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FRA Tier II speed upgrade: 150mph to 160mph

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Did Amtrak ever get a response on their petition to increase FRA Tier II speeds to 160 mph for the County to Ham upgrade? The latest thing I can find online is the announcement for the final decision to occur 12/00/2017 (yes, the FRA site says the 0th of December, so possibly the decision happened in the Twilight Zone).

 

I will say that the timing on their waiver submission was unfortunate, as a major part of their lobbying was relying upon the NECs proven safety record and the waiver was submitted in February 2015, right before Amtraks series of major wrecks around the country started.

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Since they have failed to install constant tension catenary anywhere except in the short segment between Midway and a little past Princeton Jct. there is not going to be much of 160mph running even if it was approved I suppose. There will be more of it up north/east in RI and MA.

 

The catenary upgrade work between that point and Ham seems to have been all but abandoned for now.

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Oh wow that sucks. When did this happen? And what have they been doing for the past 5 years down there then??

 

Has the waiver been denied then or are they still on track for 160 in New England and wherever they did manage to install constant tension wire?

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Since they have failed to install constant tension catenary anywhere except in the short segment between Midway and a little past Princeton Jct. there is not going to be much of 160mph running even if it was approved I suppose. There will be more of it up north/east in RI and MA.

 

The catenary upgrade work between that point and Ham seems to have been all but abandoned for now.

What the hell?!?! :angry2: How and why was this project SO mismanaged and over budget, and now they're just throwing in the towel?!?

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Wait, didn't they get some sort of grant for this?

(Also, even an upgrade to 150 MPH on sections of NYP-WAS would be something...)

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In early 2016, Amtrak requested permission from the FRA to run 160 mph instead of 150 mph in three sections:

  • 17.4 miles between Kingston and Warwick, RI
  • 10.0 miles between Hebronville and Mansfield, MA
  • 22.5 miles between County Int. and Ham Int., NJ

I calculated the maximum time savings of running 160 mph instead of 150 mph over those segments. They are respectively:

  • 26.10 sec.
  • 15.00 sec.
  • 33.75 sec.

Many folks would oppose the expenditures necessary to achieve the faster speed as just not worth it. Others would say that each train thereafter would benefit - forever.

 

jb

Edited by John Bobinyec

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The speedup between County and Ham was going to be from 135mph to 160mph, not 150mph to 160mph. The incremental cost for 150mph to 160mph in that segment is essentially close to zero - basically the cost of getting the safety case approved and trains certified.

 

As mentioned above, the speed limit between County and Ham is 135 or lower, and now will remain so* except between Midway and halfway between PJC and Hamilton, the running time reduction for Acelas will be less of a thing to write home about.

OTOH, since the top speed on the outer tracks is being raised from 110 to 125 and NJT is getting certified for 125 for the outer zone trains, it will considerably decongest Delcon/Adams (just west of Jersey Ave./County) all the way to Fair(Trenton). The gains from that for more trains will be more substantial in terms of faster schedule and schedule reliability than top speeds for Acelas. It will also enable having more Amtrak Regionals/Keystones stop at PJC with less impact on their runtime. So even in the currently projected state upon completion of the current project, overall gains will be substantial for all, though not as headline grabbing as originally promised.

 

*It is possible that in the new stabilized catenary regions between Delcon/Adams (just west of Jersey Avenue/County) and Midway (Monmouth Jct.) speed on tracks 2 & 3 may be raised to 140 or so, but the increment is rather small. Similar small increment may happen west of the end of CT catenary between PJC and Hamilton and Ham.

Edited by jis

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Sounds like the engineer must really be "on his toes" to know all the speed limits on that run...they change so rapidly...

Not like the old days when you just accelerated to 80 mph, and held it there for most of the way...

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Well, that is one reason that FRA insisted in civil speed enforcement using ACSES before allowing speeds above 125mph.

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Stabilized catenary is not constant tension and is barely viable for 140-145mph as I understand it. Only constant tension is good for speeds higher than that.

 

As for what they have been doing, I intend to ask that of Mr. Stadler in Miami at the RPA shindig, if I can get a question in edgewise through the inevitable cacophony about the SWC and the National Network etc.

 

BTW no billion dollars. It was a total of $450 million, of which a significant proportion was for upgrading power delivery, including new frequency converters and additional substations, and also upgrade of the signaling systems and changing block lengths to enhance capacity. All that has been completed. There really is no reason to throw a juvenile tantrum about it

Edited by jis

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Stabilized catenary is not constant tension and is barely viable for 140-145mph as I understand it. Only constant tension is good for speeds higher than that.

As for what they have been doing, I intend to ask that of Mr. Stadler in Miami at the RPA shindig, if I can get a question in edgewise through the inevitable cacophony about the SWC and the National Network etc.

BTW no billion dollars. It was a total of $450 million, of which a significant proportion was for upgrading power delivery, including new frequency converters and additional substations, and also upgrade of the signaling systems and changing block lengths to enhance capacity. All that has been completed. There really is no reason to throw a juvenile tantrum about it

I can always seem to count on you for my share of condescension here. I really do appreciate that.

 

Looking past that though, the project is called the “New Jersey High-Speed Rail Improvement Program.” Any improvement to the physical plant is of course important, but it is more than a bit disingenuous for them to have called it that and to have promised 160 mph speeds for so long only to slink away quietly with their main goal in their hand and their tail between their legs a full year and a half after their estimated completion date.

 

This plus the “inevitable cacophony” of problems with the national network are casting quite the shadow onto Amtrak at the moment for anyone that cares about this stuff. Not sure a negative reaction to all this (an opionion I seem to share with “daybeers” who you have not included in your scolding) is the same as a “juvenile tantrum.”

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Oh I have a very negative reaction to all this, but I am over my own tantrum throwing after learning of the sordid tale of the shenanigans of one Deputy Chief Engineer on the project who got fired. At that point I realized throwing tantrums about these things is a pointless waste of good energy after bad.

 

There was an OIG report that covered the entire unfolding fiasco upto that point in some detail. There has at least been one OIG report on the specifics of a series of screwups, some quite comical. Now all that interests me is what is the best we can get out of it.

 

Apparently there has been some further changes made to the scope under Anderson that I do not know the details of. I am hoping to learn about it at the RPA meeting if I get a chance.

 

All in all, unfortunately, it is no different from any other Amtrak project, perhaps except for the few Penn Station rehab summer projects under Moorman and Anderson and the earlier equipment acquisitions. Maybe Avelia Liberty will work out OK. We’ll see.

 

Oh, incidentally the original NJ project was to up the speed from 135 to 150. The 160 thing got thrown in for good measure as things went along before they collapsed into a heap.

Edited by jis

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Oh I have a very negative reaction to all this, but I am over my own tantrum throwing after learning of the sordid tale of the shenanigans of one Deputy Chief Engineer on the project who got fired. At that point I realized throwing tantrums about these things is a pointless waste of good energy after bad.

There was an OIG report that covered the entire unfolding fiasco upto that point in some detail. There has at least been one OIG report on the specifics of a series of screwups, some quite comical. Now all that interests me is what is the best we can get out of it.

Apparently there has been some further changes made to the scope under Anderson that I do not know the details of. I am hoping to learn about it at the RPA meeting if I get a chance.

All in all, unfortunately, it is no different from any other Amtrak project, perhaps except for the few Penn Station rehab summer projects under Moorman and Anderson and the earlier equipment acquisitions. Maybe Avelia Liberty will work out OK. We’ll see.

Oh, incidentally the original NJ project was to up the speed from 135 to 150. The 160 thing got thrown in for good measure as things went along before they collapsed into a heap.

Fair enough. I am curious though, do you consider a “tantrum” to be anything that isn’t entirely keeping one’s opinions to oneself? I originally thought your characterization of my original reply was supposed to be some kind of dig at me, but your description of your own reaction the same way suggests that you may just have a unique opinion of the defenition of the term. If you meant no disrespect then my apologies and please disregard the first part of my previous post.

 

Anyway, I would be interested to read this stuff you mention. It might be cathartic, haha. I have been looking for material on the project myself but I seem to have come up short as I can only find Amtrak press releases and FRA fact sheets.

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I did not mean any disrespect. As I said my early reaction was similar. After realizing the futility of it I characterized it to myself as my own “juvenile tantrum”, something to be avoided in the future, at least for myself.

 

I might have stashed away a copy of the report somewhere. I will look for it next time I get on my laptop. I also learned a lot from Thirdrail here before he disappeared, and a few Amtrak retirees and refugees that I know personally, including a few at PB these days.

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I did not mean any disrespect. As I said my early reaction was similar. After realizing the futility of it I characterized it to myself as my own “juvenile tantrum”, something to be avoided in the future, at least for myself.

I might have stashed away a copy of the report somewhere. I will look for it next time I get on my laptop. I also learned a lot from Thirdrail here before he disappeared, and a few Amtrak retirees and refugees that I know personally, including a few at PB these days.

Gotcha. And yeah if you get a chance that would be fantastic. It’s a shame he disappeared in here, I didn’t know/realize that had happened until recently.

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Yeah, hopefully TR7 pops back up around here. He/she was definitely one of the most knowledgeable members about Amtrak's inner workings we've had here in a while.

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I did not mean any disrespect. As I said my early reaction was similar. After realizing the futility of it I characterized it to myself as my own “juvenile tantrum”, something to be avoided in the future, at least for myself.

 

I might have stashed away a copy of the report somewhere. I will look for it next time I get on my laptop. I also learned a lot from Thirdrail here before he disappeared, and a few Amtrak retirees and refugees that I know personally, including a few at PB these days.

 

This it?

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I think the “December 2014 investigative report” referred to inside the report you linked is the one he is talking about.

 

Edit: here is some stuff I found about that report. Haven't found the report itself yet though. Is it possible it's not available to the public?

https://amtrakoig.gov/sites/default/files/reports/oig-i-2015-506.pdf

https://www.eenews.net/assets/2015/12/24/document_gw_02.pdf

Edited by Amtrak706

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The 165 MPH on the mainline isn't nearly as important as the local track upgrades to 100 MPH operation.

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I did not mean any disrespect. As I said my early reaction was similar. After realizing the futility of it I characterized it to myself as my own “juvenile tantrum”, something to be avoided in the future, at least for myself.

 

I might have stashed away a copy of the report somewhere. I will look for it next time I get on my laptop. I also learned a lot from Thirdrail here before he disappeared, and a few Amtrak retirees and refugees that I know personally, including a few at PB these days.

This it?

Yup. Thanks.

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In early 2016, Amtrak requested permission from the FRA to run 160 mph instead of 150 mph in three sections:

  • 17.4 miles between Kingston and Warwick, RI
  • 10.0 miles between Hebronville and Mansfield, MA
  • 22.5 miles between County Int. and Ham Int., NJ

I calculated the maximum time savings of running 160 mph instead of 150 mph over those segments. They are respectively:

  • 26.10 sec.
  • 15.00 sec.
  • 33.75 sec.

Many folks would oppose the expenditures necessary to achieve the faster speed as just not worth it. Others would say that each train thereafter would benefit - forever.

 

jb

Remember, segment three isn't 150 to 160, it's 135 to 160 (since IIRC 135 is the max speed on NEC-South right now). So you're probably looking at somewhere around 90-100 seconds. That's not nothing, but most of your NEC-South improvements get you somewhere between 1 minute and 3-4 minutes.

Edited by Anderson

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In early 2016, Amtrak requested permission from the FRA to run 160 mph instead of 150 mph in three sections:

  • 17.4 miles between Kingston and Warwick, RI
  • 10.0 miles between Hebronville and Mansfield, MA
  • 22.5 miles between County Int. and Ham Int., NJ

I calculated the maximum time savings of running 160 mph instead of 150 mph over those segments. They are respectively:

  • 26.10 sec.
  • 15.00 sec.
  • 33.75 sec.

Many folks would oppose the expenditures necessary to achieve the faster speed as just not worth it. Others would say that each train thereafter would benefit - forever.

 

jb

Remember, segment three isn't 150 to 160, it's 135 to 160 (since IIRC 135 is the max speed on NEC-South right now). So you're probably looking at somewhere around 90-100 seconds. That's not nothing, but most of your NEC-South improvements get you somewhere between 1 minute and 3-4 minutes.

 

The original reference that I made was to an application that Amtrak made to the FRA to be able to run 160 mph instead of 150 mph. They can already raise the speeds to 150 mph if they want to - that's not the question that I was referring to.

 

jb

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But you seemed to be suggesting that there is a big incremental cost involved in going to 160 from 150, possibly inadvertently so.

Edited by jis

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I'm going to be the major opposing opinion here; but I really don't see the point in raising the speed limit at all.

 

Yes incremental improvements would likely save a few minutes of travel time for the Acela but at what cost to the rest of the line. If the majority of the trains (NER, NJT) are moving at 125 mph and your Acela is moving at 160 mph I see quite a few problems.

 

First in order to get the handful of time saving minutes one needs to have the path clear of other trains so the Acela could reach the maximum speed. By doing that you are forcing NER (to be known as limited) with NJT (to be known as local) onto one track. So in order to save the Acela a few minutes you would either need to lengthen the limited times due to being cut in behind the locals. Or you would need to schedule the limited's ahead of the locals. With there being two commuter lines in NJ using the corridor with let's say half hourly service for ease of calculation.

 

That leaves you with scant few times where one can route a limited out of the way of the Acela and a local. So likely the schedule for the trains that carry the most passengers get lengthened. And the 110 mph long distance trains really get the cold shoulder because they would be the slowest train by speed but not by run time falling between the limited's and the locals by having the stop profile of a limited.

 

Secondly it's an awful lot of money to invest to save a few minutes that we could put into buying replacements to the P42, the Amfleets, or the Superliners. All of which aren't getting any younger and are suffering more breakdowns as they age.

 

So in my opinion 150 to 160 is just a waste of time, and money.

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