Let’s start with the ugly status of the Dining car removal from the Silver Star train, since it’s the hottest news. On January 28, just as this is being written, URPA learned that Amtrak employees were told the day before that the Star’s dining car is PERMANENTLY gone. As predicted here since this “experiment” was first announced last summer, there was no doubt it was going to be a permanent discontinuance.
A well-informed source has told RailPAC that Pacific Parlour Car service will be missing from the Coast Starlight in the coming weeks because the FRA has some concerns about the glazing. Apparently one car has already been fixed and Amtrak is awaiting delivery of material for the rest of the fleet. Unfortunately we cannot offer a schedule of which dates may be affected but we’ll do our best to keep you informed.
As the Parlour Cars are cycled through the shops they will be temporarily replaced by Superliner lounge cars. We are assured there is no intent to end the service.
Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief, Railway Age
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has released H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, commonly referred to as the “highway bill.” Buried deep within the document (p. 504) is language with provisions to extend the PTC deadline to Dec. 31, 2018, with up to 24 months of additional extensions granted by the FRA on a case-by-case basis.
First Published June 2013
As Noel Braymer has previously reported there is some discontent on the part of the San Joaquin rail board at being allocated two consists of the refurbished “Comet” cars.
The two bones of contention? The age of the cars, as which date back to the 70s, and the access via steps and a narrow gangway.
The interiors have been nicely done and, just as with a hotel for example, the building can be old but as long as the bed is new and the plumbing works it really doesn’t matter.
But access does matter, for wheelchairs, bicycles, and just for those of us who are not as nimble as we used to be. A train consisting entirely of Comet cars plus a Horizon café car and a “cabbage” locomotive for baggage and bikes offers no alternative but to climb those steps, and this will inevitably require longer dwell times at stations, and equipment for loading wheelchairs.
We have a suggestion. On storage tracks around southern California reside the first generation of Metrolink cars, bi-levels built by Bombardier and now replaced by the Rotem fleet. These cars meet all current safety standards and have low level boarding, just like the California cars. And like the Comet cars, they were built for commuter service and have seating to match. Our suggestion is a mixed consist of 3 Comet and 2 Bombardier cars, the latter internally refitted with intercity seating, wifi etc. on the upper levels. The lower levels would have either bicycle space or wheelchair space, or a combination of the two.
As the picture shows, these cars have already worked together in mixed consists, but with commuter seating. The internal refurbishment could be done by Alstom at their Mare Island, California shop, keeping the jobs and the dollars in California. The Comet cars cost about $1 million each to upgrade, and I’d guess the Bombardier cars would be a little more.
Our proposal demonstrates a couple of points. One is that a passenger car is a hull which can be configured many different ways. We need to be creative if we have rolling stock surplus from one service and shortages elsewhere. Second, why don’t we have a state rolling stock plan that identifies these opportunities and makes equipment available so that we can support the growing demand for both existing and new services?
Portland, ME – March 6, 2015 – “It is a sad day when the federal agency which administers federal funding for Amtrak, and who has played such a critical role in providing grants to States to help develop and improve intercity passenger rail services, also is determined to require States and intercity passenger service sponsors who contract with Amtrak to become railroads” observed Patricia Quinn, Chair of the States for Passenger Rail Coalition, Inc. (S4PRC) and Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA).
Indiana is fighting back against the FRA ruling, which is excellent news. The whole idea of the ruling is ridiculous. If a State hires a qualified operator to do a job it should not have to become certified to do the job itself. Boardman is again trying to use PRIIA and now the FRA to force the states into paying their monopoly pricing for service. This will not win him any friends outside the NEC. – Paul Dyson
Photos by Paul Dyson, President