill (S. 1144) that would let states spend their federal transportation dollars on intercity passenger rail needs more co-sponsors. There are 22 now (Voinovich R-OH, Chafee R-RI, Jeffords R-VT, Leahy D-VT, Moynihan D-NY, Lautenberg D-NJ, Warner R-VA, Hutchison R-TX, Lieberman D-CT, Schumer D-NY, Murkowski R-AK, Cleland D-GA, Robb D-VA, Durbin, D-IL, Snowe, R-ME, DeWine, R-OH, Torricelli, D-NJ, Collins, R-ME, Bayh, D-IN, Allard, R-CO, Mack, R-FL, Graham, D-FL, Abraham, R-MI ). The more the better, but members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works are particularly helpful.
Co-sponsors are hearing negative things about the provision from the highway lobby. They need to hear positive things from rail supporters, including "thank-you for co-sponsoring"!
The Senate is now in recess.
BOSTON TO PORTLAND, MAINE RAIL UPDATE--August 5, 1999. Workers have begun laying new rail on 78 miles of track to upgrade the renewnal of passenger rail service between Portland, ME and Boston. However, we are still awaiting word from the Surface Transportation Board on the speed at which the trains will operate. Late 2000 is the latest estimate of when daily service will begin. Stops will include Portland, Biddeford and Wells in Maine; Dover and Exeter in New Hampshire; and Haverhill, Mass. The trains also would make summer stops in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
KINGSTON, RI STATION CREATES ITS OWN WEBSITE--July 30, 1999. The Kingston, RI station, now beautifully and tastefully restored, has its own website!
Passengers ( guests ) planning trips to southern RI, Newport, Block Island and the beaches have a one stop page to learn all they need to know about enjoying RI.
What is there:
Taxi, Bus, Rentals, Hotels, Historic background, links to Amtrak, MBTA, MTA, MetroNorth, Acela, local Narragansett weather, local 24 hour beach cam at Matunuck, local train photo page. The trainboard at NY Penn station cam.
The task force's members include the mayor of Boise, representatives of Union Pacific, the US Postal Service, United Parcel Service, Widmer Brewing Co., state tourism divisions and state transportation departments in Oregon and Idaho. Amtrak West President Gil Mallery is also on the task force and said that Amtrak is pleased to work at producing a cost-effective plan.
La Grande City Manager Wes Hare asked to be appointed to the task force. Apparently his city had offered money to keep the Pioneer running.
The city of Ontario has a raised $95,000 toward a restoration of their train station.
Task Force members will hold their first meeting in Ontario, OR at 10:30 am, July 23 in the Four Rivers Clubhouse. It is open to the public, although it is not a public hearing.
The task force feels that express shippping service could help the train pay for itself.
SENATE TRANSPORTATION BILL--July 14, 1999. The Senate, embroiled in various controversies, is unlikely to get to its transportation appropriations bill - S.1143 - before July 19th. Controversies relating to S.1143 continues over the attempt by subcommittee Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama to take some transit money from California and New York State and spread it around to other states. The Senate bill does include the full $571 million requested by Amtrak.
SUNSET LIMITED CRASHES IN TEXAS--July 10, 1999. Amtrak's eastbound Sunset Ltd. has reportedly hit a waste disposal truck at a grade crossing outside of Houston, TX on July 8. 20 people are reportedly injured, none seriously, as 2 locomotives and 7 cars derailed. The wife of AZ Senator John McCain, an outspoken opponent of Amtrak funding, was aboard the train with her son. They were not injured in the accident. While the engineer remains under observation at a hospital the truck driver was unharmed. Police said they were investigating three possible charges against the driver, including failure to have a log book as required by law, improperly stopping on a railroad and for having bad brakes.
Texas public safety officials say that the truck driver will be charged with running a stop sign. There were no warning lights or gates at the crossing.
NEW HAMPSHIRE RAIL SERVICE--July 7, 1999. Passenger rail service between Nashua and Lowell, Mass., could be a reality by 2002 if $50 million of federal funding is secured.
AMTRAK'S SILVER PALM CRASHES INTO TWO CARS--July 6, 1999. There are reports tonight that Amtrak's southbound Silver Palm has crashed into two cars at a rail crossing in Boca Raton, Florida. Apparently the crossing gates were malfunctioning and did not close all the way. Reports are that no one aboard the train was injured and that the injuries to the drivers of the car were not believed to be life threatening.
DeLEON APPOINTMENT APPROVED--July 3, 1999. On Wednesday June 23rd, the Senate Commerce Committee on a voice vote approved the nomination of Sylvia DeLeon to the remaining vacancy on the Amtrak Board. DeLeon was a board member before the current board was established last year. This nomination has been delayed by the committee for nearly a year because DeLeon was seen on the committee as someone with a controversial role with the labor situation in late 1997, which contributed to the resignation of Amtrak President Tom Downs.
HOUSE FULLY FUNDS AMTRAK AT $571 MILLION--June 24, 1999. The House passed its transportation appropriations bill yesterday and the reported Hefley Amendment to cut Amtrak funding did not com The House did approve an amendment by Andrews, the New Jersey Democrat, which would reduce funding for the Amtrak Reform Council.
OPPOSE ANY AMTRAK CUTS--June 22, 1999.
URGENT MESSAGE FROM NARP - PLEASE ACT NOW!!!
To all NARP members, June 22, 1999--
The House's fiscal 2000 transportation funding bill, H.R. 2084, will not go to the House floor today -- but more likely will tomorrow, June 23. House leaders are expected to approve the rules of debate later today, and we do not currently expect any rail-related cuts at that point in the process.
**HOWEVER** - We have learned of a possible floor amendment to H.R. 2084 by Rep. Joel Hefley (R.-Colo.) that would cut Amtrak funding to $457 million. As we told you last week, the amount now in H.R. 2084 (which is the amount requested by Amtrak) is $571 million, or 6% below the 1999 (current year) level. Hefley's level would leave Amtrak with a 25% cut below the 1999 level.
Yet every other major transportation program is due for an increase, ranging from 4% to 7% for highways, Coast Guard, transit, and aviation.
A success for Hefley would be a huge threat to Amtrak's finances and operations in 2000, as well as to Amtrak's achieving its Congressional mandate of operational self-sufficiency by 2002.
EVEN IF YOU'VE ALREADY DONE SO THIS MONTH, ask your Representative right away to oppose any amendment to cut Amtrak funding. The Capitol Switchboard is 202/224-3121, or visit our web site at http://www.narprail.org/links.htm#congress for ways to make contact by e-mail. Always include your name and mailing address when e-mailing Congress. Your message needs to be short, sweet, and quick (see below for a suggestion).
Thanks for all you've done so far and for doing it yet again!
Scott Leonard, NARP
Possible message text -- Subject: Don't cut Amtrak! Dear Rep. X: I understand that the fiscal 2000 transportation funding bill, H.R. 2084, may be debated by the House tomorrow. I urge you to oppose any amendments that would cut Amtrak funding below what is already in the bill. Passenger train service is very important to me and to this country. Cutting Amtrak while giving increases to all the other modes is just plain bad policy. Sincerely, Y, address, city.
Amtrak Funding Status -- June 18, 1999
Letter from NARP--To all NARP Members, June 18, 1999:
Things if anything are less clear than they seemed when my last message was written. The FY 2000 transportation spending bill now is expected on the House floor probably Tuesday, June 22. Please urge all members to oppose any cut to Amtrak's $571 million. This already is 7% below the 99 level, while the bill gives highways, Coast Guard, transit and aviation increases ranging from 4 to 7%. The highway increase is $1.6 billion or almost three times the Amtrak total.
To reach any Capitol Hill office, call 202/224-3121.
The House Republican leadership wants to cut transportation spending below what the appropriations committee approved. The leadership includes Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Majority Leader Dick Armey and Whip Tom DeLay both of Texas, J. C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, who chairs the House Republican Conference and Christopher Cox of California, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. The most vocal fiscal hawk is another Oklahoman, Rep. Tom Coburn.
The leadership may not yet know what it will do. They have a tough job because highway and transit spending is uncuttable. It's unclear whether they will seek a token Amtrak cut that might be fixed later, or a huge, life-threatening cut.
The Senate also may do its DOT funding bill next week. Negotiations continue over a Shelby provision that diverts some transit funding from New York and California to other states, but no funding cut amendments are expected.
Letter from NARP--To all NARP Members, June 18, 1999:
NARP President Jack Martin is among the speakers scheduled at a July 7-8 conference in Washington. The keynote speakers will be Amtrak Reform Council Chairman Gil Carmichael and Amtrak Reform Board Chairman Michael Dukakis. Among the other speakers:
* Deputy DOT Secretary Mortimer Downey;
* Free Congress Foundation President and Amtrak Reform Council Vice-Chair Paul Weyrich (who is a long-time NARP member);
* Bruce Katz, Director of the Brookings Institution's Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy;
* Jim Costa, President-elect of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
* James Brunkenhoefer, National Legislative Director, United Transportation Union.
Martin is scheduled to speak from 4:20 to 4:40 PM on Wednesday. He will appear both as chairman of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority and as president of NARP, discussing both developments in Georgia and the nationwide Amtrak system.
The conference is open to the public but registration is required via NCI's website (www.ipt.com/aboard/nci/nci.htm) or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
AMTRAK APPROPRIATION ADVANCES IN HOUSE--June 8, 1999. The House Appropriations Committee this morning approved a fiscal 2000 funding bill retaining Amtrak's full request for $571 million and the "transit definition" of capital spending (allowing it to go to both maintenance-of-way and maintenance-of-equipment). This was approved before Memorial Day by the Transportation Subcommittee (and by the counterpart subcommittee and committee in the Senate).
It will be another three weeks or so before the House bill will advance to floor debate. It is still possible there will be a floor amendment to cut Amtrak funding, but we'll keep you posted. The Senate version of the bill likely will go to the Senate floor earlier than that.
The House floor is a potential "snake pit." The House has yet to pass any appropriations bills because fiscal "hawks" want to protect the tight overall spending limits enacted in 1997, and thus oppose the appropriations chairmen's strategy of passing transportation and other "easy" bills early with normal spending levels, then forcing a fight later by introducing a handful of big bills with dramatic cuts (including funding for veterans, Labor-HHS, U.S. EPA).
AMTRAK'S RIDERSHIP SURGES FOR THE NINTH CONSECUTIVE QUARTER--June 3, 1999
Corporation Announces Capital Investment Partnerships With States Hit A Record Half-Billion Dollars
WASHINGTON - The number of passengers riding Amtrak trains continued itssteady rise for the ninth consecutive quarter, up 5.1 percent from theprevious year. And, the corporation announced a record level of capitalinvestment by state and local governments reflecting its growingpartnerships that are key to the turnaround of America's intercitypassenger rail system.
Amtrak performance indicators released today through the second
quarter of fiscal year 1999 (Oct. 1, 1998 - March 31, 1999), show
passenger revenue is up by 8.2 percent compared to the year before.
For the fiscal year, ridership is also up, four percent. On-time
performance stands at 80.2 percent for the fiscal year, which
surpasses the airlines on-time performance of 77 percent for all of
last year. Amtrak's commercial lines of business such as real estate
and telecommunications produced an "Amtrak has put in place a commercially focused business plan
designed to grow our revenue base and that is exactly what is
happening," said Governor Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's chairman of the
Board. "A cornerstone of the business plan is strengthening
partnerships with states who are leading the way as the laboratories
of change to improve service and, therefore, enhance the
corporation's financial turnaround." Capital Investments Achieve New Record Today, Amtrak is reporting that state and local investment in
joint capital projects with Amtrak has reached historic levels,
demonstrating the growing reliance on rail and Amtrak to address
transportation needs. In the three fiscal years between 1997 and
1999, this figure is more than a half-billion dollars, with nearly
two-thirds of that total for 1999 alone. (1997: $109,639,000; 1998:
$102,019,000; and 1999: $297,675,000) New Funding Formula Spurs Growth in Partnerships Amtrak's innovative use of federal dollars is fueling the
tremendous increase in state capital investment in passenger rail. As
part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (TRA), Amtrak received $2.2
billion for capital projects designed to boost revenues. This
infusion, and the increased flexibility to use these funds, is
enabling Amtrak to make joint investments with states at historically
high levels. This year the level of state investment in capital
projects with Amtrak has tripled in large part because of the
availability of TRA funds. Recently Announced Partnership Investments In the past months, state and local partnership projects funded
from a variety of sources have resulted in the: Announcement just
yesterday that Amtrak will provide maintenance of passenger cars and
locomotives for the new Sounder commuter service in the Seattle area.
Announcement of the return of rail service to Oklahoma on June 15 for
the first time in 20 years. Opening of a new reservations call center
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Opening of the new Los Angeles
locomotive facility and groundbreaking for a new maintenance
building. Other State Investments in Amtrak The half billion dollars is only part of the financial support
states provide to strengthen rail service. States from coast to coast
contributed nearly $83 million last year to support train operations
for their citizens. Together, capital and operating funds are
benefiting customers by being invested to upgrade stations, passenger
cars and locomotives and by increasing the number of trains Amtrak
operates. In Washington, the state's partnership with Amtrak has
increased service, helped purchase new state-of-the-art trains and
catapulted state ridership by 347 percent, since its inception in
1993. In Illinois, Amtrak's partnership with the state has meant
upgraded passenger cars and an operating agreement with both
financial and operational performance incentives that resulted in a
10 percent ridership increase last year. Amtrak envisions even stronger partnerships in the future, with
both states and cities and with private industry leaders. In May, the
corporation announced the formation of the Amtrak Mayors' Advisory
Council. The Council will help raise national awareness of the
importance of intercity passenger rail to boost economic activity,
increase mobility, relieve road and air congestion, and will work to
support Amtrak's business plan through closer partnerships with
cities and towns. Private Sector Partnerships Also Driving Amtrak Growth The public partnerships are a complement to private partnerships
that together create a financially viable and commercially focused
Amtrak. On May 24, Amtrak introduced a co-branded Visa affinity card
with its partner Capital One. On May 1, Amtrak announced a
partnership with Hertz to begin offering car rental service at
selected rail stations. And in April, Dobbs International Services
took over the operations of Amtrak's commissaries under a contract
that will generate as much as $35 million in long-term savings.
Amtrak also announced a memorandum of understanding with Norfolk
Southern to expand Amtrak's growing express shipment business. Amtrak
has ongoing private partnerships with Pepsi, United Airlines and
Carnival Cruises Lines.
"Amtrak has put in place a commercially focused business plan designed to grow our revenue base and that is exactly what is happening," said Governor Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's chairman of the Board. "A cornerstone of the business plan is strengthening partnerships with states who are leading the way as the laboratories of change to improve service and, therefore, enhance the corporation's financial turnaround."
Capital Investments Achieve New Record
Today, Amtrak is reporting that state and local investment in joint capital projects with Amtrak has reached historic levels, demonstrating the growing reliance on rail and Amtrak to address transportation needs. In the three fiscal years between 1997 and 1999, this figure is more than a half-billion dollars, with nearly two-thirds of that total for 1999 alone. (1997: $109,639,000; 1998: $102,019,000; and 1999: $297,675,000)
New Funding Formula Spurs Growth in Partnerships
Amtrak's innovative use of federal dollars is fueling the tremendous increase in state capital investment in passenger rail. As part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (TRA), Amtrak received $2.2 billion for capital projects designed to boost revenues. This infusion, and the increased flexibility to use these funds, is enabling Amtrak to make joint investments with states at historically high levels. This year the level of state investment in capital projects with Amtrak has tripled in large part because of the availability of TRA funds.
Recently Announced Partnership Investments
In the past months, state and local partnership projects funded from a variety of sources have resulted in the: Announcement just yesterday that Amtrak will provide maintenance of passenger cars and locomotives for the new Sounder commuter service in the Seattle area. Announcement of the return of rail service to Oklahoma on June 15 for the first time in 20 years. Opening of a new reservations call center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Opening of the new Los Angeles locomotive facility and groundbreaking for a new maintenance building.
Other State Investments in Amtrak
The half billion dollars is only part of the financial support states provide to strengthen rail service. States from coast to coast contributed nearly $83 million last year to support train operations for their citizens. Together, capital and operating funds are benefiting customers by being invested to upgrade stations, passenger cars and locomotives and by increasing the number of trains Amtrak operates. In Washington, the state's partnership with Amtrak has increased service, helped purchase new state-of-the-art trains and catapulted state ridership by 347 percent, since its inception in 1993. In Illinois, Amtrak's partnership with the state has meant upgraded passenger cars and an operating agreement with both financial and operational performance incentives that resulted in a 10 percent ridership increase last year.
Amtrak envisions even stronger partnerships in the future, with both states and cities and with private industry leaders. In May, the corporation announced the formation of the Amtrak Mayors' Advisory Council. The Council will help raise national awareness of the importance of intercity passenger rail to boost economic activity, increase mobility, relieve road and air congestion, and will work to support Amtrak's business plan through closer partnerships with cities and towns.
Private Sector Partnerships Also Driving Amtrak Growth
The public partnerships are a complement to private partnerships that together create a financially viable and commercially focused Amtrak. On May 24, Amtrak introduced a co-branded Visa affinity card with its partner Capital One. On May 1, Amtrak announced a partnership with Hertz to begin offering car rental service at selected rail stations. And in April, Dobbs International Services took over the operations of Amtrak's commissaries under a contract that will generate as much as $35 million in long-term savings. Amtrak also announced a memorandum of understanding with Norfolk Southern to expand Amtrak's growing express shipment business. Amtrak has ongoing private partnerships with Pepsi, United Airlines and Carnival Cruises Lines.
AMTRAK FLEXIBILITY MEASURE INTRODUCED IN SENATE--June 2, 1999. On Thursday May 27th, a long-awaited Senate bill to give states the right to spend their flexible federal transportation dollars on intercity passenger rail investments was introduced. The Bill is S-1144 - The Surface Transportation Act of 1999. The bill also includes sections on the State Infrastructure Bank Program and a few other technical changes to TEA-21. The bill was introduced by Ohio Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee. The original co-sponsors are John H. Chafee (R-RI, chairman of the full committee), Jim M. Jeffords (R-VT), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), John W. Warner (R-VA), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Harry Reid (D-NV), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT). IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THIS BILL GETS AS MANY CO-SPONSORS AS POSSIBLE.
TEA-21 is the big highway/transit law enacted last year. The new flexibility in S.1144, dubbed the "Surface Transportation Act of 1999," applies to National Highway System, Surface Transportation Program and - in certain situations - Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funds.
Under current law, intercity passenger rail is the only major form of surface transportation on which federal law forbids states to spend gasoline-tax-generated funds. (Some state gasoline-tax funds are spent on intercity passenger rail.) The bill also includes sections on the State Infrastructure Bank Program and a handful of other changes to transportation law.
The "Amtrak flexibility" concept embodied in S.1144 was endorsed earlier this year in Congressional testimony by the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the League of Cities.
CALL YOUR SENATORS: Now is the time to pick up the phone and call your U.S. Senators. Ask them to support and co-sponsor S.1144 which allows Transportation Funds (TEA-21) to be used for Amtrak.
The Capitol Switchboard is 202/224-3121.
AMTRAK PRAISES THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE FOR FULLY FUNDING THE RAILROAD; HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ALSO ACTS--May 27, 1999.
Capital Investment Funds Will Continue Amtrak's Business Turnaround
WASHINGTON - Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $571 million in capital support for Amtrak, the nation's intercity passenger railroad. The amount is what Amtrak and the Administration had requested for fiscal year 2000 and will enable Amtrak to adhere to its business plan to become more financially viable and customer-focused. This year, ridership has increased nearly four-percent, which mirrors last year's performance when the largest ridership increase in a decade powered record passenger revenue of more than $1 billion.
In the House today, the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee also approved full funding for Amtrak.
"Americans are seeking relief from notorious road and air congestion," said George Warrington, Amtrak's president and CEO. "Thanks to the leadership of both Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Chairmen Richard Shelby and Frank Wolf, and the Ranking Minority Members, Senator Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, both panels have clearly demonstrated to their colleagues that bipartisan support for a viable business-like intercity passenger rail system is strong."
The Senate Appropriations Committee report noted that Amtrak is taking some of the necessary steps to improve its financial condition, in particular, the emphasis on building partnerships with private businesses and states, and growing Amtrak's mail and express shipment business. This year, Amtrak has announced numerous alliances with major corporations that will increase revenues and generate savings. These include: Dobbs International Services, Inc. to provide catering for Amtrak trains; Norfolk Southern, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and ExpressTrak to enhance Amtrak's express shipment business; and Capital One to offer a Visa affinity card. Amtrak also has ongoing private partnerships with other major corporations, and has an established business relationship with the United States Postal Service.
SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES AMTRAK FUNDING--May 25, 1999. the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Richard Shelby (R.-Ala.), approved Amtrak's full budget request for fiscal 2000. This is $571 million for capital funding plus the full "transit definition" of allowable capital spending (i.e., capital funds could go to both maintenance of equipment and maintenance of way).
As far as we know, the full Senate Appropriations Committee plans to act Thursday. Also, the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee plans to act Thursday, though that could slip beyond Memorial Day.
Your Congressional contacts have been helpful -- please keep it up! The Capitol Switchboard is 202/224-3121.
Secretary Slater Announces Finalists For Maglev Technology Deployment Program--May 24, 1999.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced grants to seven states and authorities for pre-construction planning for magnetic levitation (Maglev) high-speed ground transportation.
"Maglev technology has the potential to provide a new, safe and efficient high-speed ground transportation option for passengers," said Secretary Slater. "President Clinton said that now is not a time to rest but to build, and this program reflects his commitment to developing new technology that will help grow the economy and protect the environment in the 21st century."
The federal funds will pay up to two-thirds of the cost of the preliminary engineering, market studies, environmental assessments, and financial planning needed to determine the feasibility of deploying a Maglev project.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will distribute a total of $12.2 million among the seven grant recipients. The amount of each grant will vary based on the project. The FRA has selected the following projects for funding:
* Port Authority of Allegheny County: A 45-mile project linking Pittsburgh Airport to Pittsburgh and its eastern suburbs.
* Maryland Department of Transportation: A 40-mile project linking Camden Yard in Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Union Station in Washington, D.C.
* California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission: A 42-mile project linking Las Vegas to Primm, Nev.
* Florida Department of Transportation: A 20-mile project linking Port Canaveral to the Space Center and the Titusville Regional Airport.
* Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission: A 40-mile project linking New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to the airport and across Lake Ponchartrain to the fast-growing northern suburbs.
* Georgia/Atlanta Regional Commission: First 40 miles of 110-mile project from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tenn.
* State of California: A 70- to 75-mile system connecting Los Angeles International Airport to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Ontario Airport and further east into Riverside County.
Each of the grants will provide the selected projects with sufficient federal funds to pay up to two-thirds of the cost of the preliminary engineering, market studies, environmental assessments, and financial planning needed to determine the feasibility of deploying a Maglev project. This phase of the competition will last one year from the date the grants are awarded. One project will be chosen from the seven to construct and deploy a Maglev project.
APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE--NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS --May 22, 1999.
The appropriations process now appears to be speeding up, at least for transportation purposes. Sen. Richard Shelby's (R-AL) appropriations subcommittee on transportation is expected to mark up its fiscal 2000 funding bill on Tuesday afternoon, May 25. The full committee, chaired by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), likely will take up the bill Thursday morning.
Also Thursday, May 27, there is a possibility that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, chaired by Frank Wolf (R-VA), will mark up a House counterpart bill.
Now is the time to ask your legislators to push for Amtrak's $571 million and the right of Amtrak to spend that money on both maintenance of way and maintenance of equipment.
The Capitol Switchboard is 202/224-3121.
To Contact Congress Go To: congress.html
BOSTON TO PORTLAND, ME SERVICE UPDATE--May 19, 1999. The upgrade of 77 miles of track on Guilford Transportation's Boston & Maine line to support planned Amtrak passenger trains between Portland, Maine, and Boston was to begin May 19, with the replacement of the first crossties. More than $15 million has been committed for materials, including the ties, plates, and spikes, Michael Murray, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, told the Associated Press.
Guilford track crews will work their way south from Rigby Yard in South Portland. Later, heavy equipment will be brought in to repair the trackbed and rails before more ties are replaced later this summer. The goal is for passenger service to resume in summer 2000, Murray said. Before that happens, 45 bridges also must be upgraded.
Many of the rails date back to 1932 and don't meet Amtrak requirements. Stable tracks are required for the trains to run at maximum speeds of 79 mph, sought by Maine officials who fear ridership would be low if the trains were any slower. Guilford is pushing for track that will accommodate 60-mph trains, and the Surface Transportation Board is due to issue a decision in the ongoing proceeding sometime this summer.
The 114-mile line has 36 miles in Massachusetts, owned by transit agency MBTA, 35 miles in New Hampshire, and 43 miles in Maine. Travel time between Boston and Portland has been estimated at 2 hours 20 minutes. Trains would arrive and leave from North Station in Boston.
Murray said current projections put the annual passenger total at 316,000, or roughly 1000 daily. The passenger breakdown is expected to be 65 percent for recreation, 21 percent for business, and 14 percent for commuting.
Plans call for the single Massachusetts stop to be in Haverhill, with other stops in Exeter and Dover, N.H., and Wells and Saco, Maine. Rail officials also plan a weekend stop at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and a summer stop at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
Murray said if ridership doesn't justify a stop on a given trip, the stop could be skipped, saving 5 minutes on total trip time. He said the current schedule calls for four daily round-trip runs. Trains would leave Portland at 5:55 a.m., 8:55 a.m., 1:40 p.m. and 5:10 p.m., and arrive in Boston at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 4:20 p.m., and 7:50 p.m., respectively. Trains would leave Boston at 9:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and arrive in Portland at 12:20 p.m., 3:30 p.m, 9:10 p.m., and 12:10 a.m.
Source: Dave Bowe
AMTRAK ANNOUNCES NEW OKLAHOMA TRAIN SCHEDULE--May 18, 1999. Amtrak and the State of Oklahoma announced today that Amtrak is now accepting reservations for the new Oklahoma City -- Fort Worth rail passenger service. Passenger trains will return to Oklahoma starting June 15, 1999, when Amtrak commences daily rail passenger service on the route for the first time in 20 years. The State of Oklahoma will finance the new service.
"Amtrak is pleased to be working with the state of Oklahoma, U.S. Senator Don Nickles, and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad to expand passenger service to a new region of the country and to offer the many benefits of rail travel to thousands more passengers," said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer George Warrington. "Forging such partnerships is a critical element of Amtrak's strategic business plan to become a more customer-focused, commercially oriented national railroad."
"It is great news for Oklahoma to have Amtrak service coming back to the state after a 20-year absence," Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles said. "My compliments to Amtrak and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for their quick work to finalize the details. The new train will run daily back and forth between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, connecting Oklahoma to the entire nation by rail. I hope Oklahomans will take advantage of this resource."
Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Neal McCaleb said, "Hats off to the efforts of Senator Don Nickles, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Amtrak and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad for working so quickly to build an effective passenger rail service! Tickets are now on sale, and it will only be a matter of days until Oklahomans can hear that old call, 'All Aboard.' Now it will be up to the state and the entire region to improve and expand this service through ridership support."
Starting June 15, the new train will depart Oklahoma City's Santa Fe Station at 8:25 a.m. and arrive in Fort Worth, Texas, at 1:00 p.m. The train will depart Fort Worth daily at 5:25 p.m. and arrive in Oklahoma City at 10:00 p.m. The new train will also serve the Oklahoma communities of Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley and Ardmore as well as the northern Texas community of Gainesville. The refurbished bi-level equipment will offer customers wide, reclining coach seats with leg and foot rests and will provide travelers a commanding view of the Canadian and Washita River Valleys and the Arbuckle Mountains.
At Fort Worth, customers will be able to connect to Amtrak's nationwide passenger rail system. Fort Worth is served four times a week by the Texas Eagle operating between Chicago and San Antonio via St. Louis, Little Rock and Fort Worth.
The new train, to be operated by Amtrak in partnership with the State of Oklahoma, has not yet been named. Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles is conducting a contest asking Oklahoma children to name the state's new passenger train. The "Name the Train" home page is located on Nickles' Web site at www.senate.gov/~nickles/oktrain.html and also includes a map of the new train route, tips and suggestions used by Amtrak when picking a train name, and train safety information. Students in kindergarten through the 6th grade in communities serviced by the train are particularly urged to participate.
Passengers wishing to travel on the new, all-reserved train can make reservations and get information on fares and schedules by calling Amtrak's toll-free reservation and information number, 800-USA-RAIL.
New Daily Oklahoma City-Fort Worth Train Service
Effective June 15, 1999, Reservations are required.
All times are local.
Southbound Oklahoma Train, #821
Norman, Okla. 8:54 a.m.
Purcell, Okla. 9:17 a.m.
Pauls Valley, Okla. 9:45 a.m.
Ardmore, Okla. 10:44 a.m.
Gainesville, Texas 11:28 a.m.
Arrive Fort Worth 1:00 p.m.
Northbound Oklahoma Train, #822
Gainesville, Texas 6:45 p.m.
Ardmore, Okla. 7:33 p.m.
Pauls Valley 8:29 p.m.
Purcell, Okla. 8:57 p.m.
Norman, Okla. 9:21 p.m.
Arrive Oklahoma City 10:00 p.m.
AMTRAK TO MAKE EARLY PAYBACK OF TEXAS EAGLE LOAN--May 16, 1999. Amtrak will pay off a $5.6 million loan to the state of Texas early, according to the Longview (Texas) News Journal. The state made the loan two years ago to keep Amtrak's Texas Eagle service running after Congressional cutbacks threatened the funding of the route. Amtrak President George D. Warrington said the early repayment of the loan from Texas to Amtrak is scheduled to take place in ceremonies next week in Austin.
AMTRAK PACIFIC NORTHWEST SERVICE REPORTS STEADY RISE--May 15, 1999. SEATTLE - Amtrak ridership continued to grow for the 26th consecutive month with more than 120,420 passenger trips in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor during the first quarter of calendar year 1999 (January-March). The ridership trend represents an 8.7 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
Amtrak and state officials attribute the continued rise in Pacific Northwest ridership to the launch of the new Amtrak Cascades service and the introduction of new, European-style train equipment, custom-built for the region. Amtrak Cascades continue to rank among Amtrak's top ten services for customer satisfaction nationwide.
Amtrak service diverted more than 6.5 million miles of traffic from regional highways and prevented more than 151 tons of air pollution, according to the states of Washington and Oregon, had Pacific Northwest Amtrak customers used other means of transportation during the same period.
As part of Amtrak's national effort to offer consistent and competitive customer service, Amtrak Cascades custom class will now be called business class. Business class amenities offered to Amtrak Cascades customers and the fare charged for the upgrade will not differ from the current custom class service. Business class customers enjoy wider, more comfortable seating; priority boarding and de-boarding; and complimentary snack, non-alcoholic beverage and newspaper.
The change in name better reflects the level of service offered to Amtrak Cascades customers and is consistent with business class service across the Amtrak system nationwide. Regular one-way adult fares between Eugene and Seattle start as low as $29; Seattle and Portland, $21; and Seattle and Vancouver, BC, $21. A one-way business class upgrade for each segment listed costs $10 or less. Passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early to obtain lowest fares.
The Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor extends 466 miles from Eugene, Ore. to Vancouver, BC. Corridor service is provided in partnership with the states of Washington and Oregon. The corridor is also served by the daily Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight.
CITY OF NEW ORLEANS CRASH RULED "ACCIDENTAL" --May 14, 1999. The deaths of 11 people in the March 15 collision of Amtrak's City of New Orleans and a tractor trailer truck were ruled an accident and not homicide yesterday by a coroner's inquest jury -- a decision that does not prevent prosecutors from bringing charges. The coroner's inquest jury heard testimony Thursday from two Bourbonnais, IL police officers and the town's fire chief and deliberated just 20 minutes.
John R. Stokes, the truck driver, attended the hearing but declined to testify, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Prosecutors are not bound by the findings of a coroner's jury, made up of six ordinary citizens who had been called for jury duty.
Mayors from Across the Nation Form Advisory Council to Support and Strengthen Amtrak --May 13, 1999. Mayors from throughout the U.S. gathered today for the inaugural meeting of the Amtrak Mayors' Advisory Council. The mayors are coming together to bolster local support for intercity passenger rail, raise awareness of its important transportation role and support Amtrak's Strategic Business Plan through closer partnerships between Amtrak and cities and towns. The 21 members were announced for the first time publicly at the meeting of the corporation's Board of Directors in Chicago. (Please see the attached list.) From North Carolina and New York to Illinois and California, states and cities are partnering with Amtrak to deliver better intercity passenger rail service to meet the transportation needs of their citizens.
"There is a clamoring for more and better rail service in big cities and small towns throughout the U.S., and collectively, these mayors will raise their voices to support a stronger Amtrak for their community," said Mayor John Robert Smith, Amtrak Board member and mayor of Meridian, Mississippi. "I know from leading the fight for Amtrak in Meridian that rail service is a real opportunity for communities."
The Council will forge a closer working relationship with cities and towns and will enable Amtrak to work even more successfully to become a commercially viable, customer-focused and financially sound corporation. In addition, it will broaden understanding among citizens and policymakers at all levels of government about the benefits intercity passenger rail has in economic development, mobility and relief from traffic congestion.
"As a governor, I have heard mayors in my state of Wisconsin and others express interest in more Amtrak service," said Governor Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's chairman of the Board. "This Council will be a forum for the development of smart business ideas for Amtrak and cities to pursue together and an outlet for mayors to voice their support for equitable transportation funding from coast to coast."
Strong local coalitions have played an important role in bringing about better passenger rail service and in fighting for increased funding for intercity passenger rail. For example, cities in Texas formed the Texas Eagle Coalition to save Amtrak's Texas Eagle from being eliminated. Cities in the Gulf Coast worked through the Crescent Coalition led by Mayor Smith, to restore daily service on Amtrak's Crescent (New York - New Orleans).
"It's a win-win situation," said George Warrington, Amtrak's president and CEO. "Stronger partnerships with the regions we serve will help increase service and grow Amtrak's ridership and revenues, while helping to meet their transportation needs."
Amtrak and the corporation's Board of Directors worked with the Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities to identify qualified candidates for the Council.
AMTRAK MAYORS' ADVISORY COUNCIL
1. Marc Morial
New Orleans, LA
2. Ken Barr
Ft. Worth, TX
3. Sharpe James
4. Timothy Kaine
5. Scott Maddox
6. Jim Marshall
7. David Bowers
8. James Sills
9. Jim Perron
10. Chuck McLaran
11. Will Kleindeinst
Palm Springs, CA
12. Tom Carper
13. Patricia Owens
Grand Forks, ND
14. Susan Kluttz
15. Michael Guido
16. Audrey Kariel
17. Susan Boone
Vincent Laurel, MS
18. Barbara Fahey
19. Marilyn Young
20. Joseph Griffo
21. Chuck Sanders
U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Announces Landmark Safety Standards For Railroad Passenger Equipment--May 10, 1999.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced historic, comprehensive standards to improve the safety of America's railroad passenger equipment.
"This is the first time in the United States that we will have comprehensive safety standards for the safety of rail passenger equipment," Secretary Slater said. "This is an important step forward, underscoring President Clinton's commitment to safety as our highest transportation priority and making railroad passenger travel safer by enhancing the crashworthiness, fire safety and emergency escape features of passenger trains."
The final rule, which was issued by the department's Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), addresses a comprehensive range of safety features. Specifically it:
* Establishes comprehensive structural safety standards for rail passenger equipment.
* Creates specific, more stringent safety standards for high-speed rail passenger equipment.
* Enhances requirements for fire safety including an evaluation of existing fleet compliance.
* Specifies requirements for passenger car emergency escape and escape features.
* Revises existing standards on the inspection, testing and maintenance of power brakes.
* Establishes new standards for the inspection and testing of mechanical components of passenger trains.
* Requires passenger railroads to undertake specific safety planning on aspects of railroad operations affecting equipment safety.
"The rule was developed in consultation with a working group comprising representatives of rail labor, Amtrak, and commuter railroads, as well as industry associations, passenger advocate groups, manufacturers and states," said FRA Administrator Jolene M. Molitoris.
The new standard will be in the Federal Register, on May 12, 1999. In September 1994, the Secretary of Transportation outlined a plan to develop new safety standards for rail passenger equipment over a five-year period and in two phases. The FRA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on passenger equipment safety standards in June 1996 and a notice of proposed rulemaking in September 1997. Public comment from 34 separate parties were received in response.
Molitoris said that the rule does not apply to tourist, excursion or historic railroads. Requirements for such equipment will be developed separately. The rule will apply to Amtrak, commuter railroads, and other short-haul passenger operations in metropolitan and suburban areas, except for rapid transit operations that are not connected to the general railroad system.
In 1984, the FRA issued guidelines recommending test methods and performance criteria for flammability and smoke emission characteristics of materials in passenger cars. Later updated in 1989, these guidelines have been followed voluntarily by passenger railroads. The final rule revises and codifies these earlier FRA recommendations.
The FRA is supporting the American Public Transit Association's (APTA) development of additional voluntary industry safety standards for rail passenger equipment, and APTA's System Safety Program, under which passenger railroads are implementing dedicated safety plans.
NEW NEC SERVICE--May 3, 1999. With the spring/summer timetable, Amtrak will be making a few changes in preparation for the launch of Acela service later this year.
The biggest, most noticeable change is the renaming of the classes of our service to First class, Business class, and Coach class. Gone are Club and Custom classes. With Club and Custom, customers often received different levels of service by product line. It is the intent to provide a consistent level of customer service and amenities across all Acela services. Business class on Acela Regional will offer the same amenities as it will on Acela Express. Amtrak is changing the service classes now to allow for a smoother transition to Acela Express, Acela Regional and Acela Commuter later this year.
As part of this effort, Amtrak will also discontinue the use of individual train names. Market research has shown that customers are seeking simplicity and clarity. When the transition to Acela is complete, NEC trains will be known only as Acela Express, Regional or Commuter.
Effective May 16th, to coincide with the timetable, Amtrak will also discontinue Club Service on NortheastDirect trains. According to NEC spokesman Ed Bagley, "this change will enable us to rotate cars out of service so they can be refurbished. This change will also help us maintain the required staffing levels on our trains, while Club Service attendants and other front-line employees participate in Service Success Training over the next several months."
Temporarily, customers traveling between New York and Boston will not have a premium service option. However, these customers will have the option of traveling in First class aboard Acela Express when it launches in just a few months. The Marketing Department has identified frequent NortheastDirect Club customers, and they will be offered some incentives to make up for the temporary loss of this service.
Also in the new timetable Amtrak is temporarily discontinuing service to Back Bay station. "This is necessary to accommodate an acceleration of the electrification work that's part of the northend high-speed rail project. Some special shuttle trains will operate between Back Bay and South Station, but we are encouraging customers to travel through South Station as the preferred alternative."
NEW EMPIRE SERVICE--April 19, 1999. Amtrak will add a 12th roundtrip train every weekday between Albany and New York City to keep pace with ridership demand in the fast-growing Hudson Valley corridor. The new service includes a 3:10 p.m. southbound departure from Albany/Rensselaer that arrives in New York at 5:50 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For the new northbound service, the New York-Montreal Adirondack will depart two hours earlier at 7:50 a.m. daily, stopping in Albany at 10:30 a.m. A new train will run daily from New York to Albany at 9:55 a.m. in place of the Adirondack.
Amtrak, Norfolk Southern Agree on Northeast Access for Triple Crown Services, Amtrak Express Shipping --April 19, 1999. Expanding its cooperative working relationship with Norfolk Southern (NS) to tap the booming demand for mail and express shipping service, Amtrak today announced it has reached a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an NS affiliate, Triple Crown Services Co. (TCSC), that will govern access to the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor and Keystone lines for TCSC RoadRailer units hauled on NS freight trains.
The MOU is expected to generate millions of dollars in new commercial revenue annually for Amtrak, enable TCSC, a joint venture between Norfolk Southern Corp. and Conrail, to offer improved shipping schedules between the Northeast and markets in the Southeast and Midwest, and facilitate efforts by both companies to capture larger shares of the express shipping market. Amtrak and TCSC agreed to share the use of RoadRailer multi-modal trailer handling facilities at Portside Yard in the Port of New York and New Jersey and at facilities in Harrisburg and Philadelphia.
AMTRAK TO BEGIN SERVICE TO OKLAHOMA--April 16, 1999. Amtrak passenger rail service returns to Oklahoma on June 14, with trains running daily between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas. It will leave Oklahoma City about 8 a.m., arriving in Fort Worth about 1:30 p.m. The train will leave Fort Worth about 4 p.m. daily, arriving in Oklahoma City after 8 p.m. Estimated cost of a ticket could be $30.00 one way. The train will leave each day from the old Santa Fe station in Oklahoma City and will stop in Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley and Ardmore. Another stop will be made in Gainesville, Texas. Oklahoma hopes to make between $1 million and $2 million a year in passenger fares, which will be used to help pay the state's subsidy for Amtrak service. The train will have four passenger cars, including a dining car.
Amtrak made a proposal to include service from Oklahoma City to Tulsa along a route the state purchased but that is a circuitous route and would require three hours for a passenger train to get there.
The state of Oklahoma has also talked with Amtrak about using a rail line that runs from Tulsa through Pawnee to just north of Perry. However, Tulsa officials appear to be more interested in getting a direct passenger train connection from Tulsa to Kansas City.
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS CRASH--April 1, 1999.
Illinois today decided to suspend truck driver John Stokes' commercial driver's license for two months beginning June 1. The suspension does not affect Stokes' regular driver's license at all.
The state of Illinois today decided to grant a commercial license to truck driver John Stokes! This despite the fact that Stokes' driving record included numerous speeding tickets, accidents, drunken driving citations and suspensions of his driver's license.
Illinois state records obtained by The Associated Press show that truck driver John Stokes' license was suspended twice when he failed to pass breath tests for alcohol after traffic stops in 1987 and 1988. The A.P. reports that Illinois officials are looking into whether or not they can revoke the driver's license. Thus far Stokes has not been charged in the accident.
Investigators for the NTSB say that three witness to the crash have given potentially conflicting statements about whether the truck was on the tracks before warning signals and crossing gates activated. ``We have not been able to completely reconcile the statements that are possibly conflicting,'' said NTSB spokesperson Jamie Finch. He said that transcripts of the interviews would be sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C., to be compared to physical evidence from the scene.
The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting today that Illinois state officials have uncovered at least 17 motor vehicle incidents involving the truck driver John Stokes, including at least 4 license suspensions, accidents that resulted in injuries and speeding violations. Stokes has reportedly been cited in at least five motor vehicle violations in Indiana.
A reporter for WBBM-TV in Chicago interviewed the Spanish speaking man who was driving behind Stokes. ``There is no question about it, the gates were down,'' the reporter quoted the witness as saying, adding that the witness said he ``saw the truck run around the gate.''
NTSB officials want to know why both Amtrak engines involved in the crash leaked fuel. The NTSB has determined that fuel leaked from both locomotives that had been pulling the train, although the spill from the second engine likely contributed more to the fire in the sleeper car, said NTSB spokesman Phil Frame. Both locomotives were General Electric Genesis models, which have four fuel tanks cradled deep inside the frame and reinforced with steel.
NTSB officials are wrapping up their investigation and now say that more witnesses have come forward in the investigation but that no conclusions have been made yet. There are conflicting reports in the press as to what one witness, the man who claims to have been driving behind the truck, has reported. One account said that the man's statement was not inconsistent with that of the locomotive engineer but a Chicago Tribune report stated that the man has corroborated the trucker's version of the events. Apparently the man speaks Spanish and there are misinterpretations over what he has told authorities.
Meanwhile the son of one of the passengers who is believed to have died in the crash has called upon the truck driver to tell all he knows. "If he ran the gates and they were down, I'd like for him to come out and admit it. If he did do it, have the common decency to admit it,'' said the brother, Robert Munson.
The attorney for the truck driver said that his client, John Stokes, was "very distressed." Among Stokes' convictions was one in 1978 for disregarding a traffic light in Cook County and one for reckless driving in Kankakee County in 1989.
Previously I had reported the following:
A witness has come forward in the investigation of the crash of the City of New Orleans and a tractor trailer truck. The witness has been questioned by federal investigators and the Associated Press is quoting a "high level federal source" as saying that he has told federal investigators that the truck driver "tried to snake through lowered crossing gates and beat the train." Federal authorities have said that the statement provided by the witness "was not inconsistent" with the account provided by the locomotive engineer. Nevertheless it appears that investigators want to requestion the man because he speaks Spanish and there may be differences in the interpretation of what he has told authorities.
The witness, who was driving immediately behind the tractor trailer truck, had earlier contacted Amtrak. NTSB officials called the witness very credible.
Meanwhile, the NTSB has confirmed that the crossing signals at the site were working at the site of the crash.
The truck driver in the accident, John Stokes, has hired a lawyer who has barred his client from any further questioning by authorities.
Amtrak Supports Congressional Action on Rail-crossing Safety --March 25, 1999. WASHINGTON, D.C. - In light of the recent tragedy, Amtrak today welcomed the Senate hearing on grade-crossing safety by the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine, chaired by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Amtrak dedicates itself everyday to ensuring the safety of its customers and employees, and highway-rail grade crossing safety is a critical component of the railroad's safety effort.
"Senator Hutchison is a strong supporter of intercity passenger rail and a long-time rail safety advocate," said George Warrington, Amtrak's president and CEO. "With Senator Hutchison's leadership, we will work together to reduce the number one cause of serious passenger rail accidents."
Amtrak, working with the Federal Railroad Administration, has specifically sought tougher enforcement and penalties for drivers who violate crossing signals, the elimination of grade crossings where possible, and increased public education about the hazards of grade crossings.
Because recent events have focused attention on the need for drivers, particularly truck drivers, to obey the law at grade crossings, Amtrak is encouraged that Congress and state legislatures are looking into the issue. Amtrak has long urged federal, state, and local officials to ensure that motorists comply with grade-crossing regulations.
In May 1998, Amtrak gave comments to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) strongly in favor of tougher federal regulations to increase penalties for truck drivers who illegally pass through a grade crossing (Docket Number FHWA-97-3103). The FHWA proposed rules would also penalize employers who knowingly allow a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle: without a valid license; if the vehicle is not in proper operating condition; or in violation of railroad-highway crossing laws.
In its statement, Amtrak commented, "As a general matter, grade-crossing accidents involving trucks are caused by driver error, including ignoring active warning devices, driving too fast for conditions, and being trapped or stuck on the tracks due to failure to exercise good judgement and follow legal requirements. Because of the frequency of occurrence and the seriousness of consequences, everything possible must be done to deter the conduct that can lead to accidents between commercial motor vehicles and trains at railroad grade crossings."
Elimination of Crossings
In the areas of the country where Amtrak owns the track over which it operates, Amtrak has made a priority of working with communities to eliminate crossings or upgrade the types of warning devices used. In the Northeast Corridor, where Amtrak owns most of the track between Washington, D.C. and Boston, all grade crossings have been eliminated on the 300 miles south of New Haven, Connecticut. Of the remaining 156 miles north of New Haven, the corporation has been working with the Federal Railroad Administration and the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to either close grade crossings, install improved quad gate systems or enhance safety at the 16 grade crossings that were identified in 1994. When Amtrak's new high-speed rail service begins late this year, only eleven grade crossings will remain. Amtrak also owns 95 miles of track in Michigan and has been working with the state and local communities to close both public and private grade crossings.
Increased Public Education
Amtrak is an active participant in Operation Lifesaver, a 27-year-old nationwide safety education and public information program dedicated to preventing crashes, injuries, and fatalities at the approximately 270,000 intersections where roadways cross railways in the US. In addition, Amtrak, Operation Lifesaver, the American Trucking Association and others are partners in the "Trucker on the Train" and "Officer on the Train" programs which place truck drivers and law enforcement officers in the operating cabs of trains, allowing them to get a better understanding of the hazards of illegally driving through grade crossings.
The Subcommittee also heard testimony from Amtrak train engineer Billy Parker, a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. In 1993, Parker was operating an Amtrak train that was involved in a grade-crossing collision with a gasoline tanker truck in Florida. Today, Parker leads efforts to educate the public about grade-crossing safety.
11 DEAD IN AMTRAK - TRUCK CRASH--Updated March 18, 1999. 11 Amtrak passengers are reported dead and scores of others injured, many seriously, when Amtrak's southbound City of New Orleans crashed into a semi-tractortrailer truck, loaded with heavy steel bars, crossing the tracks in Bourbonnais, Illinois Monday night (March 15). It appears that all the fatalities were in one sleeper car positioned behind the engines and baggage car. 11 cars and two engines were reportedly derailed with one of the engines split in half. Flames erupted from the scene.
According to news reports, the truck driver, who survived the crash, had three separate speeding violations in Indiana in the past year and was driving under a temporary permit from the state of Illinois after having his license revoked. The truck driver has told news reporters that the flashing warning lights did not come on until after he began crossing the tracks and that he did not see the train. His version of the events differs sharply from that of the Amtrak engineer and preliminary findings from the National Transportation Safety Board. According to the engineer, who tried to stop the train in advance of the crossing, he could see the warning lights flashing, the gates go down and the trucker attempt to go around the protective gates. An NTSB spokesman said the train was traveling at 79 mph. According to Amtrak's chairman, Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, the truck driver, John R. Stokes was trying to dodge the crossing gates.
According to David Farrell, a spokesman for the Illinois Commerce Commission, the gates and the warning lights at the crossing appeared to have been working properly at the time of the crash. Muddy tracks suggesting that the truck had tried to veer around the gates were also evident.
NARP spokesman Ross Capon appeared live on CNN on Tuesday to establish the facts regarding rail safety and grade crossing accidents. According to Mr. Capon, this is the first fatality in Amtrak's history that resulted from a motor vehicle collision with a train. According to CNN, 76% of all U.S. train accidents result from such motor vehicle collisions.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are on the scene surveying the damage and assessing the causes of the worst Amtrak accident in six years. They appear now to be focusing their investigation on the truck driver. Contributing substantially'' to the severity of the accident may have been two boxcars loaded with steel set out on a rail siding. Apparently portions of the derailed Amtrak train struck the boxcars on impact.
Meanwhile Congressman Bud Shuster (R_PA), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released a statement regarding the accident involving Amtrak's City of New Orleans. Without "rushing to judgment," Shuster said, "I am gravely concerned that the Federal Railroad Administration still has not issued binding regulations setting structural crashworthiness standards for rail passenger cars and establishing requirements for interior safety features and emergency equipment. Congress recognized five years ago that there were no federal standards on these subjects, and current rail safety law required FRA to adopt initial standards by November 2, 1997&emdash;with broader final standards by November 2, 1999. Sadly, all we have at this point from FRA are proposed regulations&emdash;not binding standards that can give guidance to Amtrak and other rail passenger operators. Unfortunately, this continues a chronic pattern of FRAs failure to meet statutory deadlines on key rail safety subjects identified by the Congress&emdash;on a bipartisan basis&emdash;as top priorities. Rail passenger car standards are one of the most important of these priorities."
SOME FACTS ABOUT TRAIN/AUTO ACCIDENTS:
A train hits a vehicle in the U.S. almost every 90 minutes, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. More than half of the crashes occur at public crossings where warning devices such as gates, lights, and bells work properly.
Fines for running a train signal are low in much of the United States. They range from $10 to $100 in Oklahoma to up to $500 in Illinois. Some states have no fine at all for trespassing on train tracks.
In 1997, 245 Amtrak trains were involved in accidents reportable to the Federal Railroad Administration, according to Amtrak. They caused 1,020 crew injuries and 266 passenger injuries, most of which were minor.
Of all the reportable accidents in 1997, 183, or 74 percent, were attributable to motor vehicle operator inattention or impatience. Of those accidents, 114 occurred at crossings with active warning devices, such as gates, flashing lights and bells.
That same year (1997), 50 people died in collisions with Amtrak trains at highway-rail intersections. Amtrak trains struck and killed 69 other people who were deemed to be trespassing on Amtrak rail line.
Before Monday's fatal crash, 88 passengers had died in Amtrak's 27-year history.
Industrywide, collisions at grade crossings killed or seriously injured about 2,100 people in 1996, according to Federal Railroad Administration statistics.
Texas had the deadliest record of any state between 1991 and 1998, with 380 deaths at railroad grade crossings, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Illinois was second, with 288 deaths.
Last year, 514 other people were killed nationally as they walked along railbeds or otherwise trespassed on railroad lines.
An eight-car passenger train traveling at 79 mph takes over 6,000 feet to stop. The train involved in Monday night's collision was 16 cars in length, or twice as big, and was authorized to travel at 79 mph in Bourbonnais, IL.
A 150-car freight train traveling at a routine 50 mph needs 8,000 feet to stop, or about 1.5 miles.
There are no grade crossings south of New Haven, CT on Amtrak's new high speed corridor. There is one grade crossing in MA, one in RI and eleven in eastern CT.
SHELBY WARNS THAT AIRLINE FUNDING MEANS NO MONEY FOR AMTRAK-- March 16, 1999. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), a long time opponent of Amtrak funding, has warned that Amtrak may be privatized sooner than we think if a bill, being proposed by House Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) sees the light of day. The Shuster measure would funnel federal transportation funds into aviation leaving little left for intercity rail transportation. Amtrak is asking for $571 million in fiscal 2000 that starts Oct. 1 this year.
AMTRAK - POSTAL SERVICE INAUGURATE NEW POSTAL TRAIN--March 11, 1999. A specially outfitted four-car Amtrak train bearing colorful images of U.S. postage stamps and housing multimedia exhibits, the "Celebrate The Century Express" will embark on an 18-month tour of the United States, stopping in more than 100 cities in over 40 states through fall 2000. The train was dedicated today at the Tampa, FL Amtrak station and christened by officials from the U.S. Postal Service and Amtrak.
I attended the Tampa celebration and toured the train which is outfitted with two private rail cars--a Southern RPO and the "Georgia," a fine representation of restored private varnish. The train includes an exhibit of postage stamps representing significant events of the 20th century. Postage stamps from each decade through the 40s were available for sale.
All photos by Craig S. O'Connell
AMTRAK UNVEILS NEW HIGH SPEED TRAIN--March 9, 1999. Today Amtrak unveiled its new high speed train for the northeast corridor, capable of speeds up to 150 mph. The new train, expected to begin service later this year, will be known as "Acela" which is pronounced "ah-cel-la".
"Acela is more than just a name for Amtrak's new high speed trains, Acela is a brand representing a whole new way of doing business," according to Amtrak President George D. Warrington. "A combination of acceleration and excellence, Acela means high speed and high quality - we are changing the journey for every customer on every train with faster trip times, comfortable amenities and highly personalized service."
Under the new brand architectures, NortheastDirect Service will re-emerge as Acela Regional. Empire Service in New York state and Keystone Service in eastern Pennsylvania will also become Acela Regional. The current Clocker Service between Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York will become Acela Commuter.
Each high-speed train will consist of locomotives at the front and rear with four coaches, a First class car and a Café car in the middle. Electrical outlets and audio entertainment will be provided at each seat and more than 30 tables will be available throughout the train to spread out paperwork or hold impromptu meetings.
Trains will carry 304 passengers and will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Windows will be larger, overhead storage compartments will be enclosed and the bathrooms will have vanities, natural light and changing tables.
Amtrak has initiated a wide-ranging effort to improve the quality of all aspects of customer service, from visiting a station, to booking a reservation, to experiencing on-board service. In addition to high-speed service, the most profound change that will result from Acela will be the introduction of all-electric service in New England. Late this year, Amtrak will close the final link in the Northeast Corridor electrification system between New Haven and Boston, enabling faster trip times for all trains operating between Boston and New York. In order to meet the anticipated demand, the number of trains in New England will soon be doubled.
Amtrak's President Testifies that the Corporation's Business Turnaround Continues --March 4, 1999.
WASHINGTON -- In his first appearance before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation since being named Amtrak's new President and CEO, George Warrington testified that the railroad is meeting financial targets as it strives to become profitable. Warrington also emphasized that to continue its progress Amtrak must receive $571 million in capital funds in fiscal year 2000, as requested by the Administration.
"Over the past year, I have led Amtrak's management team, with the advice and support of the Board of Directors, in crafting a business plan to revitalize the national passenger rail system by transforming Amtrak into a business-like, market-driven company that delivers services customers want," testified Warrington. "Amtrak is putting in place a business-planning process and an internal discipline to stick to that process that will incrementally move this corporation forward, and will prove to you and the American public that we are making progress."
Also testifying was Kenneth M. Mead, Department of Transportation Inspector General, who, taking note of Amtrak's future prospects, said, "Our overall assessment is that with strong leadership, intense management, and favorable economic conditions, it will be possible, albeit difficult, for Amtrak to become operationally self-sufficient by 2003. Nevertheless, even if Amtrak reaches operating self-sufficiency, it will require substantial and continuing capital funding to support the system as it currently exists."
Since Warrington took the helm of Amtrak 16 months ago, initially as interim president, passenger revenue for fiscal year 1998 surpassed $1 billion for the first time ever. Powering this record was the largest ridership increase in a decade -- 4.5 percent -- and the best on-time performance system-wide in 13 years, 78 percent. The trend is continuing this year with ridership up another three percent and on-time performance rising to 80 percent.
In addition to supporting the FY2000 funding request, Amtrak also supports the Administration's request that Congress confirm that the railroad can invest capital funds just like every other transportation mode. Last year, Congress affirmed Amtrak's ability to invest capital funds for maintenance of equipment. This year, Amtrak and the Administration are requesting confirmation that capital funds may be invested in both maintenance of equipment and maintenance of way.
Wise investment of capital to increase revenues and generate cost savings has resulted in Amtrak performing $41 million better this fiscal year than projected in the Department of Transportation Inspector General's recent Independent Assessment of the railroad.
"We have a commercially focused business plan that will maintain this momentum," testified Warrington. "It contains valuable lessons we have learned from successful businesses that we have incorporated to fit Amtrak's unique environment. Our core objective is to increase our share in the travel market, squeezing every dollar of revenue we can by leveraging our assets and never ever squandering a business opportunity. It's all about making money and building the best railroad anywhere."
Amtrak's key business plan strategies are the phasing in of high-speed rail in the Northeast, developing other high-speed corridors nationwide, forging partnerships with state governments and private businesses, operating a market-based national route structure, and improving and guaranteeing consistency and quality of service. Working in tandem, these key strategies will generate additional revenue and savings and build a modern passenger rail network.
AMTRAK TO BEGIN NEW THREE RIVERS SLEEPING CAR SERVICE-- March 2, 1999. Amtrak will innaugurate new sleeping car service on the Three Rivers beginning April 1. I am told that the new service is now loaded into the Arrow reservation system. And, according to NARP the sleepers are older 10 roomette/6 double-bedroom cars. The train will not have a dining car in the consist but will offer preplated entrees from the snack bar. A NARP statement said that rooms are about 30% cheaper on the Three Rivers than the rooms on other Chicago-East Coast trains.
GOVERNORS ASK CONGRESS TO FREE UP TRANSPORTATION FUNDS --February 25, 1999. According to wire service reports from Bloomberg, the National Governor's Association is asking Congress to allow states to spend any portion of the $265 billion in federal surface transportation funds on passenger rail services including Amtrak. Current law forbids states from spending the funds on most rail projects. The association also asked Congress "to provide funding for the program it authorized last year that would develop high-speed rail corridors across the country for $35 million to be spent over six years."
Amtrak President Names a New Management Team to Lead the Corporation's Business Transformation --February 18, 1999. Amtrak has announced "a restructuring of its management team to speed the corporation's turnaround to become a more commercially viable, customer-focused and financially sound business."
To help achieve these goals, Amtrak President George Warrington has restructured his management team as follows:
Finance and Planning: A new division -- Budget, Financial Analysis and Planning -- will be added to the Finance department and will be responsible for the long-term planning of the national network and for developing business partnerships with commuter rail, freight railroads and states, as well as commercial entities. These partnerships will generate additional revenue for the corporation. Arlene Friner has been appointed chief financial officer and will head the expanded Finance and Planning department. Friner served for the last year as acting vice president of Budget and Planning and the three years prior as chief financial officer for Amtrak's Northeast Corridor business unit, one of Amtrak's three Strategic Business Units.
High-Speed Rail Development: A new corridor development department will support the advancement of high-speed rail corridors across the country in partnership with states, the federal government, freight railroads and private businesses. David J. Carol has been appointed vice president of High-Speed Rail Development. Carol worked for the past six years on the Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail program and has extensive congressional, state and local government affairs experience in Amtrak's Government Affairs and Law departments.
Executive Vice President: Barbara J. Richardson has been appointed executive vice president. Richardson will assist Warrington in management of the organization on a day-to-day basis. In addition, she will head up marketing and communications and continue to work directly with the Board of Directors. One of Richardson's primary responsibilities will be to lead a consistent and coordinated communications strategy to support Amtrak's new commercial orientation. Richardson served during the past year as the acting chief of staff and corporate secretary. Previously, she was chief of staff and vice president for Marketing and Communications in the Northeast Corridor business unit.
Procurement and Administration: A department of Procurement and Administration is being created that will achieve productivity improvements and efficiencies in inventory control, contract negotiations and the development of purchase-order systems. A search for a candidate to lead this department is now under way.
Northeast Corridor Business Unit: E.S. Bagley Jr. has been appointed president of the Northeast Corridor strategic business unit (NEC). He has been the acting president of the NEC for the past year, and prior to that he was the vice president of NEC Operations. In his new position, he will direct the launch of High-Speed Rail service between Washington and Boston in late 1999 and will ensure the continued overall commercial growth of the Northeast Corridor.
Government Affairs: Sandra J. Brown has been appointed vice president of Government Affairs. She is responsible for leading Amtrak's congressional strategy and for working closely with Congress, the Administration and Amtrak's many advocates in support of the corporation's business goals. Brown joined Amtrak's Government Affairs department in 1995 and has served as acting vice president since April 1998. Previously, she was legislative assistant to then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
THREE RIVERS TO GET SLEEPERS--February 14, 1999. Amtrak has selected 4 vintage Heritage Sleepers for revenue service on the New York-Chicago Three Rivers. They are 10-6 Sleepers (2442, 2446, 2450, and 2466). At least one of the cars is being given an interior overhaul at Chicago. Startup date for the Sleepers on the Three Rivers is scheduled for mid-1999. This route hasn't seen a Sleeper since 1995 when Amtrak ended the legendary Broadway Limited.
NARP TESTIFIES FOR FULL FUNDING OF AMTRAK AND HIGH SPEED RAIL IN FISCAL YEAR 2000-- February 10, 1999-- In testimony today before the House Appropriations Subcommitee on Transportation, Ross B. Capon, Executive Director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, strongly urged Chairman Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) to provide full funding for Amtrak at $571 million and high speed rail at $99.25 million. The latter figure includes a total of $44 million authorized for FY 1998 and FY 1999 but never requested or appropriated.
President Clinton's budget released last week included the full $571 million called for in Amtrak's business plan ($38 million below the current level). However, his budget severely shortchanged high-speed rail. He requested just $12 million in regular, general funds, compared with $24 million today, plus $5.75 million in hazard-elimination (mostly grade-crossing) funding "guaranteed" by the big TEA-21 transportation law. The Clinton budget also gives high-speed rail $35 million in so-called revenue-aligned budget authority, which NARP supports but Congress may not accept.
Capon thanked Wolf for his role in securing full funding for Amtrak during the current year. Capon said, "not only does rail get the short end of the stick in federal transportation funding, but whereas road and aviation programs are structured to encourage maximum contributions at the state and local level rail passenger programs are not." He said an important step towards change would be to provide high-speed-rail planning money, which would go to the states. Planning has been authorized at $10 million a year starting in FY 1998 but never funded.
Capon submitted a written statement (available on request) which noted that high speed rail funding will help improve Amtrak's bottom line, and that travel on Amtrak trains is growing for the third straight year, passenger revenues for the fourth straight year. Passenger revenues rose 3% in FY 1996, 7% in FY 1997, 4% in FY 1998 and 7% in the First Quarter of FY 1999. Travel (measured in passenger-miles) rose 2% in FY 1997, 3% in FY 1998 and 1.5% in the First Quarter of FY 1999.
POST OFFICE TO LAUNCH NEW TRAIN AD--February 7, 1999. It seems that the Post Office will soon be running their new Ad train. At its Bear, DE shops Amtrak just completed the paint job on the locomotive. It is a Genesis P-42 #100. Perhaps they wanted a number to match their ad campaign of 100 years of service. The new campaign is called "Celebrate the Century". They are using various stamps and decals plus other display cars to travel the country for two years starting this spring. Post Office officials say their train colors were to resemble a manila envelope complete with postmarks,stamps etc... Stamps are to be updated as the ad campaign moves on. Neither the Post Office or Amtrak have made a formal announcement regarding this campaign. Note that Amtrak has only painted the locomotive. Cars were painted elsewhere.
AMTRAK REFORM COUNCIL ELECTS CARMICHAEL CHAIRMAN--February 7, 1999. The eleven-member Amtrak Reform Council has elected Gil Carmichael, of Meridian, Miss., as chairman. Carmichael was Federal Railroad Administrator during the Bush Administration, and is currently vice chairman of the board of MotivePower Industries, Inc., of Pittsburgh. Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation, was reelected vice-chairman.
Carmichael is well known as a strong advocate of intercity and high-speed railroad passenger service, and is chairman of the board of the University of Denver's Intermodal Transportation Institute. He was a member and subcommittee chairman of the National Transportation Policy Study Commission and served as chairman of the National Highway Traffic Safety Advisory Committee.
Congress established the Amtrak Reform Council as an independent commission under the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997. Its members are appointed by the Senate and House majority and minority leadership and the President.
The council's mission is to evaluate Amtrak's performance and make recommendations to Amtrak on cost containment and productivity improvements. The council also is charged with determining whether Amtrak will require federal operating subsidies after Oct. 1, 2002. If the council makes such a determination at any time after Dec. 2 of this year, it must submit an Amtrak restructuring plan to Congress and Amtrak would be required to submit a liquidation plan.
The other council members are Bruce Chapman, Seattle; Christopher K. Gleason, Johnstown, Pa.; S. Lee Kling, St. Louis; Clarence V. Monin, Cleveland; John Norquist, Milwaukee; U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater; Donald R. Sweitzer, West Greenwich, R.I.; and Joseph Vranich, Irvine, Calif.
SOURCE Amtrak Reform Council
NARP SUPPORTS AMTRAK MIDWEST INITIATIVE--January 29, 1999. From the National Association of Railroad Passengers
The National Association of Railroad Passengers strongly supports aggressive investment to improve frequencies, speeds and comfort levels for intercity rail travelers in the Midwest. We applaud the $25 million commitment Amtrak announced today as a vital early step. This includes $5 million for a South Chicago rail connection giving Carbondale/New Orleans trains direct access to Chicago's Union Station (ending a circuitous back-up move), and a total of $5 million for important station work in St. Louis, Kansas City and Milwaukee. That improvements are so badly needed is largely a reflection of the fact that the federal government provides a generous share of funding "usually 80%" for major state highway and aviation projects but does not do this for rail projects.
Indeed, Congress repeatedly has refused to allow states to use flexible surface transportation funds for intercity passenger rail, although these funds can be used for most other types of surface transportation, including hiker-biker trails. The one "crack in the wall" is that Vermont gained full flexibility to use these funds for intercity passenger rail in the omnibus law Congress passed late last year.
The "base" of federal funding from which we must build includes winning these key items in the FY 2000 transportation appropriations bill:
*Full funding of Amtrak's $571 million request;
* Full funding of the federal nationwide high speed rail program at $89 million (including * $34 million authorized for Fiscal 1998 and 1999 but never appropriated). The high speed funding is divided into three categories: planning, hazard-elimination work and technology improvements.
The President will announce his Fiscal 2000 budget request in early February. Full funding for both Amtrak and high speed rail would make it more likely that Midwestern rail travelers will see visible improvements in the near future and would encourage states to provide more funds.
The American people repeatedly have indicated their strong support for modern passenger trains. The public will be well served if today's event leads to concerted action by Amtrak, the federal government and the states to create a system that will command the ridership forecast in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative's report.
Transportation Secretary Slater Announces Extension of Chicago Hub High Speed Rail Corridor To Indianapolis and Cincinnati--January 31, 1998. -- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater, joined by Federal Railroad Administrator Jolene Molitoris, today announced the continuation and expansion of a successful public-private partnership to extend the Chicago Hub High-Speed Rail Corridor to Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
Secretary Slater also presented a check for $200,000 to Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson for a study of the impact of a new high-speed, turbine-powered locomotive on the Chicago Hub Corridor. The locomotive is being developed under the Federal Railroad Administrations (FRA) Next Generation Program.
"Projects like this demonstrate President Clintons commitment to safety as the highest transportation priority and help build the transportation system for the new millennium," Secretary Slater said. "The American people will benefit from safe, comfortable, reliable, high-speed passenger rail service, which provides an attractive option for travel between major urban centers and helps cities manage the increased congestion that is forecasted."
The proposed extension will serve an urban population of more than 4 million persons which is in addition to the Chicago Hub Corridor population of about 20 million.
This extension of the Chicago Hub Corridor entitles the area to federal funds which will be combined with state and local funds to make highway grade crossing improvements in the corridor and accommodate speeds of 110 miles per hour. To eliminate hazards at grade crossings, the states plan for a mix of grade separations, improvements and closures. There are an estimated 1,075 grade crossings in the 970-mile Chicago Hub Corridor.
1999 AMTRAK TRAVEL PLANNER NOW AVAILABLE--January 29, 1999. Amtrak's 1999 Travel Planner, a 104-page guide to Amtrak routes, is now available from Amtrak. he Travel Planner includes information on Amtrak routes, on-board passenger amenities and services; Amtrak and United Airlines' popular Air Rail plan; all-inclusive Amtrak Vacations and Ski Amtrak packages; the Student Advantage Program for high school and college students; year-round Explore America Fares; the new Amtrak and VIA Rail of Canada North America Rail Pass; Amtrak's Cruise Rail program in conjunction with Carnival Cruise Lines and answers to questions most often asked about train travel.
Customers can visit a staffed Amtrak station, call 1-800-USA-RAIL, visit Amtrak's web site at www.amtrak.com or see an authorized Amtrak travel agent to get their copy.
Amtrak Invests $25 Million in High Speed Rail Service for the Midwest --Jan. 28, 1999.
CHICAGO -- Amtrak today announced $25 million in investments to help bring high-speed rail service to the Midwest as part of the corporation's partnership with nine states in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI). Gov. Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's Board chairman, made the announcement today at a Chicago news conference.
The MWRRI's objectives of reducing travel times, increasing train frequencies, and improving customer amenities will not only benefit the customers of Amtrak's growing Midwestern corridors emanating from Chicago, but also the corporation's bottom line. A key component of Amtrak's business plan to create a more modern national passenger rail system and to achieve operational self-sufficiency is the development of high-speed rail corridors nationwide in partnership with states and private businesses. By the end of this year, Amtrak will introduce America's first high-speed rail service between Boston and Washington, D.C.
Amtrak will invest $5 million for a demonstration next year of modern, premium trains and technology. This demonstration will generate public interest and spur ridership in anticipation of the new regional rail system. In addition, it will allow Amtrak to obtain customer feedback and more thoroughly test new technology under Midwestern climate conditions.
Amtrak will commit $5 million to establish a rail connection on the south side of Chicago which will permit Amtrak trains to avoid a circuitous back-up move over the Illinois Central's St. Charles Air Line. This connection will provide faster, more direct service for Amtrak trains and reduce their schedules by 20 minutes. The project is essential to bringing high-speed rail service into downtown Chicago.
As part of an effort to redevelop Kansas City Union Station to provide passenger facilities for Amtrak customers and permit the return of intercity rail passenger service to this grand facility, Amtrak will contribute $2 million.
Amtrak's commitment to the Midwest also includes $2 million to build an intermodal station in St. Louis and $1 million for improvements to the station in Milwaukee. In all, Amtrak will invest $14 million in various infrastructure projects throughout the Midwest.
Amtrak will allocate $6 million for further research to prepare Chicago Union Station, the Chicago-Detroit corridor, and other projects for future high-speed rail service.
"While each of these investment projects represent real progress, they also clearly demonstrate Amtrak's commitment to high-speed service in the Midwest," said George Warrington, Amtrak's president and chief executive officer. "Ridership increases of four percent on all Midwestern routes last year with some up as much as 17 percent are proof that Amtrak is already providing a better product for the region's travelers."
The MWRRI is a coordinated effort between Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and the states of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana and Nebraska.
For the full press release go to: http://www.amtrak.com/news/pr/atk9917.html
ADMINISTRATION FULFILLS REQUEST OF 43 SENATORS ON AMTRAK FUNDING-- January 27, 1999. President Clinton and Vice President Gore will include $571 million in their Fiscal Year 2000 budget for Amtrak, Senator Frank Lautenberg announced today. The funding in the Administration's budget for Amtrak is the minimum amount necessary to allow the rail corporation to fully implement its Strategic Business Plan.
On January 13 of this year, Senator Lautenberg was joined by 42 of his Senate colleagues in a letter to President Clinton requesting that he include the $571 million in his FY2000 budget. Amtrak has experienced high rates of growth recently with ridership increasing to a record level of 21 million in 1998. This marks an increase of 4.5% from the previous year, which is the fastest rate of growth this decade.
"With record increases in ridership and high speed rail on its way to the northeast region, this budget request by the Administration is an important step to ensuring Amtrak's continued success," said Senator Lautenberg. "To the extent that our efforts were effective in securing these funds, I am very pleased. As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee and the Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, I am in a unique position to go to the wire to protect these funds in the final version of the budget."
SHUSTER OUTLINES NEW HOUSE COMMITTEE STRUCTURE From Bud Shuster, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure:
Washington &endash; Citing a need to increase oversight efforts and to balance subcommittee workloads, Congressman Bud Shuster, Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, today unveiled a new committee organizational structure which will include merging the Surface Transportation and Railroads Subcommittees and adding a new subcommittee called the Investigation, Oversight, and Emergency Management Subcommittee.
"With the wide range of issues the committee covers and the billions of dollars we authorize every year, it is essential that we redouble our oversight efforts to ensure that we are getting the most out of every dollar we spend," Shuster said. "And to maximize our efficiency, the new committee structure will balance out the workload amongst the six subcommittees."
Shuster said that under the proposal, the Aviation and Coast Guard Subcommittees will remain the same. However, the Surface Transportation and Railroads Subcommittees will be combined to form a new subcommittee. The Public Buildings and Economic Development Subcommittee will be expanded to cover issues relating to hazardous materials and pipelines. The Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee will remain essentially the same except that emergency management would be moved to the newly formed Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Emergency Management.
Shuster said the proposal is subject to approval by the committee in the 106th Congress.
ADIRONDACK SCHEDULE TO CHANGE IN APRIL--January 25, 1999. Amtrak's Adirondack from New York City to Montreal will revert back to its former schedule putting arrival time in Montreal at approximately 5:15 p.m. The schedule changes when the country shifts over from standard time to daylight time.
AMTRAK NEGOTIATES NEW EXPRESS CONTRACTS--January 20, 1998-- Amtrak's board has announced four new agreements designed to haul more express freight and increase revenues. The four new agreements include:
--A pact with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) by which Amtrak will lease 40 RoadRailers and support equipment from Burlington Northern to transport time-sensitive shipments between Kansas City and Albuquerque aboard the Southwest Chief for UPS, Yellow Corp., Airborne Freight Corp. and Consolidated Freightways Corp. Amtrak estimates the new service will generate $2.9 million new, annual revenue for Amtrak.
--Expansion of business with the US Postal Service. Amtrak will rent 89 new railroad mail cars to support service between Philadelphia and Springfield, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles and Oakland, California. The new postal business is expected to yield an additional $15 million in annual revenue.
--in February, Amtrak will launch a new same-day package delivery service in partnership with Irving, Texas-based Dynamex aboard Amtrak's New York-to-Washington Metroliner.
--A new partnership with ExpressTrak Inc. of Michigan in the refrigerated-carload business. The primary routes served will be between California and the Northeast, and between California and Florida.
AMTRAK CONTRACTS OUT COMMISSARY SERVICES --January 20, 1999 -- Amtrak today announced the signing of a major business initiative with Dobbs International Services that will generate long-term savings of $28 million for the corporation. According to the Amtrak press release, "The agreement will help further the Amtrak's business goals of achieving operating self-sufficiency by the end of 2002, as mandated by Congress, and build a modern national passenger rail system.
"As part of the seven-year contract, Dobbs, the leading airline caterer in the world, will take over the operations of all of Amtrak's eleven commissaries beginning in March."
According to Amtrak, "The contract will result in the restructuring of approximately 335 positions at Amtrak. As part of a negotiated agreement with the Transportation Communications International Union, which represents agreement covered commissary employees, all affected employees will be offered other employment opportunities within Amtrak if they choose to remain..."
I've reported on this before, folks, and I'm unimpressed. I know Amtrak has to cut costs but we've been down this road before and cuts in dining car services and amenities have led to reduced ridership and revenues. So now Amtrak is touting the fact that it is contracting with an outfit (they call it outsourcing these days) that is noted for providing airline food! Yuck!
And what about the 335 employees. What's the lateral transfer in store for an Amtrak chef?
To read the full Amtrak press release go to:
BUSH SCUTTLES HI SPEED FLORIDA RAIL SERVICE--January 19, 1999-- According to the Miami Herald, Florida Governor Jeb Bush has decided to derail that state's 200 mph high speed "bullet train" that would run from Miami to Orlando/Tampa. "I don't think it is appropriate for the state to be involved in open-ended ventures where, at the end of the day, we assume most of the risk," Bush said.
SAFETY AND MODES OF TRANSPORTATION--January 19,1999--
Passenger fatality rates for different modes of transportation are as follows. With the exception of Amtrak, the figures are from 1994, the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics are available:
AIRLINES: 0.046 deaths per 100 million passenger miles.
HIGHWAYS: 41 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles.
RECREATIONAL BOATS: 6.9 deaths per 100,000 numbered boats.
AMTRAK (1971-1997): 0.068 deaths per 100 million passenger miles.
SOURCES: Amtrak, Transportation Department
BOMBARDIER & AMTRAK SAY NEW HIGHSPEED TRAINS MEET SPECIFICATIONS-- January 17, 1999. Reports to the contrary, Bombardier Inc. says that its new high-speed trainsets being built for Amtrak's Northeast Corridor will meet all performance specifications. "Bombardier is completely compliant with all performance specifications, including trip times, outlined by Amtrak," Peter Stangl, president of Montreal-based Bombardier's U.S. transportation subsidiary, said in a statement issued jointly with Amtrak.
Amtrak also said it expects the trains to meet all performance specifications.
A previous report in the Washington Post said that the new Bombardier trains were constructed four inches too wide and would not negotiate some sharp curves on the Boston to New York segment of the corridor at top speeds.
AMTRAK TO MAINE!--By Jeff Chaucer Special to Friends of
PORTLAND, Me. --Jan. 11, 1999 -- For ten years, naysayers were saying it would never happen: passenger train service will never return to Maine. Not only were they today proven wrong, but passenger trains are coming back with a roar.
Maine Gov. Angus King, Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Acting President Stan Bagley, Guilford Rail System's Executive VP and other dignitaries were on hand to drive the symbolic first spikes for the new service. As trackmen, they left a lot to be desired, but they succeeding in driving two of four gold-painted steel spikes into ordinary wood ties at GRS's Rigby Yard in Portland.
Also on hand was a special (an extra) train that deadheaded from Southampton Street yard in Boston on Sunday. P42 No. 107 led the train, followed by coaches 21168 and 21117, and business car Beech Grove, car No. 10001, named after Amtrak's principal car repair shop in Beech Grove, Ind.
NEW BOMBARDIER TILT TRAINS BUILT TOO WIDE--An article by Don Phillips in the January 7, 1999 edition of the "Washington Post" says that Amtrak's newly developed Northeast Corridor high speed tilt trains were built 4 inches too wide and will be unable to negotiate some curves along the Boston-New York route at maximum speeds. According to Phillips, "The previously undisclosed problem means that Amtrak will have to speed up as much as $12 million in track and clearance projects in order to maintain a new three-hour express schedule between New York and Boston." The Washington Post reporter quotes David J. Carol, Amtrak's vice president for high-speed rail, as saying "there may well be legal issues" with the manufacturer, Bombardier Inc. of Montreal, but the project will not be delayed." Apparently the train will be unable to tilt the planned 6.5 degrees "clearance envelope." Meanwhile Bombardier says there is no problem.
NEW CASCADE SERVICE TO BEGIN--January 8, 1999. Amtrak Cascades First Day Operations:
New Amtrak Cascades trains and service will operate on the following schedules on Monday, January 11:
751 7:30 AM depart Seattle to Portland
752 12:30 PM depart Portland to Seattle
753 1:45 PM depart Seattle to Portland
754 6:15 PM depart Portland to Seattle
755 5:20 PM depart Seattle to Eugene
Amtrak Cascades service on #750 6:00 AM Eugene to Seattle will not begin until Tuesday, January 12.
Amtrak Cascades service on trains #760/761 between Seattle and Vancouver, BC will not begin until further notice - January 18 at the very earliest.
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