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Mail and Express Service harming passenger trains

Amtrak reconsidering express service; said to harm passenger train service

By Doug Ohlemeier, MOKS Rail newsletter editor

OMAHA, Neb. - Express service has harmed Amtrak's long-distance passenger operations. That's according to an Amtrak official who addressed a large group of 67 rail advocates at the National Association of Railroad Passengers Region X meeting April 6

Amtrak's express "has shown some of its aspects are harming Amtrak's prime directive - to move people," said Brian Rosenwald, Amtrak's general manager for the California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay
area, the Empire Builder, a Chicago-Seattle/Portland train, and the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Rosenwald said express has not been the panacea that has gotten Amtrak out of its financial troubles. He said Amtrak is considering leaving less profitable express markets .

"The trains with 30 mail and express cars block main lines and cause all sorts of difficulties," Rosenwald said.

Rosenwald said Amtrak's handling of express cars has caused operational problems for long-distance trains. He said trains traveling into rail yards, making switch moves late at night and early in the morning and equipment delays caused by the express business has harmed passenger train transit times.

The California Zephyr currently hauls 30 express cars. Rosenwald said Amtrak is considering increasing that number to 40.

"Express has been a mixed bag," Rosenwald said. "We are reviewing our express business to determine which are the most profitable opportunities. The express business had not yet reached our original expectations, and it has not been our 'savior'."

U.S. mail carried by Amtrak, on the other hand, has been profitable for the 30-year-old carrier, Rosenwald said.

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