THOMPSON OFFERED CABINET POST -- December 21, 2000. It is being reported by the press that Governor Tommy Thompson (R-WI), Amtrak's Board Chairman, has been offered the cabinet position of Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush administration. Amtrak supporters had hoped that Thompson would be named Secretary of Transportation. Thompson has been an important spokesman on behalf of Amtrak and his loss could spell trouble if Bush names an anti-passenger rail advocate, such as Senator John McCain, as Transportation Secretary.
GOP CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS KILL HIGH SPEED RAIL BILL - WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR -- December 16, 2000. The High Speed Rail Investment Act will have to wait until next year. Republican Congressional leaders scuttled the bill from a final budget package but vowed to revive the legislation next year. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) told reporters. "I believe we can do it early next year." Lott promised to work with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to revive the bill in the next session. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), who rides Amtrak to and from work, said he could live with the Lott promise.
Senators from northeastern states had vowed to filibuster the final legislative package unless it included the high speed rail bond issue. They ultimately backed off when Lott promised to support the very same legislation in the next Congressional session.
According to reports in the New York Times, "Republican leaders of Congress blocked the proposal, saying Amtrak should first demonstrate that it could operate profitably." Of course herein lies yet another Catch 22. Amtrak was created by Congress to lift the burden of carrying passengers off of the private railroads because doing so led them into bankruptcy. Yet Amtrak is expected to turn a profit when the whole of the private rail industry cannot. This amounts to government relief for private industry and higher transportation costs for rail passengers.
The High Speed Rail Investment Act would raise $10 billion over 10 years to help fund development of 10 federally designated high-speed rail corridors across the country and to upgrade track and other equipment on Amtrak's northeast corridor.
SAY IT ISN'T SO GEORGE -- December 7, 2000. It is being reported, albeit not officially, that former Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham is the leading candidate for Secretary of Transportation in a Bush administration. Abraham is reportedly considered "lukewarm" on passenger rail issues, at best!
HOPES FOR PASSAGE OF HIGH SPEED RAIL BILL STILL ALIVE -- November 25, 2000. Hope for the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA) is still alive, with Republican Senate Finance Chairman Bill Roth (Del.), Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, and Democratic Senators Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (N.Y.) determined to make it happen if at all possible.
For more info see the NARP Hotline.
Cosponsors for the Lautenberg-Jeffords High Speed Rail Investment Act (S. 1900) now include:
HIGH SPEED RAIL BILL IS GETTING THE DERAIL / PLEASE ACT NOW! -- December 12, 2000. Today's Washington Post contains a Don Phillips report that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) "objected--apparently on behalf of" Senate Commerce Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) to including the High Speed Rail Investment Act in "an appropriations bill that appears to be the last legislative opportunity in the current Congress." This even though "President Clinton said the bond bill was one of his priorities" for that bill.
Lott reportedly is also getting anti-rail-passenger pressure from Senators Phil Gramm (R-TX) and Wayne Allard (R-CO), who are upset with what they perceive to be Amtrak's role in preventing Amtrak's loss of part of the Boston commuter rail contract, and who appear to blame Amtrak for the power which railroad unions enjoy under federal law.
The best response to this situation is to urge senators WHO SUPPORT PASSENGER RAIL to make clear to Lott that it will cause more problems in the Senate to bring the bill forward WITHOUT the rail bond bill than with it. Senators Max Cleland (D-GA) and Joseph Biden (D-DE) are the most obvious among a large group of passenger rail supporters who should be making this clear. The Capitol Hill switchboard 202/224-3121 reaches all offices during business hours, or see our website on how to reach legislators electronically:
EVERYONE should thank the White House for Clinton's efforts on the rail bond bill, and urge that he keep the pressure on! Again, the White House comment line is 202/456-1111. Do not press "1", but wait for a live operator. Then say something like this--feel free to substitute your own words: "Please thank President Clinton for his support of the High Speed Rail Investment Act, and urge him to keep the pressure on Congress to make them pass this important bill this month."
ACELA COMPLETES FIRST REVENUE RUN -- December 12, 2000. North America's first high speed train, Amtrak's new sleek Acela, hit speeds of up to 150 mph on it's first run yesterday as paying passengers got a taste of what Europeans have been enjoying for decades. Reporters said that Amtrak's first high speed crack train is all that it has been touted and more. Acela made the run on Amtrak's northeast corridor from Boston to Washington, DC in just six and one-half hours.
NARP noted that Washington Post Reporter Don Phillips rode the train from Washington to Boston noting that east of New Haven "the train rides like an airliner in quiet air."
Amtrak has contracted for 20 Acela trains which will be phased into service according to production schedules. Amtrak intends to become far more competitive with the airline shuttles and hopes to introduce the high speed service to other rail corridors throughout the nation. Much is dependent upon passage of the High Speed Rail Investment Act by Congress. Despite widespread support for the bill, Congressional leaders, reportedly led by Tom DeLay (R-TX), have been creating roadblocks in the path of the legislation and Congress has yet to reconvene to even vote on the matter.
COAST STARLIGHT DERAILMENT -- December 8, 2000. The Southbound Coast Starlight (train 11) was involved in a derailment in the Dunsmuir, California area when the train sideswiped a tank car that had fallen off a parallel track. The accident occured on Thursday, December 7th at around 2:00 a.m. Five cars reportedly left the tracks and three others derailed. There were reportedly nine passenger and crew injuries, none serious.
RAIL COALITION CALLS ON CONGRESS TO PASS HIGH SPEED RAIL ACT -- December 7, 2000. The American Passenger Rail Coalition (APRC), High Speed Ground Transportation Association (HSGTA), Railway Progress Institute (RPI) and National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) renewed their call for enactment this year of the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA), which allows for bond-financed passenger rail investments over ten years.
The HSRIA (which passed the House as part of its tax bill) garnered 167 sponsors as freestanding H.R. 3700; the Senate bill, S. 1900, has 57 sponsors (not counting Senate Finance Chairman William Roth who strongly supports it). Support has come from across the political spectrum. The long list of HSRIA supporters -- public officials, media, other organizations -- is at
Prior to yesterday's Senate Commerce Committee field hearing in Atlanta on Georgia passenger rail development, Senator Max Cleland (D-GA), who chaired the hearing, reported that White House Chief of Staff John Podesta had just indicated that-if there is a tax bill this month-the High Speed Rail Investment Act will be included. Discussions about just what to enact this month are continuing. The key players are: Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD); House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO); White House Chief of Staff John Podesta; and OMB Director Jacob Lew. These people need to hear from their colleagues about the importance of doing the rail bond bill this month.
The HSRIA may be the only practical way to secure a reasonable level of passenger rail capital investment in the next few years. Amtrak's FY 2001 capital budget is so tight that expenditures on heavy overhauls of rolling stock will be dramatically reduced from the FY 2000 level.
Meanwhile, a public disillusioned with overburdened air and road facilities is turning increasingly to trains -- even trains that are slow by world standards. Amtrak just completed its fourth consecutive year of ridership growth nationwide. On the Pacific Northwest "Cascadia" corridor (top speed: 79 mph), ridership has grown 180% from 226,400 in 1993 to an estimated 633,000 this year.
Enacting the HSRIA is a critical step towards achieving the truly balanced passenger transportation system in the U.S. that Americans eagerly await. The bill will enable planning by the states and Amtrak to move forward now. HSRIA capital investments will produce substantial economic benefits, expanded business opportunities and new jobs in states and regions around the country.
The bill would let Amtrak sell $10 billion in bonds over ten years, to be invested in partnership with states. The Department of Transportation must approve projects, and states must provide a 20% match. Bondholders get tax credits in lieu of interest payments; the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost to the federal government over 10 years at $3.26 billion.
OFFICIAL AMTRAK 2001 CALENDARS NOW AVAILABLE -- November 28, 2000. I am told by Amtrak customer service agents that THE 2001 AMTRAK CALENDAR FEATURES A PICTURE OF THE ACELA TRAIN.
Amtrak customer service agents tell me that TO ORDER, SEND NAME, ADDRESS (INCLUDING ZIP CODE) AND DAYTIME PHONE, ALONG WITH A CHECK, MONEY ORDER (NO CASH) OR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION (VISA, MASTERCARD, DISCOVER/NOVUS OR AMERICAN EXPRESS) TO:
Checks should be made payable to Amtrak. PRICES FOR 2000 CALENDARS SENT TO ONE ADDRESS, INCLUDING SHIPPING, ARE:
1 - $6, 2 - $10, 3 - $14, 4 - $16, 5 - $18, 6 - $20, 7 - $22, 8 - $24, 9 - $26, 10 - $28, 11-25 - $2.50 EACH, 26-50, $2.25 EACH.
AMTRAK PUBLISHES ACELA TIMETABLE - November 21, 2000 -- Effective December 11th. Acela Express tickets go on sale on Wednesday, November 29!
5:00 a.m. Dp
Ar 11:43 p.m.
MEMPHIS STATION NOW OPEN -- November 20, 2000. The official opening of the Memphis, TN station was held on Friday, November 17th. The station area is on the same level as the train, in the old open concourse area that has been enclosed for a very nice and brand new station. Parking is right outside of the door to the station, next the terminal track. You can step off the train and right into your car or a taxicab.
The old trailer will be removed, but the green utility building will remain for general storage and internal use.
A precinct station for the Memphis Police Department should be open before Thanksgiving, or very soon thereafter.
Memphis has gone from being one of the worse stations in the system to a spectacular star that has become an anchor for a growing arts and residential district in lower downtown Memphis. The 85 year old building hasn't looked this good since it was new. The upper floors of the stationbuilding that used to house Illinois Central division offices now houses apartments and commercial offices. The old REA Express area is now condos and apartments. The lower floor of the main station building is now available for shops and restaurants, and negotiations are under way for several new tenants. Memphis now about the safest downtown station in Amtrak's system.
courtesy: Ed Von Nordeck
WEEKEND CHIEF AMTRAK CALENDAR NOW ON SALE -- November 19, 2000. The 2001 twelve month Amtrak calendar is now on sale from The Weekend Chief Publishing Company. This is NOT an official Amtrak calendar but one that displays a number of really fine Amtrak photos. To get your calendar send $9.95 plus $2.00 shipping to The Weekend Chief Publishing Co., P.O. Box 165, Hicksville, New York 11802-0165. In my opinion this is an outstanding calendar and one that many Amtrak fans might want to have.
ACELA INAUGURAL A BIG SUCCESS! -- November 18, 2000. By all accounts now the Acela inaugural run from Washington, DC to Boston, MA on Thursday was a huge success. Newspapers, television stations and the electronic media have given Acela rave reviews. This is the first of 20 trainsets that Amtrak has under contract for delivery for service on the busy northeast corridor and it's success and popular reviews may yet breathe new life into Amtrak's efforts to gain Congressional approval for the High Speed Rail Investment Act which is still pending.
The inaugural run made the journey from DC to New York's Penn Station in two hours and 26 minutes flat and achieved a record speed of 150 mph just outside of Kingston, RI. The trip from New York to Boston was just three hours and 13 minutes, arriving two minutes early.
ACELA EXPRESS MAKES INAUGURAL RUN - November 16, 2000.
Today, Acela Express celebrates its inaugural journey from Washington, DC to Boston, MA. It's the start of a new way of travel that will make your every moment count for more. Acela Express delivers freedom, ease, and speeds of up to 150 MPH.
For you, our valued customer, Acela Express weekday service will begin on Monday, December 11, 2000. Tickets will go on sale Wednesday, November 29, 2000. Please mark your calendar!
In the meantime, we'll be making limited "test" trips to make sure everything runs like clockwork. Because on Acela, we value your time as much as you do. Please join us soon for your Acela experience.
For tickets: http://p01.com/t.d?vELaCPCoi=/reservations.amtrak.com
For more information: http://p01.com/t.d?jELaCPCoi=/www.acela.com
HIGH SPEED RAIL UPDATE FROM NARP - November 16, 2000. To all NARP members, November 15, 2000--
With Congress not scheduled to begin work until December 4 and 5, there is time to use regular mail to remind legislators about the importance of getting the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA) passed this year.
Key decisions about what will be accomplished this year lie with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), but you can make a difference even if you don't live in Mississippi or in the Illinois 14th District. Ask your legislators to tell their leaders that getting the HSRIA done this year is vital. If your legislators are Democrats, they should talk to Sen. Tom Daschle, (D-SD), or Rep. Richard Gephardt, (D-MO.) You can reach all members by writing to them at: U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510; or U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.
BULLET TRAIN WINS IN FLORIDA - November 16, 2000. Florida Governor Jeb Bush, along with the road builders industries, were delivered a major setback in the November 7th election when the voters of the sunshine state passed a constitutional amendment approving a high speed rail train across that state.
The amendment orders state government to start building a fast train to link Florida's five largest urban areas. Construction must begin within three years and the train must be able to go faster than 120 mph. Opponents are now planning a court battle to overturn the vote on the grounds that the amendment is unconstitutional!
HIGH SPEED RAIL LEGISLATION UPDATE FROM NARP - November 3, 2000. To NARP Members--November 3, 2000:
With the Senate adjourned until the week of November 13, and the House about to adjourn, the message to the White House and to legislators should be: "Work out your disagreements on the tax bill; pass it and sign it this year. HSRIA, which is part of the tax bill (and thus has passed the House), is too important to put off another year." Perhaps you can reach your legislators while they are back home campaigning. Or, as usual, use the helpful links on our website for reaching legislators and the White House: <http://www.narprail.org/links.htm#congress>.
Hope for passing the tax bill before the election ended last weekend after disagreements cropped up regarding other bills. The Senate adjourned November 1, with plans to reconvene November 14. The House likely will adjourn tomorrow and return November 13. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) expressed hope that the lame duck Congress will make quick work of remaining legislation, including the tax package.
--Ross B. Capon, NARP Executive Director
MONTANA GROUP TRIES TO REVIVE OLD RAIL ROUTE -- October 28, 2000. According to an article by By John Stucke of the "Missoulian," there are efforts underway to revive a 1,250-mile route, called the Old Colorado and Southern Line from Denver to Spokane. A new Missoula chapter of Montanans for Better Rail Passenger Service has been formed and is head by Michael Ackley. Ackley's group proposes an Amtrak train that "would leave daily from Spokane and Denver. Along the way, the trains would pass through Sandpoint, Idaho; Missoula; Helena; Bozeman and Laurel, where it then would turn south to cross into the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming. The train then would pass through the Wyoming communities of Greybull and Thermopolis, before cutting east to Douglas and then south again to Cheyenne. It then would travel along the Front Range of Colorado before reaching Denver," according to the newspaper article.
Supporters of the effort will be working to build widespread support among residents and politicians from all states involved.
HIGH SPEED RAIL UPDATE -- October 27, 2000. NARP is reporting tonight that "the big tax bill that includes the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA) was filed yesterday and passed the House yesterday (H.R.2614, vote was 237-174).... However, President Clinton may veto the tax bill, for reasons unrelated to HSRIA." A Senate vote has been postponed until Monday to allow negotiators time to work out a settlement.
We need a back-up strategy in case there is a veto. The tax bill includes a number of items that everyone agrees are "must-pass" items. Please urge your legislators -- and the White House -- to work to include HSRIA as one of the tax-bill items in the final package that will Congress passes. (This package probably will be the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, H.R.4577.)
There is information on contacting Congress and the White House at our web site at http://www.narprail.org/links.htm#congress.
Meanwhile Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) has withdrawn the amendment that would ban Amtrak from receiving any appropriations in any year that Amtrak issues high-speed rail bonds.
RAILROAD RETIREMENT BILL KILLED! -- October 27, 2000. REPORTED FROM THE UTU NEWS ... After 10 months of hard work, a handful of conservative Republicans, primarily Senators Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), Assistant Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), have ignored the pleas of Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and killed Railroad Retirement for this session.
Almost 40 Republican senators had indicated support of these improvements. But given a choice of standing with the more than 50,000 widows and widowers who need additional benefits and the many thousands of railroaders who are looking forward to a well-deserved early retirement, the Republican Caucus stood with these three senators.
WOLF TRYING TO DERAIL HIGH SPEED RAIL / AMTRAK -- October 26, 2000. NARP is reporting that Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) is attempting to derail the High Speed Rail Bill by proposing an amendment to a pending appropriations bill ("Labor-HHS") that would ban Amtrak from receiving any appropriations in any year that Amtrak issues high-speed rail bonds (including for the current fiscal year, 2001). Thus Amtrak would be caught between a rock and a hard place having to choose between either floating high speed rail bonds and receiving no budgetary appropriation or receiving the appropriation but having no chance of floating the high speed rail bonds! Wolf is no stranger to the Kill Amtrak movement. As a ranking member he has been at odds with Amtrak for a long time. This recent attempt by Wolf should come as no surprise.
Tell your Representative right away (phone or e-mail) to oppose the Wolf amendment to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill.
The Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121,
or see the NARP website at:
for information on writing to Representatives.
CLOCK RUNNING DOWN ON HIGH SPEED RAIL BILL -- October 21, 2000. NARP is reporting that the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA) can still pass, but time is running out as Congress prepares to leave the nation's capital. According to NARP, the three people in Congress who can have greatest impact right now are Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer(R.-TX). Tell your Members of Congress and the White House (again) that the HSRIA must be part of whatever tax bill Congress passes in the next few days.
For more info visit the NARP hotline at: http://www.narprail.org/hot161.htm
AMTRAK NOTICE ON ACELA SERVICE: October 20, 2000. ( See the news story below on the Acela Start Up for more info... )
ATTENTION: ALL FIELD AND HEADQUARTERS PERSONNEL SUBJECT: ACELA EXPRESS TO BEGIN OPERATION IN DECEMBER ON WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18 2000 AMTRAK ANNOUNCED THAT REGULARLY SCHEDULED ACELA EXPRESS HIGH-SPEED RAIL SERVICE BEGINS ON DECEMBER 11 WITH ONE ROUNDTRIP MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY BETWEEN WASHINGTON AND BOSTON. THE TRAINS WILL BE IN ARROW AND CUSTOMERS CAN MAKE RESERVATIONS AND PURCHASE TICKETS STARTING ON NOVEMBER 29. ACELA EXPRESS HIGHLIGHTS INITIAL FREQUENCY ONE ROUND-TRIP BETWEEN WASHINGTON AND BOSTON 2150 TRAIN NUMBER 2175 MON-FRI DAYS OF OPERATION MON-FRI
BWI RAIL STATION BWI
BALTIMORE PENN STA BAL
PHILADELPHIA 30TH ST PHL
NEW YORK NYP
NEW HAVEN NHV
ROUTE 128 RTE
BOSTON-BACK BAY BBY
BOSTON-SOUTH STA BOS
AMTRAK ANNOUNCES ACELA HIGH SPEED RAIL START UP DATE -- October 19, 2000. Yesterday Amtrak announced that the 150-mph Acela Express service from Washington, D.C. to New York to Boston will launch on Nov. 16. Regular revenue service will start Dec. 11. 2000. Amtrak took delivery of its first high speed trainset in a ceremony at Washington's Union Station. Regular service will begin Dec. 11 with one trip daily between Washington and Boston, stopping at New York. Service will be added as Amtrak eventually takes delivery of 20 sets of the new trains. A one-way coach ticket between Washington and New York will be $143, up from $122 now. Between New York and Boston it will cost $120, up from $72. One-way fares for Business Class are $143 between New York and Washington and $120 between Boston and New York. Tickets go on sale November 29. By the time all 20 trains are delivered next summer, Amtrak will be running 19 roundtrips daily between New York and Washington and 10 roundtrips between Boston and New York. Station stops will be added in Maryland at New Carrollton, in New Jersey at Metropark and Princeton, and at Stamford and New London in Connecticut. There are 32 table seating arrangements throughout the train, RailFones, and large restrooms with backlit mirrors, vanities and baby-changing tables. The pub-style café car will carry an upscale menu selection, video entertainment and beer on tap. The First Class car features two-by-one seating, at-seat meals served on china with linen. "America is ready for an alternative to traffic congestion, airport delays and bad service. Today that alternative has arrived,'' Amtrak President George Warrington told those assembled. "We are now poised to offer American travelers what people have enjoyed in Europe and Asia for years,'' said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, (D-NJ).
60 MINUTES EYES BUD SHUSTER -- October 17, 2000. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA), who was recently rebuked by the House Ethics Committee for "serious official misconduct," was the focus of a CBS News 60 Minutes report by journalist Mike Wallace. Shuster has reportedly received gifts in excess of the legal limit. At issue here is Shuster's relationship with Ann Eppard, a former aide and transportation lobbyist. Wallace said reporters observed Shuster, on 11 occasions earlier this year lying on the back seat of Ann Eppard's car as she drove out of her garage in the morning. "She'd make several turns, and when she thought no one was watching, they'd both get out. She'd walk back home, while Shuster, here hiding under a baseball cap, would drive her car to Capitol Hill," Wallace reported. According to a report by the A.P., "the program (60 Minutes) mentioned several examples of corporations and government agencies, including FedEx Corp. and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, that hired Eppard to get certain projects or rules approved by the Transportation Committee." Shuster, a frequent and outspoken critic of Amtrak and champion of highways, indeed has a highway in his home state of Pennsylvania named after him. He has been the powerful chairman of the committee that oversees Amtrak in the House of Representatives since 1995.
BUSH / CHAMBER / ROADBUILDERS FIGHT HIGH SPEED RAIL INITIATIVE -- October 17, 2000. Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Transportation Builders Association and the Associated Industries of Florida, among others, have joined forces to actively oppose a November ballot initiative that would give the okay to a high speed rail plan for the sunshine state. The coalition, which includes an array of road builders and top business groups, were taken by surprise when a Florida Supreme Court failed to derail the ballot measure in a decision on October 3. "We're sort of caught with our pants down," said Bob Burleson, president of a road-building group called the Florida Transportation Builders Association. The ballot initiative on November 7 would allow voters to approve an amendment to the state Constitution, which would require the state to start building a high-speed rail network in 2003 linking Florida's five largest cities. The amendment begins with the following pro-rail language: ""To reduce traffic congestion and provide alternatives to the traveling public..." The primary backer of the rail ballot is a popular Lakeland, FL Republican Party leader by the name of "Doc" Dockery. Dockery used $1.5-million of his own money to get the more than 600,000 signatures required to place the issue on the November ballot. Dockery says opponents who decry the train's cost are forgetting how much it costs to build roads. "They are just throwing out scare tactics," Dockery said. "As far as I can see, it won't take one thin dime from road projects. This is the age of Republican compassion. I guess the business community is largely Republican. Where's the compassion for 3-million people who don't have cars or driver's licenses?" Source (in part): UTU Daily News Digest
AMTRAK TO OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCE ACELA START UP! -- October 17, 2000. Tomorrow Amtrak will announce the launch date for Acela Express service. At an event at Washington Union Station, Amtrak officials will provide detailed information about train schedules, fares, ticket sales and the date for a ceremonial inaugural run. Acela Express will make history as America's first high-speed rail service. Traveling at speeds up to 150 mph, the anticipation of Acela Express has sparked a national passenger rail renaissance. The press conference will take place at Washington Union Station, Gate F at 2:00 p.m. Amtrak Board members, President and CEO George Warrington, and Senators Roth (R-DE) and Lautenberg (D-NJ) will be on hand for this media event which was originally scheduled for Monday but moved back due to the Million Family March in Washington.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Designates Two New High-Speed Rail Corridors -- October 15, 2000. U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater has designated two new high-speed rail corridors in northern New England and the South Central states, and announced the extension of three existing designated corridors to serve Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. The new high-speed rail corridors include a Northern New England Corridor with a hub at Boston that will ultimately serve destinations in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Montreal, Canada. The South Central Corridor will have Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas as its hub, and will serve destinations in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. Today's designations are being made pursuant to Section 1103(c) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Today's designations bring to ten, the number of high-speed rail corridors in the U.S. "President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to making high-speed rail a reality across the nation," said Secretary Slater. "I'm pleased to expand the market reach of the corridors that represent much of the future of rail passenger service in the United States," Extensions to existing designated high-speed rail corridors include:
The Secretary also noted that the Department's previous designation of the California High-Speed Rail Corridor is intended to connect the state's four largest metropolitan areas: the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and is not limited to a specific route. The formal designation of a High-Speed Rail Corridor makes those states with routes eligible for a portion of $5.25 million in dedicated annual Federal funding for highway-rail grade crossing hazard elimination funds for such routes. However, designation entails more than Federal funds. Designations continue to serve as catalysts for sustained State, local and public interest in corridor development. In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Amtrak, numerous corridor development efforts between state and local stakeholders are underway. The designations apply to corridor regions, not just to specific routes because in some cases there are two or more existing alternate routes. The designations are intended to provide flexibility to each region before planning and financing commitments are made by key stakeholders. The corridors designated to date cover 8,306 miles of track and could ultimately serve about 150 million people in 30 states. FOR A HIGH SPEED CORRIDOR RAIL MAP GO TO THE US DOT SITE AT: http://www.dot.gov/affairs/fra2000.htm
WHITE HOUSE BACKS HIGH SPEED RAIL BILL -- October 15, 2000. The Clinton White House is urging approval of the $10 billion high-speed rail bond bill following an agreement by Amtrak, the Transportation Department and the Treasury Department.
The President's support is vital for the bill, which has widespread backing in Congress.
According to a report in the "Washington Post," The endorsement came in a letter Friday evening to Senate leaders from Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers and White House budget director Jacob "Jack" Lew, saying the administration "strongly supports" the extra investment in high-speed rail to "enhance passenger rail as an alternative to congested highways and airports."
Senate floor efforst will now be worked out by Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth Jr. (R-DE), Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.). It was Lautenberg who wrote the legislation and Moynihan who approached the President for his critical support.
According to the Post report, "The bill works this way: States that qualify for higher-speed rail upgrades must deposit 20 percent of the bond amount in a fund managed by a private trustee. Interest on the state deposits would be used to service the bonds. The Treasury would still spend $3.3 billion over three years because the bonds would be repaid with tax credits."
Amtrak has said it needs $12 billion in bonding but only $10 billion is expected to be approved in the bill.
TEXAS EAGLE ROUTE TO BENEFIT FROM NEW HIGH SPEED RAIL DESIGNATION -- October 15, 2000. The Texas Eagle route between Little Rock and San Antonio via Dallas and Fort Worth is one of the corridors that would benefit substantially from a new high speed rail bill pending in Congress. This comes with the announcement that the newly designated South Central Corridor will have Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas as its hub. A Fort Worth to Oklahoma City and Tulsa rail route also was part of the Texas Eagle route's high-speed designation. "We're talking about an incremental increase in passenger train speeds which will initially speed up the Texas Eagle substantially," said Bill Pollard, president of the Arkansas Association of Railroad Passengers. Improvements to the route would include the elimination of grade crossings and the creation of new passing sidings so that the speedier passenger trains would not be held up for hours on end behind the slower freights. Most of the trackage along this route is owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. Pollard said, "This puts Amtrak in a position of being able to provide additional track improvements and other infrastructure benefits. "This will also benefit Union Pacific freight trains." The High Speed Rail bond act is vigorously opposed by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), one of Amtrak's most vocal critics.
HIGH SPEED RAIL INVESTMENT ACT UPDATE -- October 9, 2000.
Senate Finance Chairman William V. Roth Jr. (R-DE) has introduced a new version of the so-called "New Markets" bill: S.3152. S.1900, the High Speed Rail Investment Act, is now part of S.3152.
The bill includes--and is named after--a package of community tax breaks which passed the House after House Speaker Dennis Hastert and President Clinton agreed on them. Roth's bill also includes several unrelated spending provisions, the rail bond bill among them. Significantly, both Roth and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), the committee's ranking Democrat, say they consider the rail provisions the most important thing in the bill. ( courtesy NARP )
This bill is not expected to go separately to the Senate floor, but is a "marker" that Roth could use if and when serious House-Senate negotiations about tax provisions begin. Sponsorship for the rail provisions is now up to 57 senators, since the new bill with those provisions has been sponsored by all members of the committee except Senators Craig, Gramm, Lott and Nickles. Gramm is unalterably opposed to the rail provisions. Additionally, Roth (R-DE), Grassley (R-IA), Hatch (R-UT), Murkowski (R-AK), Mack (R-FL) and Thompson (R-TN) are supporters of S 3152 although not specifically of S 1900. Conrad Burns (R-MT) is the latest to sign onto S.1900.
CONGRESS PASSES TRANSPORTATION BILL -- October 8, 2000. The U.S. Congress on Friday approved a $58 billion transportation spending bill.
The House of Representatives voted 344-50 and the Senate 78-10 to back the bill, which also sharply boosts money for new airport facilities andair traffic control improvements.
Amtrak would receive $521 million in capital grants, $50 million less than last year.
KENTUCKY CARDINAL TO GET BACK SLEEPER -- October 8, 2000. A story by Chris Poynter in the October 6 Louisville Courier-Journal states that Amtrak will return the sleeper to the Kentucky Cardinal on October 29. Apparently Dave Armstrong, the mayor of Louisville, was able to persuade Amtrak to restore the sleeper. The story also stated, "Louisville city governmenthas committed $300,000 to help renovate historic Union Station on Broadway so the Cardinal can eventually run across the Ohio River into downtown Louisville. Amtrak has contributed $150,000." And the story said, "Edward Walker, president of Amtrak's intercity business unit, said studies indicate that bringing the Cardinal to downtown Louisville will improve the train's profit. Walker also said there are talks on adding a stop in Columbus, Ind." According to the story, the train has carried about 21,000 passengers in seven months.
FRA CERTIFIES ACELA EXPRESS ?? -- October 8, 2000. I'm now told that the FRA has not given certification for Acela to begin revenue service but that this is expected any time soon. According to one source, "Amtrak northeast corridor press relations Philadelphia based spokesperson says that the waiver can/could come any day." Here's the previous story: Acela Express has received certification by the FRA to begin revenue operations. This applies to ALL train sets. The certification includes authority to run at up to 150 mph. Also, authority has been granted for up to 7 inches of cant deficiency in the New Haven-Boston segment and up to 6 inches of cant deficiency in the Washington-New York segment. Maximum authorized speed in curves is 130 mph at this time. Training runs will be required prior to revenue startup, but it seems clear that Amtrak will make the announced 29 October startup for these trains. For laymen like myself "cant deficiency" refers to the number of inches higher that the outer rail would need to be (relative to the lower inner rail) to achieve balance at the given higher speed. Obviously the rails can't be moved, but other things can happen. (where "balance" means a balance of forces on the car)
BOSTON - PORTLAND, ME UPDATE -- October 2, 2000. Amtrak service from Boston to Portland, ME, already over seven years overdue, is on track and slated to begin in April, 2001 with four 2.5 hour round trips along the 114 mile route at a cost of about $20.00 one way. Service is scheduled to begin on April 13th. Funding for the train service is already in place.
AMTRAK CONSOLIDATES MAIL / EXPRESS -- October 2, 2000. Amtrak has announced the consolidation of its Mail and Express business under the leadership of Lee H. Sargrad, a veteran of the rail freight industry. Meanwhile, Amtrak Vice President Ed Ellis has been named to the new position of Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Mail and Express. In it's press release announcement Amtrak said, "Over the past several years, we've worked successfully with our freight rail partners to develop a niche role in mail and express service. The opportunities ahead require a cohesive management structure which continues to build on our strong bonds with the freight railroads and our commitment to high-quality service for our time-sensitive commercial customers."
FRA RULES (SORT OF) ON TALGOS -- September 10, 2000. The Federal Railroad Administration has given a partial decision on the use of Amtrak's Talgo trains in the Pacific Northwest. At issue is whether the trains comply with new federal safety regulations or can be grandfathered to remain in use for the time being. Grandfathering is allowed under the new regs on a case by case basis. The FRA has allowed that Amtrak may continue to run the Talgo trains pending modifications which shall be made within the next nine months. The questions of whether the trains can exceed 79 miles per hour and whether or not they can be used on two other Amtrak routes have yet to be decided. One of these two other routes is the LA - Vegas corridor which Amtrak has planned to restart. Washington and Oregon together have spent more than $140 million on the cars and their service, and local politicians and pro-rail citizens have rallied around the cause, including Washington's two U.S. senators, Republican Slade Gorton and Democrat Patty Murray. A record 570,000 people rode the Cascades line in 1999, up 150% since its debut in 1993.
URGENT LEGISLATIVE NARP MESSAGE -- To NARP Members--September 20, 2000:
If you are represented by a Finance Committee member, please urge him to vote AGAINST the Baucus amendment to H.R.4923, the Community Renewal Act that includes the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA).
Baucus would create a point of order such that any effort to pass a "flexibility" provision in the next ten years (!!) would require a "supermajority" (60 senators instead of 51). By flexibility we mean a provision (like the Voinovich amendment this summer) that would let states spend their federal gasoline-tax dollars on intercity passenger rail.
Since senators who lean towards a pro-Baucus vote likely would do so out of concern about the "sanctity" of the Highway Trust Fund, it is important to tell them that--contrary to what some highway lobbyists have implied--the HSRIA always has steered clear of the Highway Trust Fund, to avoid precisely the kind of fight that Baucus has just started. The HSRIA does not let states use Highway Trust Fund money for the 20% contribution required under HSRIA. Indeed, Chairman Roth's bill specifically prohibits the use of any federal funds for that 20%.
The Baucus amendment is an attempt to tie the hands of future Congresses. As such, it looks to us like bad policy.
The members of the Finance Committee:
Republicans: Roth (DE), Grassley (IA), Hatch (UT), Murkowski (AK), Nickles (OK), Gramm (TX), Lott (MS), Jeffords (VT), Mack (FL), Thompson (TN), Craig (ID)
Democrats: Moynihan (NY), Baucus (MT), Rockefeller (WV), Breaux (LA), Conrad (ND), Graham (FL), Bryan (NV), Kerrey (NE), Robb (VA)
The Congressional switchboard 202/224-3121 reaches all offices. Our website <http://www.narprail.org> has information on other ways to contact legislators.
With an all-time monthly record -- $108.4 million in ticket revenue, and the highest monthly ridership in 21 years -- 2,097,471, Amtrak announced that August 2000 has capped the best summer ever in the company's 29-year history.
For the full press release from Amtrak go to: http://www.amtrak.com/news/archive/atns00102.html
TIME TO MOVE HIGH SPEED RAIL ACT -- September 17, 2000. NARP reports that this could be a crucial week for High Speed Rail legislation. "It appears that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bill Roth (R.-Del.) is willing to add S.1900 to H.R.4923, the Senate version of the Community Renewal Act -- if the Senate takes up that bill."
"Also, your House Members should be asked to tell Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Gephardt to support any House bill returned from the Senate that includes the pro-rail language of S.1900/H.R.3700. "
For more info see the NARP HOTLINE at:
The Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 can connect you to any Congressional office.
URGENT LEGISLATIVE MESSAGE FROM NARP -- September 12, 2000.
To all NARP members, September 12, 2000--
With Congress hoping to get out of town by month's end, the time for action on the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA) is nearing. It appears that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bill Roth (R-DE), locked in a tight race in a state where Amtrak has a huge presence, is willing to add the HSRIA to H.R.4923, the senate version of the Community Renewal Act, if the Senate takes up that bill.
Roth himself and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) will play key roles in determining whether that happens. Consequently, the key message now is to ask other members of the Senate Finance Committee to urge Roth and Lott to take up H.R. 4923 and attach the HSRIA to it.
If you are represented by a member of the Finance Committee (members listed below), please contact them by telephone, fax, or e-mail with a message along these lines:
[for Republican senators]
Please urge Chairman Roth and Majority Leader Lott to make passage of the High Speed Rail Investment Act a priority this month. We understand that there is support to move this bill as part of the Community Renewal Act. Whatever the vehicle, it is vital that it does move so that the federal government can play a meaningful role in encouraging development of high speed rail nationwide.
[for Democratic senators]
Please urge President Clinton and Minority Leader Daschle to make passage... (continue as above)
As always, include your name and address in e-mails you sent to Congress. There is information about finding Congressional e-mail addresses at our web site at <http://www.narprail.org/links.htm#congress>. The Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 can connect you to any Congressional office.
--Ross B. Capon
Members of Senate Finance Committee:
HIGH SPEED RAIL INVESTMENT ACT UPDATE -- September 17, 2000. H.R.3700, the High Speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA), is up to 155 sponsors. More are needed. Please write / e-mail / call your representative in the House and ask for their support.
On the Senate side, we now have 56 cosponsors of this bill, -- HSRIA (S.1900) -- as Inouye (D-HA) and Santorum (R-PA) became our latest supporters. It's still important for these non-sponsoring senators -- whose states have much to gain from the bill -- to hear strong support for HSRIA from back home: Abraham (R-MI), Fitzgerald (R-IL), Gorton (R-WA), and Voinovich (R-OH).
S.1900, the bill introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), would allow Amtak to sell $10 Billion in tax free bonds over ten years to develop high speed rail corridors throughout the the country.
For a list of House cosponsors see the NARP listing at: http://www.narprail.org/bills.htm#4
BOSTON TO PORTLAND, ME DELAYED -- NEW DATE LOOKS PROMISING!...September 10, 2000. Amtrak service from Boston to Portland, ME has been delayed once again. The service, once set to begin in 1993, is now planned for April, 2001. Portland (ME) Press Herald Writer reports that Amtrak is looking for people to call "All aboard" on trains that will run from Portland to Boston, evidence that the long-delayed service should finally get on track in 2001.
PRO-RAIL COMMUNITY LOSES A LEADER / FRIEND -- September 4, 2000...Washington--John R. "Jack" Martin, who served as president of NARP since April, 1979, and board member since 1975, died in Atlanta Friday, September 1, 2000. He had quadruple bypass heart surgery in San Jose on August 8, and flew home on August 29. In his memory, all Amtrak locomotives will sounded their horns at 5 PM ET Sunday, September 3, time of the memorial service at H.M. Patterson & Son Funeral Home in Atlanta. Though a volunteer officer, he devoted countless hours to the passenger-train cause, particularly after his early (voluntary) retirement from The Coca-Cola Company about ten years ago. He was Senior Counsel there when he retired. His train efforts included both NARP-specific work and work as an informal (again volunteer) consultant to Amtrak. His level of knowledge about trains was matched by the dignity and poise with which he chaired board meetings. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering (from Georgia Tech) and worked two years as a DuPont engineer before getting his law degree from Temple University and joining Coca-Cola. During his college years, he took summer jobs in operations with three different railroads. He was also a member and former chairman of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority, a state agency created to develop passenger rail service in Georgia. He is survived by his wife, Faye; two sons, Mark and Matthew, of Atlanta; and a daughter, Mimi Addy, a Chicago attorney. The family asks that contributions in his memory be made to NARP and/or the Atlanta Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, whose address is P.O. Box PO Box 1267, Duluth, GA 30096-0023. Source: NARP
NEW CALIFORNIA STATION PIX -- September 4, 2000. For some pix of the Merced grand opening and the Bakersfield grand opening on the Amtrak California "San Joaquin" route, visit http://www.amtrakcalifornia.com
AMTRAK SERVICE TO FOND DU LAC DELAYED, August 24, 2000. The expansion of Amtrak passenger service to Fond du Lac from Milwaukee and Chicago will not begin this month as anticipated. An Amtrak spokesman said that negotiations between Amtrak and Wisconsin Central Railroad Corp., which owns the tracks, must be successfully completed before any service extension begins operation.
Amtrak attributes the significant ridership gains to improvements in service and more passenger rail routes allowing better connections, as well as a market frustrated by congested highways and long delays at airports.
Ridership has risen markedly on many of the long distance trains as the rail network has grown, demonstrating what Amtrak advocates have been saying for many years. More trains and more routes will produce greater revenues. Under George Warrington's stewardship Amtrak has embarked on such an aggressive strategy.
IT'S A FIRST - AMTRAK WINS BROAD BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT FROM GOP / DEMS --August 11, 2000. Republicans convening in Philadelphia approved a pro-passenger rail plank in the party platform, for the first time. The chairman of the platform committee for the GOP was Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who is also the chairman of Amtrak. The GOP plank on Amtrak said, "Republicans support a healthy intercity passenger rail system, and where economically viable, the development of a national high-speed passenger railroad system as an instrument of economic development, and enhanced mobility." Following their convention, the Bush-Cheney ticket set out on a whistle stop tour, reviving an old tradition in American campaigning by rail. Meanwhile, the Gore campaign announced a $25-billion initiative, which, to increase "transportation choices available to the American people...through investments in transportation alternatives such as light rail, high-speed rail, mag-lev and cleaner, safer buses." There are separate paragraphs on "Building High Speed Rail" and on "Expanding and Improving the Existing [Intercity Passenger] Rail Network." The latter includes: "new grants to Amtrak and the states for improving existing and expanding passenger rail routes." Not to be outdone by the GOP platform plank on rail, Democrats have proposed language in their own platform explicitly supporting Amtrak. The Democratic plank encourages investment in "our national passenger railroad, Amtrak, and high-speed trains that would give Americans choices - freeing them from traffic, smog-choked cities, and being held hostage to foreign oil." In addition, Senator Joseph Lieberman, the choice as Al Gore's running mate on the Democratic side, has been consistently very supportive of Amtrak. Lieberman is currently one of the cosponsors for the Lautenberg-Jeffords High Speed Rail Investment Act (S. 1900) amd a long time Amtrak loyalist. In the past, GOP platforms have been mildly critical of Amtrak while the Democratic platforms have been mostly silent. "It demonstrates that Amtrak, which is setting new records for revenue and ridership, is turning the corner in both popular and political support," said Amtrak spokesman Bill Schulz.
"We're extremely worried," says Stan Suchan, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Transportation's rail division. If federal officials rule against the Talgos, he says, "Amtrak Cascades will cease to operate. There's no back-up plan."
"Our trains are the safest in the world," says Jean-Pierre Ruiz, chief executive of Talgo America. "The questioning of our safety is insulting... My competitor is causing this problem."
Washington and Oregon together have spent more than $140 million on the cars and their service, and local politicians and pro-rail citizens have rallied around the cause, including Washington's two U.S. senators, Republican Slade Gorton and Democrat Patty Murray.
A record 570,000 people rode the Cascades line in 1999, up 150% since its debut in 1993.
SUMMER SCHEDULE REFLECTS NEW SERVICE -- July 16, 2000. Amtrak's summer schedule now shows another Boston-Washington weekend Acela Regional (all-electric) round-trip and another Philadelphia-Harrisburg weekday Keystone round-trip.
PUBLIC RESPONDS POSITIVELY TO AMTRAK -- July 15, 2000. The public response to Amtrak's new service guarantee has been very positive. Here are some recent stats to back that up:
VRANICH RESIGNS FROM AMTRAK REFORM COUNCIL -- July 14, 2000. Joseph Vranich, author of the book "Derailed," a scathing attack on Amtrak, resigned from the Amtrak Reform Council on July 10th. Vranich, a frequent and vociferous critic of Amtrak, was originally appointed to the Council by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) on the recommendation of another frequent Amtrak detractor Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
Vranich did not leave without casting more asperions on Amtrak. In a bitter letter of resignation to Senator Lott, an often time Amtrak supporter, Vranich called upon the total removal of the Amtrak Board of Directors, a Congressonal investigation into Amtrak practices, and the removal of the the U.S. Transportation Secretary as the federal government's ex-officio member on the Amtrak board.
In another parting shot, delivered to the press on July 13, Vranich called upon President Clinton to "fire" Amtrak Board President Tommy Thompson for what Vranich called "pork barrell politics." Thompson is the Republican Governor of Wisconsin. Vranich accused Thompson of withholding information from the ARC reform. Thompson said Amtrak gave the council plenty of information, "but they' re never satisfied."
AMTRAK UNVEILS NEW LOGO / OFFERS CUSTOMER GUARANTEES--July 6, 2000. As I reported it would, Amtrak today unveiled its new logo and introduced a new commitment to customer satisfaction, promising to compensate riders for unsatisfactory experiences. Amtrak passengers who believe they did not receive a safe, comfortable and enjoyable trip will be entitled to a certificate good for future Amtrak travel at equal cost. Amtrak has been training 24,000 employees"`to take personal initiative and do what is necessary to solve guest problems.'' To encourage Amtrak's 24,000 employees, they will get a bonus equal to the average Amtrak ticket price (about $50) every month that 99.9 percent of customers are satisfied.
Meanwhile the new logo design depicts three parallel lines winding their way to a horizon and replaces what has been known as the "pointless arrow."
BOMBARDIER/ALSTOM, AMTRAK RESUME TESTING OF ACELA EXPRESS HIGH-SPEED TRAIN ON NORTHEAST CORRIDOR -- June 30, 2000. PHILADELPHIA - The Bombardier/ALSTOM manufacturing consortium and Amtrak have resumed testing of the new Acela Express high-speed train on the Northeast Corridor following modifications to the locomotive undercarriages.
New, longer bolts were installed in the truck assemblies after some of the original bolts were discovered broken or missing during earlier tests. The use of longer bolts was proposed by the manufacturers, and safety engineers for the Federal Railroad Administration approved the resumption of testing.
The train resumed testing between Newark and Washington this week and will make test runs in New England next week.
GAO REPORT RELEASED -- June 22, 2000. Amtrak needs to raise $9.1 billion to fund capital projects through 2015 and further tighten cost controls as the passenger rail service moves toward operating self-sufficiency, the General Accounting office said. The report said Amtrak should create benchmarks to assess productivity of its different services, such as its own long- distance trains and commuter service that it runs for state transit agencies. As much as two-thirds of the $150 million spending over budget was attributed to higher wages paid under a new union contract signed last year.
Meanwhile, Representative Bud Shuster (R-PA, the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said, "I am troubled by yet another GAO report that details Amtrak's inability to get its fiscal house in order." Shuster has announced plans to conduct hearings into Amtrak's finances. Dates for those hearings haven't yet been announced.
Shuster, has been critical of Amtrak for quite sometime. In 1998 he established a so-called "Blue Ribbon Panel" that recommended the break up of Amtrak. Shuster is known in his home district as "Mr. Highway" and even has highways named after him. In the Altoona, PA area, there are the Bud Shuster Highway, the Bud Shuster Byway (seriously!), and perhaps one or two more. The Highway is I-99, connecting Altoona with the Pennsylvania turnpike and I-76 and I-70.
While Chairman Shuster is troubled by the Amtrak expenditures due to labor contracts I'm far more troubled by the increasing highway expenditures and resulting environmental pollution, traffic congestion and highway carnage.
HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE HEARING POSTPONED (from NARP) -- June 16, 2000.
To NARP Members, June 16, 2000--
Ways and Means Committee staff has just indicated to us that the June 21 Subcommittee on Oversight hearing, "Tax Treatment of Transportation and Infrastructure," at which Amtrak Chairman Tommy Thompson, is to testify has been postponed to late June or July.
H.R. 3700, the High Speed Rail Investment Act, which is to be on the hearing agenda, has 109 sponsors. It is impressive that a quarter of the House has signed on in the 3-1/2 months since the bill was introduced (Feb. 29), but more co-sponsors are needed, especially more Republicans.
Some of the newest Republican co-sponsors are: Dunn (WA); Norwood (GA), Quinn (NY), Franks (NJ). So far, Dunn is the only Ways & Means Republican on the bill besides Houghton (who introduced it).
The list of co-sponsors is at <http://www.narprail.org/bills.htm>.
AMTRAK SUSPENDS HIGH SPEED TESTING --June 22, 2000. Following the discovery of the broken bolts on Acela wheel sets ( see story below ) Amtrak's Northeast Corridor President Stan Bagley sent out the following Employee Advisory notifying of the suspension of testing:
Dear NEC Co-worker:
You may have heard or read in the papers this week that Amtrak has temporarily suspended the testing of our new Acela high-speed trainsets and high-horsepower locomotives.
During the testing of one of the trainsets, a technical issue was discovered involving one of the bolted connections of the gear box to the truck of the power car. An inspection revealed that the same bolt issue was present on a couple of other power cars and high-horsepower locomotives.
We found that the vertical bolt that clamps the gear box to the seat in the frame of the truck was broken or missing at one point of attachment. In a few other locations on the power cars and locomotives, the bolts were found to be loose.
We think the solution will be to lengthen the bolt to extend it down through the frame, where it can be secured with a nut and lockwasher. But we will take the next couple of days to consider the options.
While a short suspension in testing might be frustrating to some, let's remember that the purpose of the testing phase is to uncover these kinds of issues so we can identify remedies well before the trainsets go into service.
We've lost a couple of weeks in our testing schedule, but as we've said from the beginning, Amtrak is committed to providing safe, comfortable, and enjoyable service for our guests and crew. We will begin high-speed service when we are confident we can provide just that.
Amtrak and the FRA are currently in conversation about resuming testing once we have a fix at lower speeds, with the higher speed tests to follow. Be assured that we have our best people working on this and have dedicated the resources to address this issue. We will continue to keep you up to date with all significant developments ahead.
BROKEN BOLTS--ANOTHER SETBACK FOR ACELA -- June 20, 2000. The Washington Post quotes Amtrak officials as saying that the new Acela service will not start up until "at least mid-August." According to the Post, "cracked or missing bolts were found in several wheel sets during test runs over the weekend."
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe confirmed the Post report--safety inspectors have discovered that bolts had broken off the undercarriages of at least two locomotives. According to the Globe, "The bolts are used to mount the gear case of the train's traction motor, which turns a locomotive's wheels. The problem occurred under stress when the locomotives logged up to 40,000 miles of testing...Upon further inspection, several more broken bolts were found in other locomotives."
This is the second setback for Amtrak's NEC high speed rail trains. Last fall Amtrak inspectors discovered wear and tear on the wheelsets when trains rounded curves at high speeds.
The broken bolt and wheel wear problems are not connected.
The high-speed electric trains that will go 150 miles per hour will come in complete sets, with six cars in the middle and a locomotive at each end. There will be 20 in all. The cost for a one-way trip between Boston and New York will be $130, $70 or so less than the air shuttle.
Ridership is reportedly up on the new Acela Regional service.
ACELA / NEW ENGLAND DIVISION ELECTRIFICATION UPDATE -- Effective 12:01 A.M., Tuesday, June 20, 2000:
South Station Track 11, Track 12, and Track 13 and associated switches and crossovers are added to the secured route. Tower 1 crossovers 12, 98, and 911 in the reverse position are added to the secured route.
Dorchester Branch No. 1 Track and No. 2 Track and associated switches and crossovers from Tower 1 to and including the diamond at South Bay are added to the secured route.
All electric trains must enter or depart Southampton Street Yard through the 15 switch at South Bay, including all movements off Loop Tracks.
AMTRAK CONFIRMS "RIGHT AND READY" POLICY AND NEW LOGO CHANGES --June 19, 2000 -- Amtrak has announced that it will unveil its new "Right And Ready" policy as I had reported on June 12 ( see story below...June 12, 2000 ). On July 6, at employee rallies around the system, Amtrak will officially introduce its unconditional Satisfaction Guarantee, and the new brand identity. The lead event will be at Washington Union Station, with similar gatherings held at Philadelphia's 30th Street station, Union Station in Chicago, and Union Station in Los Angeles.
According to an Amtrak statement, "By offering the transportation industry's first Satisfaction Guarantee, Amtrak is taking another important step in our transformation into a more guest-focused business. As part of this transformation, Amtrak has developed a new brand identity, which will be unveiled at the ceremony. After 29 years of service, the Amtrak symbol we've come to refer to as the "chevron" arrow will be replaced with a new travel mark.
"Our new brand identity represents a new Amtrak that runs more like a business, making decisions more efficiently, and focusing first and foremost on our guests. People will begin to associate this new mark not only with Amtrak's product, but with our increasing stature and reliability.
"The new symbol will be gradually phased in over the next year or two, in a controlled, cost-conscious manner as our brand revitalization effort continues."
Amtrak also noted that the 29 year old inverted arrow will be replaced by a "fresher, contemporary look" that better represents what the company stands for.
Amtrak will also create a new "Transition Brand Task Force" to "develop and establish short-term priorities, criteria and guidelines for use of the brand, a long-term business plan for the identity change, a company-wide communications plan and a long-term brand management process."
Members of the Brand-Transition Task Force are:
AMTRAK WARNS OF LONG DELAYS ON LONG DISTANCE ROUTES -- June 16, 2000. Amtrak is telling passengers on long-distance rail routes to expect more delays than usual this summer due to repairs and congestion on CSX Corp.'s freight lines, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
A "Notice to Amtrak Guests" said the situation was due to "an unprecedented increase in freight traffic"..."This, together with an aggressive track maintenance program, has resulted in unavoidable delays to many Amtrak trains operating on some CSX routes," the notice said.
The notice was signed by Edward V. Walker III, president of Amtrak's Intercity division, and Michael J. Ward, executive vice president of operations at CSX.
Amtrak plans to put the warning notices on trains and in stations around the country. Most delays are expected outside of Amtrak's Northeast corridor. Amtrak owns the Northeast corridor tracks, but it relies on other railroads, such as CSX, to provide its passenger service in other parts of the country.
AMTRAK AND STATES LOSE IN UNITED STATES SENATE -- June 15, 2000. The United States Senate today killed an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have given states the flexibility to use federal transportation dollars for intercity rail service. The pro-rail amendment was sponsored by Senators Voinovich (R-OH) and Cleland (D-GA) but lost on a procedural move led by Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) on a 52 - 46 vote. The Senate, in effect, voted by a two vote majority to support Senator Smith's contention that the Voinovich/Cleland amendment was not "germane."
Each year the Senate has managed to kill the flexibility legislation but this year we came very close to winning. Deserving special thanks for their efforts are Senators Voinovich (R-OH), Cleland (D-GA) and Lautenberg (D-NJ).
"This vote should make clear the importance of the High Speed Rail Investment Act. Congress has slammed the door shut on significant new passenger rail capital investment through the appropriations process and now through flexibility. The bond approach may be the only one left," said NARP's Ross Capon.
CLINTON NAMES RAIL LABOR LEADER TO ARC -- June 15, 2000. On June 14, 2000 President Clinton announced his intent to appoint Charles F. Moneypenny as a Member of the Amtrak Reform Council (ARC).
Moneypenny, of South Boston, MA, is currently the International and Legislative Representative of the 120,000 member Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), AFL-CIO, with primary responsibility in the union's collective bargaining and government affairs operation. Before his appointment in 1995, Moneypenny served as an international union representative, and he was president of TWU Local 2054 in Boston where he organized and managed an active membership dedicated to preserving good jobs and maintaining a safe and efficient national Amtrak network. Moneypenny was first elected local union president in 1985 and proceeded to serve four three-year terms in that capacity.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM NARP -- June 15, 2000.
There now are 47 sponsors on S.1900 and 99 sponsors on H.R. 3700. The latter bill is expected to figure prominently in a June 21 hearing of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, chaired by Rep. Amo Houghton (R-NY).
The Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Richard Shelby (R.-Ala.), has postponed its work on a fiscal 2001 transportation funding until June 13. Full committee action could come within a couple days of that, with a floor vote as soon as an opening for it occurs.
For more info go to the NARP HOTLINE.
AMTRAK MAY ANNOUNCE ITS "RIGHT AND READY" POLICY--June 12, 2000.
Amtrak has reportedly established a new "Right And Ready" policy, an ongoing pilot program where terminal inspectors are given more detailed checklists and wider latitude to declare a car, or a train, unfit. All "Right And Ready" inspections are being done and have been going on for a few months now but Amtrak may make a major announcement of this on July 4th.
Reportedly, this has already done a lot to make sure that the onboard crews have good equipment at the start of their runs. However, the issue remains that if you don't have a large enough reserve of cars, and Amtrak does not, then trains will still depart occasionally with equipment that is substandard.
This is one important reason why we, as Amtrak supporters, need to led our representatives in Washington know that Amtrak is a high priority item for us.
Presumably, the goal of the program is to force the product lines to be accountable and at the same time enable them to identify what problems come from poor terminal servicing whether it be at Ivy City, Sunnyside, Boston, or Philadelphia, and what problems crop up en route.
Reportedly, financial awards have been offered in several rounds as incentive to the right and ready teams. Early numbers show terminal readiness to be improving in line with management expectations.
I am told that the "Right And Ready" policy announcement will be coupled with a Service Guarantee that Amtrak will tout as unprecedented in the transportation industry. According to sources, Amtrak will guarantee a satisfactory trip or issue vouchers or adjustments to tickets, refunds or other compensation. The new Service Guarantee program is due to begin on July 4.
Implementation of such a Service Guarantee program could be a nightmare for those responsible for administering it but Amtrak is attempting to drive some accountability down to the product lines, station, and train crews who might be able to find more ways to welcome new riders onto the system.
This information is unofficial and has not been provided to me by Amtrak so you, the reader, will have to judge for yourself and time will tell.
Amtrak will be starting Acela Regional Service trains #134 & 135 (old 170 & 163 time slots with quicker times) within a month or so. All tracks in South Station and Southampton Street yard will be energized as of 12:01 a.m. tonight, Sunday, July 11.
URGENT LEGISLATIVE UPDATE -- THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW!! updated
44 Senators have now signed onto S.1900, the passenger rail infrastructure bond bill. The House counterpart bill, H.R.3700, had a one-third jump in sponsorship this week -- from 60 to 81! it's important for this bill to have 100 sponsors in the next couple weeks for the bill to have a strong chance of moving forward this Congressional session.
S.1144 could come to the Senate floor next week, so now is the time to remind legislators you support it. The Capitol switchboard, 202/224-3121, reaches all Capitol Hill offices. Our web site has information on how to contact legislators by e-mail at http://www.narprail.org/links.htm#congress, but be sure -- if you do that -- to include your name and regular mailing address.
UPDATE ON LA - VEGAS SERVICE -- June 2, 2000 -- The Las Vegas Service is currently scheduled to debut in Late January, assuming that Amtrak's and the Union Pacific's attorneys are able to mitigate the Fish and Game Department's insistence that an environmental impact report needs to be made for the "Desert Tortise". They feel the tortise will be adversely affected by the construction of the 2nd track between Kelso and Cima which has to ooccur prior to start up of the Vegas service. Amtrak West has enlisted the help of Governor Gray Davis (CA-D) to also assist in this regard. Meanwhile Amtrak ran a demonstration train between Phoenix and Tucson for ADOT secretary Mary Peters using the Las Vegas Talgo equipment. It reportedly was a huge success and grass roots support for the service is growing exponentially.
PIONEER SERVICE UPDATE--June 2, 2000. -- Amtrak has reportedly been working with the state of Oregon, and to a lesser extent Idaho, to identify ways to supplement revenue on the proposed resurrection of the Pioneer train. The current population base in the area will make ridership too low to meet operating expenses. Amtrak is seriously pursuing mail & express freight shipments to help support a revenue base. However, the problem is that most of the market for mail and express is beyond Boise and the Union Pacific RR has opposed taking trains beyond Portland to Boise without significant infrastructure improvements. Nevertheless, it appears that the PDX-BOI (Portland to Boise) portion of the Pioneer will happen in the near future.
AMTRAK ON NEW SERVICE PROPOSALS--June 1, 2000 NETWORK GROWTH STRATEGY UPDATE: from Amtrak "A CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAM OF EMPLOYEES IS CONTINUING TO MAKE PROGRESS IN PREPARING THE NETWORK GROWTH STRATEGY INITIATIVES FOR IMPLEMENTATION. "MARKET RESEARCH HAS BEEN COMPLETED TO IDENTIFY NAMES FOR THE NEW TRAINS. A TRADEMARK SEARCH IS CURRENTLY TAKING PLACE TO DETERMINE WHICH NAMES WE CAN LEGALLY USE. THE NAMES THAT WERE ANNOUNCED IN THE PRESS CONFERENCE MAY NOT BE THE NAMES THAT ARE ULTIMATELY USED. "NEGOTIATIONS ARE CURRENTLY TAKING PLACE WITH HOST RAILROADS TO IMPLEMENT THE ACTIONS AND STAFFING IS BEING ARRANGED FOR THE NEW TRAINS/FREQUENCIES. "SINCE PLANS ARE NOT COMPLETELY FINALIZED FOR EACH ACTION, SPECIFIC IMPLEMENTATION DATES ARE NOT AVAILABLE. DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT EACH ACTION AND ITS SCHEDULED IMPLEMENTATION DATE WILL BE RELEASED AS PLANS ARE FINALIZED. BELOW IS A GENERAL GUIDELINE (AS OF MARCH 21, 2000) OF WHEN THE ACTIONS MIGHT BE IMPLEMENTED: SUMMER 2000 - CHICAGO-PHILADELPHIA-NEW YORK, NEW OVERNIGHT SERVICE - CHICAGO TO FOND DU LAC, WI, EXTENSION OF A HIAWATHA TRAIN - SPLIT OF CRESCENT IN MERIDIAN, MS WITH ONE SECTION TO NEW ORLEANS AND THE OTHER SECTION TO FT. WORTH, TX - SILVER STAR EXTENDED TO BOSTON, MA - SAN ANTONIO, TX TO MONTERREY, MEXICO, NEW DAILY SERVICE FALL 2000 - CHICAGO TO DES MOINES, IA, NEW DAILY SERVICE - SILVER SERVICE TRAINS TO SPLIT IN JACKSONVILLE, FL AND PROVIDE MORE SERVICE WITHIN FLORIDA - CHICAGO-DETROIT-NEW YORK, LINKS ONE EMPIRE TRAIN AND ONE MICHIGAN TRAIN THROUGH ONTARIO BEYOND - LUXURY TRANSCONTINENTAL TRAIN - REROUTE THE SUNSET LIMITED VIA FT. WORTH AND EL PASO, TX WITH THRU CARS FROM THE TEXAS EAGLE BEING PLACED ON THE SUNSET IN FT. WORTH PLEASE NOTE THAT BEFORE THE REROUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CAN TAKE PLACE, AMTRAK MUST PROVIDE THE STATE OF MICHIGAN A 180 DAY NOTICE. AS OF MARCH 21, THIS NOTICE HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN.
June 1, 2000
NEW SKYLINE SERVICE -- June 1, 2000 -- Startup for the new Skyline service is slated for this summer (the date is yet to be determined). The new service will allow for late evening departures from Philadelphia with a morning arrival in Pittsburgh and daylight service (at last!) into Ohio. There will be news releases when the new service is announced. Mid June seems to be the projected startup date.
DATE FOR HIGHSPEED ACELA ? -- June 1, 2000. The latest information I have is that Amtrak is looking at September for the start up of the new high speed Acela service on the northeast corridor. LA TO LAS VEGAS ? -- June 1, 2000. L.A. to Las Vegas train service was to have started this September. However UP got delayed in building the double track because of land control by bureau of Land Management. Latest is January 2001. However just got a word that it may be fall of 2001. I would say at least late spring of 2001, for that area is HOT HOT IN the summer time and they will not want to build track mid summer for a Jan start.
AMTRAK RELEASES FIVE-YEAR RAIL IMPROVEMENT PLAN FOR CALIFORNIA--June 1, 2000. OAKLAND &endash; Amtrak recently released a $3.9 billion five-year draft improvement plan that would result in additional roundtrips, faster trip times and increased ridership on California's passenger rail routes. The five-year proposal is the first step in the development of a twenty-year vision for existing and emerging rail corridors in the state due out this fall. The twenty-year document and the five-year summary, called the California Passenger Rail Plan, is currently being developed in partnership with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), local communities, transportation agencies, commuter railroads, freight railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Amtrak is investing more than $5 million in the community based planning project to develop the comprehensive plan for providing fast, frequent, convenient passenger rail service to all of California's major population centers. The final plan can act as a "blueprint" for rail corridor development in the State.
The service would include new trains linking downtown San Francisco and Los Angeles, new service between the Bay Area and Monterey and Salinas and more lines to Sacramento and in the San Joaquin Valley.
BOSTON TO PORTLAND, ME DELAYED YET AGAIN-- May 19, 2000. The debut of passenger train service from Boston to Portland, Maine, is being delayed again, according to the New Hampshire Statehouse Writer. "Big Dig construction at North Station in Boston has derailed the January startup date until April 13, said Michael Murray, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority."
Plans call for Amtrak to make four round trips daily from Portland to Boston.
AMENDMENT TO LIMIT ARC FUNDING PASSES IN HOUSE -- May 19, 2000. the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Andrews-Ney Amendment, which cuts funding to the Amtrak Reform Council by a half. The amendment was co-sponsored by Reps. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) and Robert Ney (R-Ohio).
Andrews' amendment passed today by voice vote in the House of Representatives. The final bill will go before the House-Senate conference before being passed on to the President. Andrews has pledged to make sure the funding cuts approved today remain in the final version of the bill.
"The Amtrak Reform Council (ARC) is a prime example of wasteful government spending. Their only mission is to eliminate Amtrak," Andrews said. "Governmental organizations are already in place which can independently evaluate and assess the feasibility of Amtrak. The only action the ARC has taken since its inception is to ask the Federal government for more money."
Last year, the Council had originally requested $1.3 million in federal funding but was granted $450,000 in the House bill. The Council was granted $750,000 after the bill left the House-Senate conference. This year, the Council requested an increase to $980,000 but Andrews' amendment knocked the Council back to their 1998 funding level of $450,000. Andrews, an ardent supporter of Amtrak, passed an amendment in 1998 which limited the ARC's ability to use any taxpayer money to hire outside consultants.
AMTRAK FUNDING BILL MOVING FORWARD IN THE HOUSE -- April 23, 2000. House leaders plan for the fiscal 2001 transportation appropriations bill to be the fourth (of 13) such bills brought to the House floor in coming weeks. Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster reportedly gave his blessing to the transportation figures contained in the recently passed budget resolution.
For more info see the NARP HOTLINE.
H.R.3700, the House version of the intercity passenger rail bond bill, has five new sponsors this week, for a total of 45. For a list of sponsors of this bill and others, click here. The Senate counterpart, S.1900, reached 40 sponsors early in April with the addition of both Louisiana Senators and Jesse Helms (R.-N.C.).
Courtesy: Dave Bowe
City officials of Marshall and Longview, which would lose their westbound Train #21 service, as well as TEMPO (Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization), are all extremely disturbed over this reroute, and will continue working to reverse the decision if directional running does take effect. Marshall just completed a complete rehabilitation of its fine brick station; Longview is one of only three stations on the Eagle route that produced over one million dollars in revenue for the train last year.
Courtesy: Gene Poon
"Major discussions during the visit with Amtrak officials will focus on daily service of the Texas Eagle beginning May 21 and the use of Union Pacific rails between Shreveport-Bossier City, La., and Dallas for connecting service from Meridian, MS," the paper reported.
AMTRAK RETURNS SERVICE TO JANESVILLE, WI--April 22, 2000. Amtrak returned service to Janesville, WI after a 29 year absence.The Lake Country Limited--will leave Janesville at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday and will be scheduled to arrive in Glenview, IL at 8:50 a.m. and in Chicago at 9:20 a.m.On weekends and holidays, the train will leave Janesville at 6:15 a.m., arrive in Glenview at 8:35 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 9:05 a.m.
The northbound Lake Country Limited will depart Chicago at 8:15 p.m. seven days a week and will arrive in Glenview at 8:39 p.m. and in Janesville at 11:05 p.m.
Amtrak is paying Wisconsin & Southern a per-car fee for using the tracks. Wisconsin & Southern, in turn, leases the track from the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission.
Service began Saturday, April 15.
2nd ANNUAL LETTERS TO THE EDITOR CAMPAIGN BEGINS--April 3, 2000.
May 1st marks Amtrak's 29th birthday. For the second year, Amtrak supporters are asked to write letters to local newspapers for publication on or near May 1st.
Last year, many letters were published nationwide despite competing with the tragic Colorado school shootings. This is an advocacy tool allowing the publicto become better educated about Amtrak funding, the need for Amtrak expansion and the pleasure of traveling by train. Your participation in this second annual event would be greatly appreciated.
For more info contact: Jim Norton, Railroad Passenger Association of Alabama.
AMTRAK ON FEC GETS A LITTLE CLOSER--April 3, 2000.
The "Jupiter Courier" of Jupiter, Florida is reporting that Amtrak service along the Florida East Coast Rwy. is one step closer to becoming a reality. The newspaper reports that the cities of Stuart and Fort Pierce are going ahead with plans to build station stops following recent meetings between Amtrak andFEC officials. Rail lines still need to be revamped to allow for passing sidings on the single track route. Cities along Florida's "Treasure Coast" are expected to benefit financially once rail service begins.
REFORM COUNCIL INDICATES SUPPORT FOR AMTRAK PLAN--April 2, 2000.
In its first public review of Amtrak's new plan to aggressively extend service and create new routes, the Amtrak Reform Council, gave its nod of support. But the Council, created as a watch dog agency by Congress, told Amtrak officials that they must do what they can to meet their goal of self-sufficiency by 2003. "You are in the process of building a new national passenger rail system and we want you to succeed," council Chairman Gilbert Carmichael said. He said the keys to that success will be increasing the amount of mail and specialty freight service carried by Amtrak passenger trains, building partnerships with state and local governments and ensuring integration with other modes of transportation at Amtrak stops.
For too long, Amtrak's previous strategy of cutting services to reduce costs has failed, and the growth strategy appears to be working already, said Ed Walker, president of Amtrak's intercity services.
I wonder when Congress will create an agency to monitor when the interstate highway system and the airline industry will meet break even points without public subsidy?
CSX LINES UNSAFE--April 2, 2000.
Several CSX lines used by passenger trains have unsafe conditions identified by the Federal Railroad Administration, according to a Washington Post story. This finding resulted from a two-week, systemwide track audit about a month ago done by the FRA after a 60% increase in track-caused accidents over five years on CSX.
The FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) found a 60 percent increase in track-caused accidents over five years on the 22,700-mile CSX system prompting the agency to open up a new review of the safety conditions on the rails.
The safety review found many instances where the distance between the rails had spread wide enough to cause derailments.
Two such wide areas were found in the District of Columbia on the line used by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express and all north-south CSX freight trains. Defects were also found in Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland
Two of three recent track-caused derailments were caused by wide track, including a minor derailment of Amtrak's Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited at Connellsville, Pa., on Jan. 30, the report said.
"When you look at the nature of the defects, these are conditions that should not exist on any Class One railroad," said FRA associate adminstrator for safety George Gavalla "We will not tolerate wide gauge on any railroad." Gavalla told the Washington Post.
AMTRAK ADDS SERVICE TO BRIDGEPORT--April 2, 2000
PHILADELPHIA &endash; Beginning April 2, Amtrak will make an additional stop at Bridgeport, bringing the total number of daily trains to 11, and will soon provide Acela Regional service to the city.
Southbound NortheastDirect train #175 from Boston to Washington, DC, will stop in Bridgeport at 6:02 p.m. starting on Sunday. Amtrak was able to add the stop following construction work by Metro North Railroad, which owns the tracks.
Bridgeport will become a part of Amtrak's new Acela Regional service this summer as additional trains are phased into operation. Offering faster all-electric service to and from Boston aboard refurbished equipment, ridership on Acela Regional has exceeded expectations during the first two months of service with more than 43,000 people riding the train in February.
MBTA REVERSES ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH AMTRAK--April 2, 2000.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is ending its attempt to cut its ties with Amtrak, which operates the MBTA's Boston-area commuter operations and maintains its rolling stock, the Boston Globe reported.
Turning over maintenance of the railroad fleet to a different contractor was supposed to be the first phase of the plan to replace Amtrak with a cheaper alternative. But the Globe says that won't happen and that the MBTA and Amtrak are negotiating a three-year extension of commuter rail contracts.
Amtrak workers have run the MBTA's commuter rail system for 12 years. After years of dissatisfaction with the quality of service and price, MBTA last year put the train maintenance work out to bid. A company called Bay State won the work with a proposal that would have saved the authority $116 million over the five-year life of the contract, compared with what Amtrak proposed. But Amtrak unions fought hard to keep the work, enlisting the aid of politicians on Beacon Hill and in Washington, saying that the MBTA was simply engaging in union-busting. The US Department of Labor has threatened to cut off about $200 million in funds to the MBTA if it does not stick with Amtrak.
Labor officials say the Bay State contract violates a federal labor law that protects Amtrak workers.
Courtesy: Dave Bowe
ETHAN ALLEN TO BE REROUTED -- March 16, 2000. The Vermont Agency of Transportation and Guilford Transportation Industries will route Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express through Schenectady, N.Y. to Bennington and Manchester before heading to Rutland. The new route, which passenger trains last used 50 years ago, is expected to save up to 30 minutes of travel time.
TWO TRAINS PLANNED FOR FEC -- March 16, 2000. Amtrak is planning to run two daily trains along the Florida East Coast contingent upon successful negotiations with the Florida East Coast Industries which owns the tracks.
Sticking points for the negotiations, which have been going on since November 1998, are the capacity of the FEC tracks to accommodate passenger trains, operation schedules and "fair compensation."
Another potential problem is that new tracks must be built near West Palm Beach to connect FEC- and CSX-owned lines, according to Ray Lang, Amtrak's government affairs manager.
The proposal would mean splitting Amtrak's Silver Meteor and Silver Star, which now operate on CSX tracks in Florida's interior, to form four shorter trains, with two on FEC tracks.
One question is when will Amtrak and Florida look at improving the station situation in Jacksonville.
GOVERNORS SUPPORT AMTRAK -- March 16, 2000. The National Governors Association, at their winter meeting in Washington, on March 1 passed a resolution calling for funding passenger rail programs in fiscal 2001 at the total level authorized for Amtrak, $989 million. The White House on February 28 issued a statement supportive of Amtrak and the $989-million funding level.
AMTRAK TO EXPAND! -- February 27, 2000. In an announcement to be made on Tuesday, February 29, Amtrak will unveil its plan to expand its routes and services. The expansion would include a luxury, transcontinental route between New York and Los Angeles and more Midwestern routes from the hub city of Chicago, according to Tommy Thompson, chairman of Amtrak's board. Thompson, who is also Governor of Wisconsin (R-WI), told a Governor's conference that Amtrak would expand passenger service, tap into the business of shipping refrigerated produce and increase mail and freight service.
DETAILS BECOMING AVAILABLE--February 28, 2000. Details of Amtrak's plan to expand services are now becoming available. Here's what we know thus far:
VRANICH CRITICIZES NEW AMTRAK EXPANSION PROPOSAL--February 28, 2000...Meanwhile, Joe Vranich, a long time Amtrak critic, has attacked the railroad's latest expansion proposal calling it "doomed to failure" and "bogus." Vranich, who was appointed to serve on the Amtrak Reform Council by Trent Lott, reportedly at the behest of Arizona Senator John McCain, another vociferous Amtrak foe, also said that Amtrak's Acela is turning into the world's worst high-speed rail program. Vranich's comments leave Amtrak supporters wondering if he ever has anything good to say about Amtrak or is this yet another axe to grind.
AMTRAK MARKS 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF COASTER COMMUTER SERVICE--San Diego Area Employees Win Top Safety Awards--February 17, 2000
SAN DIEGO &endash; More than 75 Amtrak Coaster employees will receive special service recognition awards, including three for 20 years of injury-free service, on Saturday, February 19 in La Jolla. Governor Michael Dukakis, vice chairman of Amtrak's Board of Directors, will join the awards presentation. The gala celebration will commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Coaster commuter rail service that Amtrak operates under contact to the North County Transit District. "Amtrak's Coaster team has consistently exceed service excellence while meeting the growing demand for commuter rail service in the North County," said Gil Mallery, president of Amtrak West, one of three strategic business units of the National Railroad Passengers Corporation.
With an average daily ridership of 4,500 passengers, the 44-mile Coaster route is one of Amtrak's fastest growing commuter rail contract services. During calendar year 1999, commuters made more than 1.2 million passenger trips on the Coaster, representing an eight percent increase over the same period in 1998 and a 59 percent increase over 1996, the first full year since establishing service. "I am proud of the performance of the Amtrak Coaster team during the past six years of the initial contract. Amtrak is well-positioned to meet the needs of the NCTD and the Coaster customers in the coming years," said Amtrak Coaster General Manager Dave Wine.
S.1144 NOW HAS 35 CO-SPONSORS -- February 8, 2000. S.1144 is a bill that would give states the flexibility to spend transportation funds on Amtrak. Here is the current list of cosponsors:
NARP SUPPORTS CLINTON RAIL REQUEST --February 07, 2000.
Washington -- President Clinton today unveiled a Fiscal Year 2001 budget that would fund intercity passenger rail programs at the $989 million level authorized for Amtrak. The request divides this amount between two programs.
The President's request for Amtrak is $521 million in general funds. While Amtrak and the Administration have said this so-called "glide-path" figure would be enough to continue Amtrak's efforts to achieve operational self-sufficiency by 2003, we have concerns that it will not be sufficient to achieve that goal, and that such a low figure might even result in service reductions. Furthermore, we are concerned that this level of funding would not permit any meaningful service expansion, which is vital if passenger rail is to become a more important component of the transportation market.
Another $468 million would be provided for a new "Expanded Intercity Rail Passenger Service Fund," to be available to Amtrak and/or states. This fund would draw from a small part of the $3 billion in gas-tax revenues the federal government now projects that it will collect in 2001 in excess of estimates used in TEA-21. Amounts from these excess revenues are called "revenue-aligned budget authority" or "RABA." Under current law, RABA revenues must be spent for highway programs that already got a huge boost from TEA-21. The proposed use of RABA would require amendment of TEA-21.
We believe it would be sound public policy for Congress to make this change in TEA-21. Many states are looking for a federal partner to develop intercity passenger rail services as a means to complement their congested highway and aviation systems. As currently written, TEA-21 provides such a federal-state partnership for every form of surface transportation except intercity passenger rail. By adopting the Administration's request, Congress would alleviate this imbalance and provide resources to expand services in a way that the Administration's general-fund Amtrak request does not.
Americans have called repeatedly for improved passenger rail service, and have shown their willingness to use it when it is offered. Now is the time to provide what state DOT officials call "adult federal money" to accelerate the development of a passenger rail system comparable to the systems already in place in other developed countries. The Administration's budget request would be a step in the right direction, and we call on Congress to support it.
PIONEER ROUTE GETS 90 DAY EXTENSION -- February 4, 2000. The Idaho Statesman of February 1, is reporting that the town of Boise, Idaho and Ada County have received a second, 90-day extension in their joint effort to buy an abandoned railroad line south of the city. City officials learned last week that the U.S. Surface Transportation Board granted another three months for the governments to put together an offer for the line south of Gowen Road. The new deadline becomes early May, said Suzanne Burton, spokeswoman for Boise Mayor Brent Coles. Coles has said purchas the rail corridor is critical for future commuter rail service to areas southeast of Boise.
AMTRAK REFORM COUNCIL ISSUES CONTROVERSIAL REPORT--January 25, 2000.
The first annual report of the Amtrak Reform Council is out and, to no ones surprise, it's a controversial one. I've copied the contents to an online website since it is too long to reprint here. Go to: <http://trainweb.org/crocon/Amtk_Rfrm_Cncl_rpt1.html>
Already the report is under fire. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said the report "mischaracterized the intent of this administration" on how to measure Amtrak's progress.
The report was approved 8-3 by the council with dissenting opinions.
Clarence Monin, the labor union representative, wrote that the council "has carved out an ideological agenda for itself which ... extends far beyond what Congress intended."
Jolene Molitoris, administrator of the Federal Rail Administration, wrote that the report "works counter to our shared goal" of helping Amtrak.
"Amtrak is disappointed that the ARC report also ignores the Congress' definition of operational self-sufficiency in favor of its own test," said an Amtrak official.
In its response Amtrak pointed out that Wall St. debt rating agencies had recently given the railroad much higher marks than the Council. Recently Standard & Poor's publicly assigned its triple-'B' issuer credit rating to Amtrak.
Since its inception the Amtrak Reform Council has been under fire from Amtrak supporters who have questioned the composition of the council and the possible motives of some of its most vocal members.
ACELA REGIONAL SERVICE BEGINS JANUARY 31st -- January 25, 2000.
The first of the new electric trains between Boston and New Haven will go into service on January 31st. This is the Acela Regional service. It should be the Acela Equipment with a normal NEC schedule. New timetables are now available. There should be two trains daily in each direction.
Here's the schedule for the first Acela train:
Train 835 on January 31, 2000
DP BOS @ 9:30AM
AR NHV @ 1:05PM
DP NHV @ 1:35PM
AR NYP @ 3:10PM
All intermediate stops will include BBY, RTE, PVD, & NLC and ceremonies will take place at each stop for approx. 15-20 mins with the exception of BBY (3 min. stop)
AMTRAK LAUNCHES WEEKLY RAIL SALE PROGRAM--January 12, 2000.
Customer Enhancements Introduced as an Increasing Number of Travelers Book Reservations Online
WASHINGTON--Amtrak has launched a weekly Internet-based Rail SALE program, with Internet enhancements that will provide even better service to Amtrak customers. Through Rail SALE, Amtrak customers can take advantage of fares discounted at up to 70%, on rail travel in the U.S.
The Rail SALE and system improvements are part of Amtrak's investment in e-commerce that has grown in popularity with travelers. From October through December 1999, tickets purchased through www.amtrak.com have nearly doubled, to 4.3 percent of total ticket sales from 2.3 percent during the same period in 1998. For the Thanksgiving holiday, the busiest train travel period of the year, e-commerce ticket sales were up 115 percent from the same period last year, representing almost 6 percent of total ticket sales.
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