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Southwest Chief News & Future Operations

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BNSF may well be interested in the Moffet Line. They were granted trackage rights on it as a condition of the UP-SP merger and they use them.

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The Senate just kind of b*tch-slapped Anderson. Not only did they specifically require the integrity of the National Network Long Distance trains, they specifically forbid Amtrak and Anderson from making their own interpretation of PTC requirements and required them to use the FRA regulations. That was a very specific loophole closure and prevents Amtrak from "weaponizing" PTC to rip up essential parts of the long distance network. I have to think that one is largely ARP's doing. Good tag teaming between the NM, CO, and KS local politicians and ARP lobbying, along with Congressional staff work.

 

Anderson's intentions on PTC were a big part of his Congressional testimony in June, as well as his soft shoe shuffle about not matching the grants. The Senate specifically directed him to do exactly what he said he was no going to do, by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority vote. That is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the Senate very specifically calling BS. I have to wonder about Anderson's credibility on Capitol Hill. To me it looks like he managed to antagonize the Senate, not a good move for an Amtrak president.

 

There are a lot of differences between being an airline president and the president of Amtrak. Having to deal with the US Congress and not just a Board of Directors is a pretty big one, which I kind of overlooked until now.

 

I am still kind of amazed at how precise that language was. It was laser targeted.

Edited by zephyr17

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California Zephyr at most faces a reversion to the route of the original Amtrak San Francisco Zephyr, but with a visit the Salt Lake City instead of running via Ogden. It is not facing discontinuance, just a bit of ridership hit perhaps.

God works in mysterious ways!

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BNSF may well be interested in the Moffet Line. They were granted trackage rights on it as a condition of the UP-SP merger and they use them.

What I am wondering is, why the BN wasn't given the opportunity to buy the old D&RGW as well as former WP routes, as a condition of the UP-SP merger from the beginning, unless the BN felt it was more advantageous to simply be granted trackage rights? And if so, perhaps they still feel that way...of course, if the UP downgrades the line, they may be forced to reconsider....

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Well, the reason BNSF was granted trackage rights by the STB was to retain competition, particularly in Utah I don't know if they considered forcing UP to divest the old Gould lines.

 

Trackage rights have advantages, you can run trains without some of the capital costs. Both UP and BNSF probably considered it a win-win at the time.

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BNSF may well be interested in the Moffet Line. They were granted trackage rights on it as a condition of the UP-SP merger and they use them.

What I am wondering is, why the BN wasn't given the opportunity to buy the old D&RGW as well as former WP routes, as a condition of the UP-SP merger from the beginning, unless the BN felt it was more advantageous to simply be granted trackage rights? And if so, perhaps they still feel that way...of course, if the UP downgrades the line, they may be forced to reconsider....

 

The Moffat Route and Raton pass line have something in common: They were both important due to coal traffic. The three or four mines on the Raton Pass line were closed years ago. I think they might've been rather expensive to operate underground mines. The coal traffic on the old DRG&W Moffat route was more significant but probably suffered at least in part by Obama's so-called "war on coal" but some of that traffic might be coming back now so I wouldn't write this line off too soon.

 

The old DRG&W proved that is was possible to run a daily and rather effective intermodal train from Denver to SLC. But once the UP took over, they were not interested in a smaller, shorter city pair like that. Sometimes I think that the management of a smaller, regional railroad can be more effective in finding and drumming up new business that a large corporation like the UP.

 

Regards.

FMC

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Pretty much agree on most points. Although I think the economics of coal are now problematical domestically due to cheap natural gas, regardless of the environmental and political side (which is a rabbit hole I do not want to open up). So I doubt coal traffic will be a solution here, which is undoubtedly factoring into UP's thinking.

Edited by zephyr17

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If that big slide that blocked the line at Thistle happened today, I imagine it would have sealed the fate of the Rio Grande as a thru route....

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Agreed. Thank goodness Rio Grande was still an independent railroad then. They couldn't afford to have their mainline blocked. If it had been owned by UP with alternate routes, I am not sure UP would have done that huge relocation even with the coal traffic. They could have treated the line as a long branch and run westbound coal traffic back via Denver, then over the Overland Route.

Edited by zephyr17

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I suspect that It is possible that if UP downgrades the Moffat Route, they will have to transfer the trackage rights that BNSF has, to the Overland Route.

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e

I suspect that It is possible that if UP downgrades the Moffat Route, they will have to transfer the trackage rights that BNSF has, to the Overland Route.

You know, one thing that I'm concerned about, this PTC stuff might compel or at least encourage the railroads to downgrade some secondary mains or even one-time primary mains in order to avoid the expense of installing PTC on them. This could lead to the loss of service in some sectors and even more congestion on the few lines that are left.

 

I guess, I've had reservations about PTC from the beginning. I think PTC is basically a sound concept but it's the idea of the unfunded mandate that I'm not sure about. "The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions".

 

As far as Amtrak goes, there is now a real risk of losing services on routes because CONGRESS instituted the PTC mandate. So, as we have seen with the Chief, Congress is now trying to address an issue that was created (at least in part) by Congress.

 

Another thing that I have worried about is that for those of us who would like to see an expansion of the Amtrak route system, the PTC mandate might make that even more difficult than it already was. Return service to Phoenix proper? A new North Coast Hiawatha? Gulf coast restoration? PTC could possibly be a stumbling block for those and other routes. I hope not but it might be.

 

-FMC

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Pretty much agree on most points. Although I think the economics of coal are now problematical domestically due to cheap natural gas, regardless of the environmental and political side (which is a rabbit hole I do not want to open up). So I doubt coal traffic will be a solution here, which is undoubtedly factoring into UP's thinking.

I believe the Colorado mines produce metallurgical (steel making) coal, so may be viable until they play out.

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e

I suspect that It is possible that if UP downgrades the Moffat Route, they will have to transfer the trackage rights that BNSF has, to the Overland Route.

You know, one thing that I'm concerned about, this PTC stuff might compel or at least encourage the railroads to downgrade some secondary mains or even one-time primary mains in order to avoid the expense of installing PTC on them. This could lead to the loss of service in some sectors and even more congestion on the few lines that are left.

 

I guess, I've had reservations about PTC from the beginning. I think PTC is basically a sound concept but it's the idea of the unfunded mandate that I'm not sure about. "The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions".

 

As far as Amtrak goes, there is now a real risk of losing services on routes because CONGRESS instituted the PTC mandate. So, as we have seen with the Chief, Congress is now trying to address an issue that was created (at least in part) by Congress.

 

Another thing that I have worried about is that for those of us who would like to see an expansion of the Amtrak route system, the PTC mandate might make that even more difficult than it already was. Return service to Phoenix proper? A new North Coast Hiawatha? Gulf coast restoration? PTC could possibly be a stumbling block for those and other routes. I hope not but it might be.

 

-FMC

Yes, it could be, especially under Anderson's weaponized interpretation of the statute. However, assuming the bill passes the House and is signed, the amendment specifies that the FRA regulations regarding PTC be treated as law, so traffic density again becomes a factor in whether or not PTC is required. Several secondary mains currently qualify that Amtrak operates over, not just Raton. That includes the Coast Line between San Luis Obispo and Gilroy, and the former D&RGW between Grand Junction and Salt Lake City.

 

I think the return to Phoenix, as unlikely as it is anyway, is particularly a case in point. The West Phoenix line needs to be completely rebuilt to be put back into service. In order to make that significant investment, UP would have to be planning to run enough traffic to exceed that traffic density exemption. So unless the line would require PTC for UPs own use, irrespective of passenger service, like moving HazMat, they wouldn't add it. Of course, the other possibility is for the State of Arizona to buy it for passenger service, which seems even more unlikely than UP wanting to resume operating the line, remote as that is.

 

As to the North Coast Hiawatha, the key link there would be MRL. I don't know if they are installing PTC, but they might have to. I think they run HazMat loads.

 

On the brighter side, there are huge swaths of lines that do not host passenger service but which have or are having PTC installed for freight purposes.

 

Speaking of the exemptions, even with the amendment, the Southwest Chief isn't completely in the clear. What about NMRX? NMRX is going to run the full allowed schedule of passenger service without PTC (4 a day) without a slot for the Southwest Chief. So there is still the question of what is going to happen Lamy-Albuquerque? A shorter bus bridge? A crash program with some of the $50 million to install PTC on NMRX (time is pretty short to get that done by 1/1/19 if they started this minute)? A waiver from the FRA (I can just see how happy Anderson would be to request it)? Sue NMRX for one of the slots?

Edited by zephyr17

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Pretty much agree on most points. Although I think the economics of coal are now problematical domestically due to cheap natural gas, regardless of the environmental and political side (which is a rabbit hole I do not want to open up). So I doubt coal traffic will be a solution here, which is undoubtedly factoring into UP's thinking.

I believe the Colorado mines produce metallurgical (steel making) coal, so may be viable until they play out.

 

Good to know, thanks.

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e

I suspect that It is possible that if UP downgrades the Moffat Route, they will have to transfer the trackage rights that BNSF has, to the Overland Route.

You know, one thing that I'm concerned about, this PTC stuff might compel or at least encourage the railroads to downgrade some secondary mains or even one-time primary mains in order to avoid the expense of installing PTC on them. This could lead to the loss of service in some sectors and even more congestion on the few lines that are left.

 

I guess, I've had reservations about PTC from the beginning. I think PTC is basically a sound concept but it's the idea of the unfunded mandate that I'm not sure about. "The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions".

 

As far as Amtrak goes, there is now a real risk of losing services on routes because CONGRESS instituted the PTC mandate. So, as we have seen with the Chief, Congress is now trying to address an issue that was created (at least in part) by Congress.

 

Another thing that I have worried about is that for those of us who would like to see an expansion of the Amtrak route system, the PTC mandate might make that even more difficult than it already was. Return service to Phoenix proper? A new North Coast Hiawatha? Gulf coast restoration? PTC could possibly be a stumbling block for those and other routes. I hope not but it might be.

 

-FMC

Yes, it could be, especially under Anderson's weaponized interpretation of the statute. However, assuming the bill passes the House and is signed, the amendment specifies that the FRA regulations regarding PTC be treated as law, so traffic density again becomes a factor in whether or not PTC is required. Several secondary mains currently qualify that Amtrak operates over, not just Raton. That includes the Coast Line between San Luis Obispo and Gilroy, and the former D&RGW between Grand Junction and Salt Lake City.

 

I think the return to Phoenix, as unlikely as it is anyway, is particularly a case in point. The West Phoenix line needs to be completely rebuilt to be put back into service. In order to make that significant investment, UP would have to be planning to run enough traffic to exceed that traffic density exemption. So unless the line would require PTC for UPs own use, irrespective of passenger service, like moving HazMat, they wouldn't add it. Of course, the other possibility is for the State of Arizona to buy it for passenger service, which seems even more unlikely than UP wanting to resume operating the line, remote as that is.

 

As to the North Coast Hiawatha, the key link there would be MRL. I don't know if they are installing PTC, but they might have to. I think they run HazMat loads.

 

On the brighter side, there are huge swaths of lines that do not host passenger service but which have or are having PTC installed for freight purposes.

 

Speaking of the exemptions, even with the amendment, the Southwest Chief isn't completely in the clear. What about NMRX? NMRX is going to run the full allowed schedule of passenger service without PTC (4 a day) without a slot for the Southwest Chief. So there is still the question of what is going to happen Lamy-Albuquerque? A shorter bus bridge? A crash program with some of the $50 million to install PTC on NMRX (time is pretty short to get that done by 1/1/19 if they started this minute)? A waiver from the FRA (I can just see how happy Anderson would be to request it)? Sue NMRX for one of the slots?

Considering that MRL runs a train called the “gas local” twice a day, as well as unit oil trains, it is a good bet that PTC is being installed, especially since I have directly observed that they are installing new signals with PTC equipment.

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I suspect that It is possible that if UP downgrades the Moffat Route, they will have to transfer the trackage rights that BNSF has, to the Overland Route.

Now that would be a "win-win" for the BNSF....might justify making the Cheyenne to Ogden Overland Route into a four track mainline....sort of a rail version of I-80. :cool:

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What about The Prez signing off on it? Any problems possible, there? Hope not...he did claim to be "for restoring infrastructure".... :unsure:

 

 

Promises Made, PROMISES NOT KEPT!

 

Honestly, since Fox News hasn't mentioned it, he probably doesn't even know it's in there.

 

Do you think he actually reads those bills?

Edited by zephyr17

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Has congress said they expect amtrak to make a profit? Congress doesn't want Amtrak losing money on food and beverage service, which seems reasonable.

Why is that reasonable? F&B is an ancillary service to increase ridership and farebox recovery, not a self standing or core service provided by Amtrak. Should toilet service also be accounted for separately?

 

Well based on the condition of the windows on the last few Amtrak trains I've ridden... it doesn't seem that Amtrak is too concerned with keeping things clean. Restrooms have always been hit or miss on the trains too so I hope they aren't paying too much to keep them clean.

 

The whole F&B thing I can see both ways... i think there is room for a middle ground with no table service, but an LSA and a chef on board the train preparing a few hot items. But as it was, Amtrak was losing alot of money on food service employees that are not really necessary.

 

Did the Silver Star lose riders when they dropped the diner?

Did the City of New Orleans lose riders when they dropped the regular diner menu?

 

It should be noted that not all LD trains are the same. If one looks at the star's ridership it was the perfect train to drop the diner on because they offer another similar train with the diner and the Star is the less popular train for northeast to Florida overnight riders - it has a much stronger shorter distance ridership. The Meteor on the other hand being the more direct route to Florida carries a lot more sleeper passengers and has a larger percentage of long distance riders (both in coach and sleeper) - Northeast to Orlando being the most popular trip on the train - so I would think the service drop on that train would have a bigger impact.

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e

I suspect that It is possible that if UP downgrades the Moffat Route, they will have to transfer the trackage rights that BNSF has, to the Overland Route.

You know, one thing that I'm concerned about, this PTC stuff might compel or at least encourage the railroads to downgrade some secondary mains or even one-time primary mains in order to avoid the expense of installing PTC on them. This could lead to the loss of service in some sectors and even more congestion on the few lines that are left.

 

I guess, I've had reservations about PTC from the beginning. I think PTC is basically a sound concept but it's the idea of the unfunded mandate that I'm not sure about. "The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions".

 

As far as Amtrak goes, there is now a real risk of losing services on routes because CONGRESS instituted the PTC mandate. So, as we have seen with the Chief, Congress is now trying to address an issue that was created (at least in part) by Congress.

 

Another thing that I have worried about is that for those of us who would like to see an expansion of the Amtrak route system, the PTC mandate might make that even more difficult than it already was. Return service to Phoenix proper? A new North Coast Hiawatha? Gulf coast restoration? PTC could possibly be a stumbling block for those and other routes. I hope not but it might be.

 

-FMC

Yes, it could be, especially under Anderson's weaponized interpretation of the statute. However, assuming the bill passes the House and is signed, the amendment specifies that the FRA regulations regarding PTC be treated as law, so traffic density again becomes a factor in whether or not PTC is required. Several secondary mains currently qualify that Amtrak operates over, not just Raton. That includes the Coast Line between San Luis Obispo and Gilroy, and the former D&RGW between Grand Junction and Salt Lake City.

 

I think the return to Phoenix, as unlikely as it is anyway, is particularly a case in point. The West Phoenix line needs to be completely rebuilt to be put back into service. In order to make that significant investment, UP would have to be planning to run enough traffic to exceed that traffic density exemption. So unless the line would require PTC for UPs own use, irrespective of passenger service, like moving HazMat, they wouldn't add it. Of course, the other possibility is for the State of Arizona to buy it for passenger service, which seems even more unlikely than UP wanting to resume operating the line, remote as that is.

 

As to the North Coast Hiawatha, the key link there would be MRL. I don't know if they are installing PTC, but they might have to. I think they run HazMat loads.

 

On the brighter side, there are huge swaths of lines that do not host passenger service but which have or are having PTC installed for freight purposes.

 

Speaking of the exemptions, even with the amendment, the Southwest Chief isn't completely in the clear. What about NMRX? NMRX is going to run the full allowed schedule of passenger service without PTC (4 a day) without a slot for the Southwest Chief. So there is still the question of what is going to happen Lamy-Albuquerque? A shorter bus bridge? A crash program with some of the $50 million to install PTC on NMRX (time is pretty short to get that done by 1/1/19 if they started this minute)? A waiver from the FRA (I can just see how happy Anderson would be to request it)? Sue NMRX for one of the slots?

Considering that MRL runs a train called the “gas local” twice a day, as well as unit oil trains, it is a good bet that PTC is being installed, especially since I have directly observed that they are installing new signals with PTC equipment.

 

I thought I read somewhere that the NM Rail Runner was granted or was asking for an exemption due to the line having ATS still active on it. If so, the Chief shouldn't have a problem on that section, unless RA's no PTC no Amtrak kicks in.

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e

I suspect that It is possible that if UP downgrades the Moffat Route, they will have to transfer the trackage rights that BNSF has, to the Overland Route.

You know, one thing that I'm concerned about, this PTC stuff might compel or at least encourage the railroads to downgrade some secondary mains or even one-time primary mains in order to avoid the expense of installing PTC on them. This could lead to the loss of service in some sectors and even more congestion on the few lines that are left.

 

I guess, I've had reservations about PTC from the beginning. I think PTC is basically a sound concept but it's the idea of the unfunded mandate that I'm not sure about. "The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions".

 

As far as Amtrak goes, there is now a real risk of losing services on routes because CONGRESS instituted the PTC mandate. So, as we have seen with the Chief, Congress is now trying to address an issue that was created (at least in part) by Congress.

 

Another thing that I have worried about is that for those of us who would like to see an expansion of the Amtrak route system, the PTC mandate might make that even more difficult than it already was. Return service to Phoenix proper? A new North Coast Hiawatha? Gulf coast restoration? PTC could possibly be a stumbling block for those and other routes. I hope not but it might be.

 

-FMC

Yes, it could be, especially under Anderson's weaponized interpretation of the statute. However, assuming the bill passes the House and is signed, the amendment specifies that the FRA regulations regarding PTC be treated as law, so traffic density again becomes a factor in whether or not PTC is required. Several secondary mains currently qualify that Amtrak operates over, not just Raton. That includes the Coast Line between San Luis Obispo and Gilroy, and the former D&RGW between Grand Junction and Salt Lake City.

 

I think the return to Phoenix, as unlikely as it is anyway, is particularly a case in point. The West Phoenix line needs to be completely rebuilt to be put back into service. In order to make that significant investment, UP would have to be planning to run enough traffic to exceed that traffic density exemption. So unless the line would require PTC for UPs own use, irrespective of passenger service, like moving HazMat, they wouldn't add it. Of course, the other possibility is for the State of Arizona to buy it for passenger service, which seems even more unlikely than UP wanting to resume operating the line, remote as that is.

 

As to the North Coast Hiawatha, the key link there would be MRL. I don't know if they are installing PTC, but they might have to. I think they run HazMat loads.

 

On the brighter side, there are huge swaths of lines that do not host passenger service but which have or are having PTC installed for freight purposes.

 

Speaking of the exemptions, even with the amendment, the Southwest Chief isn't completely in the clear. What about NMRX? NMRX is going to run the full allowed schedule of passenger service without PTC (4 a day) without a slot for the Southwest Chief. So there is still the question of what is going to happen Lamy-Albuquerque? A shorter bus bridge? A crash program with some of the $50 million to install PTC on NMRX (time is pretty short to get that done by 1/1/19 if they started this minute)? A waiver from the FRA (I can just see how happy Anderson would be to request it)? Sue NMRX for one of the slots?

Considering that MRL runs a train called the “gas local” twice a day, as well as unit oil trains, it is a good bet that PTC is being installed, especially since I have directly observed that they are installing new signals with PTC equipment.

 

I thought I read somewhere that the NM Rail Runner was granted or was asking for an exemption due to the line having ATS still active on it. If so, the Chief shouldn't have a problem on that section, unless RA's no PTC no Amtrak kicks in.

 

The problem is the twofold in Railrunner territory: ATS is not installed in the new build portions of the commuter line yet, Railrunner would do that upon approval of the waiver from the FRA (which is not a given). The second problem, is that the proposed exemption has a maximum number of trains in it, which are all going to be Railrunner trains. So I am not sure what the status of that is, and how Amtrak will work around that.

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The exemption for low traffic does not require ATS. The whole ATS thing relative to PTC approval is a red herring.

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I have to wonder about Anderson's credibility on Capitol Hill. To me it looks like he managed to antagonize the Senate, not a good move for an Amtrak president.

Yeah, that seemed like an incredibly stupid move.

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