Wall Street Journal Article on Amtrak and Anderson: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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Tadman
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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by Tadman » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:37 am

eolesen wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:54 am
JoeG wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 10:09 pm
...
The problem is that he has no idea of how to run a railroad. What's with canceling short-haul trains days before a forecast storm? Maybe he had to do that at Delta, where planes have complex country-wide schedules. That's not true of Keystone service, NEC service or Empire service, for three.
...
Why is he making life tough for PV owners and charterers? These guys are willing to pay whatever to run their cars and he is rejecting their business.
He says PV makes trains late? As everyone know they are already disgracefully late. I'm not just talking about the LD network, where probably a lot of the problem is with the Class Is. Even their premier Acela service has an ontime percentage in the eighties.And that is with "on time" defined as no more than 15 minutes late. Even bedraggled NJT considers a train late after 5 minutes.
...
Finally, when ordinary railroad things go wrong, like an engine that fails to load, it takes Amtrak at least a couple of hours to recover, and that's on the NEC. It certainly seems that some of their "almost" profitability is caused by their failing to provide enough protect engines, cars and crews.
...
If Mr Anderson hires a safety expert, that is one (the only) thing he's done that is progressive. But his lack of nuts and bolts railroading experience prevents him from being the leader Amtrak needs.
It's laughable to think that these types of decisions are something the CEO or President would initiate or even need to endorse.

Just like "Orange Man, Bad" syndrome, it's easier to attack Anderson than want to admit there's a need for Amtrak to be managed differently than it has been for the previous 30+ years. The article admits there's been some significant improvements e.g. I can't think of a significant accident that's happened since he arrived.
I agree mostly here, but when things are going haywire daily, it's time for the biggest boss possible to stop the big picture work and "RTFT", or "ride the frigging trains". Lately a lot of my frustration with Amtrak is not from issues fixable by more funding, it's by issues fixable by more attention from management. If Mr. Anderson had three fixer guys that were well known throughout the system for showing up and troubleshooting unforced errors like bad boarding procedures and unnecessary double stops, it would provide better service.

And regarding JoeG's assertion about private cars versus class 1 delays, let's be real honest. I have more than one managerial type at Amtrak telling me the hidden costs and delays of PV's are enormous. Why not get them cleaned up so the majority of delays are on the Class 1's, and it's easier to negotiate? Recently I was on a train that didn't leave Chicago on time, and it gets worse from there. We had no PV's, but that's the kind of delays PV's create and it drives the freights nuts. It's hard to fight them on delays when Amtrak doesn't have clean hands.

We can all note there are plenty of PV's still on the system. Last week I watched plenty of pics of two PRR-liveried cars having a race Chicago-Washington. The week before that, one went right past me on the Pere Marquette and then travelled to Indy for he last run of the Hoosier. PV's are absolutely still running, they're just not getting as favorable of treatment. I think Mr. Levin has a beef with current management and the average person (IE not a buff) just. doesn't. care.
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eolesen
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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by eolesen » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:31 am

David Benton wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:07 pm
The Talgo accident , and the Silver Star accident were both on "his watch ". The Congressmen special could possibly be counted , and seemed to be the catalyst of his "'PV ban".
Amtrak wasn't responsible for either the GOP charter or the CSX collision. I thought Moorman was still CEO when Cascades happened.

Since Moorman stepped down at the end of 2017, I can't think of any other incidents which would point to the lack of a safety culture. Putting in the non-punative self-disclosure safety reporting system probably has helped more than not.
JoeG wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 2:10 pm
...as CEO he is responsible for everything, just like a ship captain is responsible for accidents even if he is off the ship. The point is that the captain is held responsible for the training of his subordinates, so their screwup also becomes his screwup.
Yeah, that's a really weak argument... This isn't the Navy.

CEO's drive strategy and culture, and find people who can effect both of these, and replace those who can't.

JimBoylan
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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by JimBoylan » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:09 pm

I think that the Congresscritter Charter collision with the trash truck was the catalyst for the Charter Train Ban. The less trains you run, the less chance of accidents.

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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by Matt Johnson » Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:51 am

Priming the public?

http://blog.amtrak.com/2019/07/passenge ... 6MIfE-xCUo

Here's my take. Reading between the lines, Amtrak's current CEO under the direction of a Republican administration is on a mission to kill the long distance network, with false promises that the minimal savings will somehow enable the development of Northeast Corridor level infrastructure in shorter corridors around the country. The truth is that the long distance network has helped to foster the development of state supported services (notably in California, Oregon & Washington, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, and Maine). If you gut the national system, I'm not convinced that corridor services will grow any faster than they already are. Want real high speed rail? That'll take billions in infrastructure investment as evidenced by California's high speed rail struggle.

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Tadman
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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by Tadman » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:05 am

Matt Johnson wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:51 am
The truth is that the long distance network has helped to foster the development of state supported services (notably in California, Oregon & Washington, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, and Maine). If you gut the national system, I'm not convinced that corridor services will grow any faster than they already are.
I certainly agree with the first part. The infrastructure in place at Chicago or LA made it much easier to launch or expand corridor service since they didn't have to find a station or shops.

But I disagree with the second part. The Builder, Chief, et al have a huge tab, and that money could go to more frequencies on Chicago-MSP/KC etc... Or even help develop a Fargo corridor, which was success in the GN days.

Further, I'm in MSP this week on business. I rode the Builder up from Chicago, but no way am I risking it on the way back. I have seen this train get 8+ hours late, and I don't have time to screw around with that. That would mean I have to ride the super late South Shore out of Chicago or stay in Chicago if I were on the Wolverine. It's just not even remotely a possibility for a business traveler. But, if the Builder was more of a 400 train, MSP-Chicago, I'd certainly consider it. I get a lot of work done in an Amtrak seat.
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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:32 am

Worth running the numbers to see whether it would be cheaper to farm LD service out to the Class 1s. Figure it at the price of an intermodal plus passenger indemnity, then figure the costs of eliminating Amtrak crew bases on the way. (The OBS crew would go straight through.) Regional service can stay with Amtrak.

The reason I say that is because there’s still a demonstrable need and demand for LD service, but also a big money pit for Amtrak that could possibly be more cheaply accomplished by a host line with its own resources. This would be substantially the same as the early days of Amtrak, using haulage rights instead of trackage rights.

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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:54 am

Mr. Anderson knows that Amtrak is at an X-roads with the LD's ("Network", as referred to at another site); they have to be re-equipped. This is unlike what was faced with the "Clinton Cuts", where new equipment was being delivered as the cuts were implemented.

With only thirty one V-II's undelivered (and nobody in any rush to get them), it's time for long and hard thinking about the efficacy of ordering some 600 single and bi-level cars for the existing LD's - let alone the expansion the advocacy community wants to see.

RPSA70 does call for a national system; but I'm unaware of where it calls for a network, i.e. the LD's. Amtrak presently operates Locally sponsored intercity services on both Coasts and in the middle, and they stand ready to operate others if the sponsorship is there.

In short, even without the LD's a case could be made that Amtrak IS national in scope.

Regarding Mr. Stephens' immediate thought, who says the Class I's want 'em back? That would be an invitation to be rid of 'em. The member roads, whether they held an operating agreement or not, surrendered their intercity passenger train franchise to Amtrak under the Act. They are not under obligation to take Amtrak trains back and operate them - even under a Purchase of Service Agreement such as was in place on A-Day. Presently, the roads simply provide access to their ROW's and specified ancillary services only by grace of their bilateral agreements with Amtrak.

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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by andegold » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:25 pm

Question regarding crew bases on LD trains: Long haul flights in the airline industry require change of flight and cabin crew. Wide body planes have dorm space for the second crew. Obviously the Trans-Dorm cars are designed for crew but is that just for the OBS team? Why couldn't more space (or in the dream world where there would be surplus sleepers) an entire car, if necessary, be reserved for crew, including the engine crew? The obvious objection to what I'm asking is that it would put crews out on the road/away from home for days at a time. However, it would also allow for more rational scheduling of shifts since they wouldn't be tied in to the arbitrary location of crew bases. It would also eliminate the concept of crews dying on the clock since the replacements would be on board. Airlines and and all ocean going vessels do this. Why not land cruises as well?

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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by rcthompson04 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:02 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:54 am
In short, even without the LD's a case could be made that Amtrak IS national in scope.
You could still have a national service, but more in a "hub" to "hub" fashion.

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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by ThirdRail7 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:02 pm

eolesen wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:31 am
Since Moorman stepped down at the end of 2017, I can't think of any other incidents which would point to the lack of a safety culture. Putting in the non-punative self-disclosure safety reporting system probably has helped more than not.


That system was in place long before Mr. Anderson came on board. There was also the death on an employee last year. This incident happened entirely under the watch of the current regime: Another Amtrak worker dies, months after safety changes are requested.


A brief fair use quote
Five months ago, in a scathing report on a 2016 accident in which two track workers were killed, U.S. safety investigators urged Amtrak to slow its trains when they pass work crews.

The nation’s passenger rail service didn’t follow the advice and still hasn’t replied to the safety recommendations the National Transportation Safety Board announced last November, according to government records and details released from investigators.

Last week, another Amtrak worker was hit and killed in a similar accident in Bowie, Maryland. The victim was an Amtrak watchman who was helping monitor safety during track work between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., when struck April 24 by Train 86.

The train was traveling at a high rate of speed and there were no work-zone restrictions in place, said NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson.
I believe this was a wake up call. That being said, it takes time to establish a culture and I applaud (and respect) Mr. Anderson's continued emphasis on safety in lieu of on time performance or popularity.
Tadman wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:05 am
Matt Johnson wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:51 am
The truth is that the long distance network has helped to foster the development of state supported services (notably in California, Oregon & Washington, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, and Maine). If you gut the national system, I'm not convinced that corridor services will grow any faster than they already are.
I certainly agree with the first part. The infrastructure in place at Chicago or LA made it much easier to launch or expand corridor service since they didn't have to find a station or shops.

But I disagree with the second part. The Builder, Chief, et al have a huge tab, and that money could go to more frequencies on Chicago-MSP/KC etc... Or even help develop a Fargo corridor, which was success in the GN days.

Further, I'm in MSP this week on business. I rode the Builder up from Chicago, but no way am I risking it on the way back. I have seen this train get 8+ hours late, and I don't have time to screw around with that. That would mean I have to ride the super late South Shore out of Chicago or stay in Chicago if I were on the Wolverine. It's just not even remotely a possibility for a business traveler. But, if the Builder was more of a 400 train, MSP-Chicago, I'd certainly consider it. I get a lot of work done in an Amtrak seat.
The NEC tab is much bigger than anything the Builder, Chief et al could come close to approaching. They didn't think twice about hurling 450 million dollars to add constant tension catenary to a few, scant miles of track. Granted, signal upgrades and a new substation came with it but that money could have established additional frequencies on the MSP corridor or infrastructure improvements in quite a few other places.

The additional frequencies shouldn't come at the expanse of other trains. They should work with the other trains. Look at the trains along the Atlantic coast service. Their trains work with additional frequencies and ridership reflects it. You often perform better when you have multiple frequencies.
mtuandrew wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:32 am
Worth running the numbers to see whether it would be cheaper to farm LD service out to the Class 1s. Figure it at the price of an intermodal plus passenger indemnity, then figure the costs of eliminating Amtrak crew bases on the way. (The OBS crew would go straight through.) Regional service can stay with Amtrak.

The reason I say that is because there’s still a demonstrable need and demand for LD service, but also a big money pit for Amtrak that could possibly be more cheaply accomplished by a host line with its own resources. This would be substantially the same as the early days of Amtrak, using haulage rights instead of trackage rights.
Did you forget why Amtrak was formed? If the hosts wanted the liability (and that is the major issue) of passenger service, they could have bid on the various supported services they often hosts. Indeed, CSX shrugged off their passenger service despite Maryland attempting to make it worth their while.


andegold wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:25 pm
Question regarding crew bases on LD trains: Long haul flights in the airline industry require change of flight and cabin crew. Wide body planes have dorm space for the second crew. Obviously the Trans-Dorm cars are designed for crew but is that just for the OBS team? Why couldn't more space (or in the dream world where there would be surplus sleepers) an entire car, if necessary, be reserved for crew, including the engine crew? The obvious objection to what I'm asking is that it would put crews out on the road/away from home for days at a time. However, it would also allow for more rational scheduling of shifts since they wouldn't be tied in to the arbitrary location of crew bases. It would also eliminate the concept of crews dying on the clock since the replacements would be on board. Airlines and and all ocean going vessels do this. Why not land cruises as well?
The current Hours of Service laws does not make this feasible. Being on a train does not count as rest.
Last edited by ThirdRail7 on Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by Rockingham Racer » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:34 pm

Thanks, Thirdrail, for an informed point of view and clearcut answers!

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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:39 pm

True, I keep forgetting that the price for Class Is to operate long-distance service for Amtrak may very well be $Never.

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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by John_Perkowski » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:52 pm

andegold wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:25 pm
Question regarding crew bases on LD trains: Long haul flights in the airline industry require change of flight and cabin crew. Wide body planes have dorm space for the second crew. Obviously the Trans-Dorm cars are designed for crew but is that just for the OBS team? Why couldn't more space (or in the dream world where there would be surplus sleepers) an entire car, if necessary, be reserved for crew, including the engine crew? The obvious objection to what I'm asking is that it would put crews out on the road/away from home for days at a time. However, it would also allow for more rational scheduling of shifts since they wouldn't be tied in to the arbitrary location of crew bases. It would also eliminate the concept of crews dying on the clock since the replacements would be on board. Airlines and and all ocean going vessels do this. Why not land cruises as well?
Simply put, US Department of Transportation hours of service and crew rest rules. A transoceanic airplane has no access to replacement staff, a train does.
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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by David Benton » Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:04 pm

I'm not sure about how common dorm space for crew is on Airplanes either. I thought a seat behind a curtain is the best a cabin crew could hope for, while the flight crew take turns having power naps in their cockpit seats.
I don't really see any advantage in extending crew districts for Amtrak, if anything I wold have thought costs savings could come from frequency increases allowing more short turns , so avoiding away from base costs.
Freight trains in Australia do have from cars behind the locos, but your talking territory between the back of a black stump and the middle of nowhere.
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Re: A Flight Plan For Amtrak

Post by electricron » Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:15 pm

andegold wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:25 pm
The obvious objection to what I'm asking is that it would put crews out on the road/away from home for days at a time. However, it would also allow for more rational scheduling of shifts since they wouldn't be tied in to the arbitrary location of crew bases. It would also eliminate the concept of crews dying on the clock since the replacements would be on board. Airlines and and all ocean going vessels do this. Why not land cruises as well?
Sea Captains and Airline Pilots are not expected to know everything about their flight and seaways unlike the track corridor and signals Train Engineers are expected to know. It's difficult enough for Engineers to learn where they run trains on - 60 mph x 8 hours - for about 500 miles or so. You must be kidding thinking anyone could keep current on all the operating details for 2000 - 2500 miles that Amtrak's longest distance trains run over.
That's why train operating crews are treated differently by Amtrak from its onboard service crews. The onboard stewards are not required to learn every detail about the rail corridor.

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