News Wire: Amtrak to stop operating special trains, charter moves

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Posted by JL Chicago on Friday, March 30, 2018 12:26 PM
Yes Delta maintains a large charter fleet but those charters don't inhibit the operation of their regular flights. I'm not opposed to private varnish cars. I've ridden them my self. But Amtrak's new request that the PVs operate end to end is reasonable. A train stopped en route is earning no revenue. And a 30 minute stop to switch out a PV often delays the train an hour or more as it is now out of its time slot so it gets further delayed down the line.

An hour delay is equivalent to roughly 50 miles. Times that by 200 passengers at a yield of 25 cents a mile means lost revenue of $2,500. I doubt that opportunity cost is being reimbursed by the private car operator.

This stuff adds up. Someone has to pay for it.
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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, March 30, 2018 9:30 PM

So someone started a petiton already to reverse the decision, saw it on facebook.   Their goal is 5000 signatures and they are already at 4100 and growing.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, March 30, 2018 10:03 PM

If Amtrak is losing money on charters - they have no one to blame but themselves!

         

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Posted by Steve McDonough on Friday, March 30, 2018 10:40 PM

I thought private public partnerships were to be encouraged as enacted by Congress.

Amtrak was being paid by these private parties (train car owners)to be moved and the money for Amtrak was to be used not only to just cover expenses but to profit from it. By the way I'm no foamer but think businesses  owned by the people should be allowing any cost investment to be incurred  as long as it can profit from it. The airline  industry is a whole different beast except when it comes to airports which are owned by cities they serve and not the airline companies.Airports do not pay real estate taxes.Union Stations do unless owned by Amtrak.

 Is Amtrak trying to downsize so non profitable runs are cut out in the future? I would say yes, because the big man at the top may not be really running it as a business anymore but as a poor cousin you want to cut out of your inheritance.

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Posted by P-RSL2005 on Saturday, March 31, 2018 8:26 AM

https://bit.ly/2pVjgSp    Please take the time to sign this petition being promoted by Private Railcar Owners. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, March 31, 2018 9:25 AM

BaltACD

If Amtrak is losing money on charters - they have no one to blame but themselves!

I agree they have a 100% monopoly on the business.   For example if a private group with it's own railcars approaches a Class  I railroad to run a trip directly they will find large portions of the rail network closed to them.    If they go via Amtrak.......Amtrak can run a passenger train just about anywhere on the Amtrak network or off the Amtrak network due to their agreements in place with Class I railroads, Amtrak just needs to pick up the phone and the train is a done deal.

It's why increasingly you see Friends of 261 going through Amtrak as well as 20th Century railroad club, etc.    Hassle free to piggyback on the Amtrak arrangements in place then to attempt your own independent movement with a Class I.

Amtrak can charge whatever it wants for this service.    Nobody in Congress is saying they have to cap their charges here.    Nobody can even compete with the access they have to the U.S. Rail Network.    Now how stupid do you have to be to know all this and still run the damn service to lose money?    Is there any hope for Amtrak management?

Same deal with the yield management system.   Either apply it to all train routes or capture the money via other means on the train routes that do not have yield management.    Don't just sit there like idiots and take the financial hit each year.

It's amazing to watch some of this stuff from outside Amtrak.  Would love to be a bug on the wall in some of these Amtrak Executive Management meetings.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, March 31, 2018 9:31 AM

Steve McDonough

I thought private public partnerships were to be encouraged as enacted by Congress.

Amtrak was being paid by these private parties (train car owners)to be moved and the money for Amtrak was to be used not only to just cover expenses but to profit from it. By the way I'm no foamer but think businesses  owned by the people should be allowing any cost investment to be incurred  as long as it can profit from it. The airline  industry is a whole different beast except when it comes to airports which are owned by cities they serve and not the airline companies.Airports do not pay real estate taxes.Union Stations do unless owned by Amtrak.

 Is Amtrak trying to downsize so non profitable runs are cut out in the future? I would say yes, because the big man at the top may not be really running it as a business anymore but as a poor cousin you want to cut out of your inheritance.

And what your going to find is Amtraks action probably violates the law.   Why do I say that?    Because the private railroad car owners are maintaining the cars to Amtrak standards via Amtrak rules of carriage.    For Amtrak to suddenly say no more trips without a fade out period means that some of these private car owners paid for upgrades and restorations not fully amortized by leasing the car out on trips.    So thats business?    Not quite and I think they can sue Amtrak for damages due to the short notification and lack of a phase out period.    Not a business lawyer but what I know about business law, I would think some form of settlement OR accomodation is due to the private railway car owners.

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Posted by PJS1 on Saturday, March 31, 2018 9:35 AM

BaltACD
 If Amtrak is losing money on charters - they have no one to blame but themselves! 

Maybe not!  Although Amtrak is supposedly run like a business, it faces political challenges that a normal business does not.

Amtrak has 535 Congressional demigods that function as a de-facto board of directors. 

Anytime someone of influence does not like the Amtrak's policies and procedures, they can whine to their Congressional representative.  If the whine is backed-up with enough money, and the representative(s) has clout, Amtrak's management probably gets a call about the importance of recognizing the "legitimate" concerns of the whinner.  

So, Amtrak may not be able to price private car and special train movements to recapture all of the costs because of politics. 

Rio Grande Valley, CFI,CFII

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Posted by DOUG D OHLEMEIER on Saturday, March 31, 2018 10:58 PM

PNWRMNM

ATK does not cover all of its costs. That is why it always needs money from Congress. No need for detailed accounting to figure that out

To be honest, highways and airlines don't cover all their costs either.

Amtrak's cost recovery is 94%, a record and much higher than highways cost ratio, which is around 50%. So-called "user fees" (gas taxes) only cover half of what it costs to maintain the highways. Then add the $200 BILLION bailout Congress gave the highway trust fund, which was a direct subsidy from general fund (non-gas taxes) tax revenue.

No airline ever built OHare or LAX. The true cost of air travel isn't fully allocated in plane tickets.

JPS1 seems both able and willing to read their financials and understand them. I am probably able but am certainly not willing since I believe ATK is a total waste, and a thief of valuable freight capacity.

What an ignorant comment, one of the worst by a so-called "railfan.." which says a lot, as there are many blunders and falsehoods spread about Amtrak & passenger train haters by those claiming to be "railfans..."

Amtrak is no way a "thief" of railroad space.

Amtrak pays for its space on freight RRs. You may grumble they don't pay enough, but that's not your call.

And maybe Amtrak should pay the RRs more for the track rental. That would require more needed and necessary federal investement in passenger rail, which many foamers don't want to acknowledge. I'd view this as a partnership between the RRs and Amtrak.

You may also want to know the very reason Amtrak was funded wasn't to be some "socialist" or "government-run" rail operator, but to save the private RRs which did not want to run passenger trains anymore.

The railroads wanted out of the business because federal policymakes bankrolled all their competition. Highways received generous federal subsidies. Airports were never taxed while train stations were socked with astronomical tax bills.

In the 1950s, the government even taxed passenger train tickets. The money went to build airports. How stupid was that? So, please don't attack Amtrak for its "subsidies" when every single other mode of transportation is funded by government.

The RRs couldn't afford to run the passenger trains, which people then (and now) demand. Not as many rode the train, but like PBS and smaller-selling items in the grocery stores, there is demand for some products (though that demand may not be the dominant demand).

Amtrak isn't a "waste." In 2017, Amtrak carried 32 million passengers, the most since 1971, when it was founded, reversing the decline in ridership. By carrying the highest number of passengers in its history, it has accomplished what the railroads weren't able to accomplish, which should be a cause of celebration.

In recent years, the long-distance trains have increased ridership 20%. This despite little investment or upgrades in equipment or routes. It's a wonder this skeletal system is successful and points to the need for expansion of a system. Far from what some ignorant and hateful "railfans" consider "wasteful."

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, April 02, 2018 8:06 AM

As I recall, the federal tax on passenger tickets was levied during WWII--in the forties. Until 1960, it was 15%, and was then reduced to 10%. I do not recall when it was eliminated altogether.

Johnny

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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Monday, April 02, 2018 10:02 AM

Every private car move I was ever involved in Amtrak billed the owners for the cost of the move. They were charged for the miles of the trip, switching and storage fees, enroute repairs ie brake shoes, air hoses marker lights. Unless Amtrak failed to determine the true cost of the services provided. it should be simple to haul private cars that do not  disturb the operation of the train, ie cutting cars out in the dead of the night in Cleveland causing delays.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, April 02, 2018 10:05 AM

JPS1
So, Amtrak may not be able to price private car and special train movements to recapture all of the costs because of politics. 

Logically your argument makes no sense.    If what you were arguing were the case they wouldn't attempt to drop the service either due to past political opposition or they would make the offer to either increase the charges or drop the service.    Just dropping the service without making any attempt in increase cost recovery demonstrates a management which is fairly stupid business wise.

The only thing I can reason out here is Amtrak has paid staff that only manages private car and charter movements and that staff also extends into the mechanical area as well.    And they want to get rid of the specialized staff because they could not ever charge any amount of a reasonable charge to support them all financially.    Thats my rough guess based on what Amtrak did for food service on short Corridor runs.........sounds like a problem Amtrak would create for itself to make a profitable or marginal service massively unprofitable.   Of course Amtrak would never attempt to innovate out of an issue like this turning a loser business line into a winner business line and that is part of the management issue I have with Amtrak.    Lack of innovation and strong preference for the status quo of how things were always done in the past.

Forget about pushing costs to AAPRCO or to vendors.   Amtrak philosophy is if it cannot manage the costs by itself........they just cannot be managed so the service has to lose money or be abandoned.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, April 02, 2018 10:08 AM

Walter Zulig was chief Council for Metro North.  Please read what he has to say carefully:

 
"Since preparing the memo shown below I have had the opportunity to review the TRB's NCRRP Report #6, Guidebook for Intercity Passenger Rail Service and Development. The Guidebook contains numerous references to PRIIA but in each case I used such language as "PRIIA Section 209." Although the book was written several years after the enactment of PRIIA, I did not use a reference to its location in the U.S. Code, thereby bolstering my conclusion that it was not codified.
 
Anyone seeking a "citation" could reference "PRIIA Section 216, 122 STAT. 4907 at 4930 (2008)." Although the language re special trains is not mandatory it does express the sense of Congress that Amtrak should enhance its revenue by engaging in these operations.
 
Finally, I am providing this material as general information for those interested in the subject. It does not constitute legal advice. In order to constitute legal advice there would have to be an attorney-client relationship which does not exist in this situation.
 
I have been pondering the question of the federal statute that "encouraged" Amtrak to enhance its revenues by operating special trains.
 
This provision was enacted as Section 216 of PRIIA on October 16, 2008, and can be found at 122 STAT. 4930. The language follows:
 
"Amtrak is encouraged to increase the operation of special trains funded by, or in partnership with, private sector operators through competitive contracting to minimize the need for Federal subsidies. Amtrak shall utilize the provisions of Section 24308 [of Title 49, USC] when necessary to obtain access to facilities, train and engine crews, or services of a rail carrier or regional transportation authority that are required to operate such trains."
 
This language puts special trains on an equal footing with scheduled trains from the standpoint of Amtrak's rights to utilize rail facilities and crews. People have been asking where to find it in the US Code. The text is found at 122 STAT. 4930 and is referenced in a marginal note to 49 USC 24308 Note. Moreover, a note after 49 USC 24305 [Amtrak's General Authority] contains a rule of construction that nothing in this section should be construed as limiting Amtrak's authority to operate special trains in accordance with PRIIA Section 216. I have not found anything to indicate repeal of Section 216.
 
Subject to further and more detailed research, I conclude that PRIIA Sect. 216 remains good law today even in the absence of codification in the US Code. The TRB's Guidebook for establishment and maintenance of intercity rail passenger service may provide some additional clarification although, as one of the authors, I tend to doubt it. Will review the Guidebook as time permits.
 
Walter Zullig
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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, April 02, 2018 10:19 AM

ROBERT WILLISON

Every private car move I was ever involved in Amtrak billed the owners for the cost of the move. They were charged for the miles of the trip, switching and storage fees, enroute repairs ie brake shoes, air hoses marker lights. Unless Amtrak failed to determine the true cost of the services provided. it should be simple to haul private cars that do not  disturb the operation of the train, ie cutting cars out in the dead of the night in Cleveland causing delays.

Almost every Private Car is different and each of them are beyond the time period where it is easy to find spare parts.    Some hire specialized companies to custom make the spare parts......which is fine but do you think Amtrak has those parts on hand for it's regular fleet?     So for example, how many Vista Dome cars does Amtrak have in it's fleet?

Not trying to justify their decision though as they could have pushed that liability as well as maintenence operation to AAPRCO to handle to remove it from Amtraks books.    Logisitically they should treat AAPRCO as a railroad that interchanges.   Rebilling all relevant costs. fines, etc for AAPRCO to handle and manage.

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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Monday, April 02, 2018 1:43 PM

CMStPnP
I never refeted to have car parts on hand. But these cars when they are rebuilt have running gear such as truck parts, wheel and Xle parts that are common  to today's cars. When air lines and hep parts need to be replaced amtrak, they are not rare or hard to find. These parts are post Amtrak, not pre Amtrak. Cb& q never had hep equipped cars. But amtrak requires them and the are readily available. Now if your trying to find orginal pattern Pullman carpeting or curved  dome glass your going to have it made custom.

 

 

 
ROBERT WILLISON

Every private car move I was ever involved in Amtrak billed the owners for the cost of the move. They were charged for the miles of the trip, switching and storage fees, enroute repairs ie brake shoes, air hoses marker lights. Unless Amtrak failed to determine the true cost of the services provided. it should be simple to haul private cars that do not  disturb the operation of the train, ie cutting cars out in the dead of the night in Cleveland causing delays.

 

Almost every Private Car is different and each of them are beyond the time period where it is easy to find spare parts.    Some hire specialized companies to custom make the spare parts......which is fine but do you think Amtrak has those parts on hand for it's regular fleet?     So for example, how many Vista Dome cars does Amtrak have in it's fleet?

Not trying to justify their decision though as they could have pushed that liability as well as maintenence operation to AAPRCO to handle to remove it from Amtraks books.    Logisitically they should treat AAPRCO as a railroad that interchanges.   Rebilling all relevant costs. fines, etc for AAPRCO to handle and manage.

 

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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Monday, April 02, 2018 2:09 PM

CMStPnP
I never refeted to have car parts on hand. But these cars when they are rebuilt have running gear such as truck parts, wheel and Xle parts that are common  to today's cars. When air lines and hep parts need to be replaced amtrak, they are not rare or hard to find. These parts are post Amtrak, not pre Amtrak. Cb& q never had hep equipped cars. But amtrak requires them and the are readily available. Now if your trying to find orginal pattern Pullman carpeting or curved  dome glass your going to have it made custom.

 

 

 
ROBERT WILLISON

Every private car move I was ever involved in Amtrak billed the owners for the cost of the move. They were charged for the miles of the trip, switching and storage fees, enroute repairs ie brake shoes, air hoses marker lights. Unless Amtrak failed to determine the true cost of the services provided. it should be simple to haul private cars that do not  disturb the operation of the train, ie cutting cars out in the dead of the night in Cleveland causing delays.

 

Almost every Private Car is different and each of them are beyond the time period where it is easy to find spare parts.    Some hire specialized companies to custom make the spare parts......which is fine but do you think Amtrak has those parts on hand for it's regular fleet?     So for example, how many Vista Dome cars does Amtrak have in it's fleet?

Not trying to justify their decision though as they could have pushed that liability as well as maintenence operation to AAPRCO to handle to remove it from Amtraks books.    Logisitically they should treat AAPRCO as a railroad that interchanges.   Rebilling all relevant costs. fines, etc for AAPRCO to handle and manage.

 

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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Monday, April 02, 2018 2:19 PM

CMStPnP
in addition for any private car to operate on smtrak they had to have a 40 year inspection. A large focus of the inspection was on the trucks and wheel sets. In most cases the trucks were rebuilt and wheel set changed to amtrak required standards. Again these cars are not your grand father Budd dome cars, but crd rebuilt to to current standards so they can operate safety on any Amtrak trains.  I'm not 100 sure but I think cars that operate in nec must meet additional standards ad well.

 

 
ROBERT WILLISON

Every private car move I was ever involved in Amtrak billed the owners for the cost of the move. They were charged for the miles of the trip, switching and storage fees, enroute repairs ie brake shoes, air hoses marker lights. Unless Amtrak failed to determine the true cost of the services provided. it should be simple to haul private cars that do not  disturb the operation of the train, ie cutting cars out in the dead of the night in Cleveland causing delays.

 

Almost every Private Car is different and each of them are beyond the time period where it is easy to find spare parts.    Some hire specialized companies to custom make the spare parts......which is fine but do you think Amtrak has those parts on hand for it's regular fleet?     So for example, how many Vista Dome cars does Amtrak have in it's fleet?

Not trying to justify their decision though as they could have pushed that liability as well as maintenence operation to AAPRCO to handle to remove it from Amtraks books.    Logisitically they should treat AAPRCO as a railroad that interchanges.   Rebilling all relevant costs. fines, etc for AAPRCO to handle and manage.

 

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Posted by samfp1943 on Monday, April 02, 2018 3:12 PM

charlie hebdo

 

 
Deggesty

 

 
V.Payne

We the people said:

Special Passenger Trains

Pub. L. 110–432, div. B, title II, §216, Oct. 16, 2008, 122 Stat. 4930, provided that: "Amtrak is encouraged to increase the operation of special trains funded by, or in partnership with, private sector operators through competitive contracting to minimize the need for Federal subsidies. Amtrak shall utilize the provisions of section 24308 of title 49, United States Code, when necessary to obtain access to facilities, train and engine crews, or services of a rail carrier or regional transportation authority that are required to operate such trains."

http://uscode.house.gov/statviewer.htm?volume=122&page=4930

 

 

 

"...Perhaps no one today with authority is aware of this?.."   Conviently, unaware?

Possibly, an answer was mentioned earlier in this thread by another poster.. Rather than trying to work within the Washington 'Shadow Bureacracy' as a 'user' of AMTRAK, Possibly, could ARPCO qualify as a 'Railroad', and with that status their equipment could be attached to AMTRAK's scheduled equipment?  They already are charged by AMTRK for all services that are requiered to run their compatible equipment, and have it hooked, and serviced by AMTRAK when necessary. 

MY gut feeling is that this tactic by Mr. Anderson is an old business management practice: "....Attack the low-hanging fruit, first,..."   That gets the new manager on the job publicity, and shakes 'the tree'.  In the Military, the first thing a new incoming CO does is have a change of command parade, and then has all the 'standing orders' re-written with his name on them, as 'his'. 

 

 

 

 

The operative word is "encouraged" as opposed to mandated or required.  Careful reading is essential, guys. 

 

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, April 02, 2018 3:23 PM

Still more operative is "to reduce the need for Federal subsidies".

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Posted by Firelock76 on Monday, April 02, 2018 3:44 PM

Good to hear from Mr. Walter Zullig on this, passenger trains of any kind in this country have no bigger friend than Walter.

By the way, I've got his Morning Sun book on the Susquehanna.  Good read!

Although that "Amtrak is encouraged..." bit is a bit troubling.  It sounds like a suggestion, and not an order, and though you DO have to follow orders, you don't have to follow suggestions.

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Posted by ROBERT W KRASINSKI on Tuesday, April 03, 2018 8:33 PM

It's going to be bad for VMT, who will now have nowhere to run 611 with both NS and Amtrak being anti excursion now. If nobody will insure excursions then they can't run. Wick Moorman was pro excursion, when he was CEO at NS he started a new steam program. Amtrak started Autumn Express several years ago, and it continued when Wick was CEO. Now, Anderson is Amtrak CEO and he seems to be anti anything that is unprofitable or no benefit to Amtrak. I guess raifan excursions don't fit the mold of some CEO's. That's why when a railroad has an excursion program going and there's a change of CEO due to retirement or death, watch out. The excursions could suddenly end. Hunter Harrison was another one. He hated steam engines. CSX hates steam. I wonder if this new Amtrak policy will affect 261's operations or the deadheading of cars for other excursions. Oh well, at least we still have the tourist railroads, and some longer runs like Reading and Northern and Steamtown.

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Posted by Enzoamps on Thursday, April 05, 2018 1:22 AM

Darn.  As the Lotto got up over half a BILLION dollars the other day, I bought a ticket, and the wife and I planned how we'd spend it.  Since that money would be over the limit, we'd be unable to continue living in the subsidized senior apartment.  So I decided I'd like a private rail car.  And since we like the town of Mason, I'd pay the Adrian and Blissfield railroad to put up a siding for us to live on here.  For my annual Xmas visit out east, I'd contract Amtrak to haul us to Washington and back.  Of course after the A&B got me to the Lansing Amtrak rails.

Now you tell me I won't be able to do that?  Why bother to buy the lottery ticket then?

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, April 05, 2018 7:18 AM

Cutting PV's into or out of the consist at midpoints can be somewhat disruptive.  Two examples with which I am familiar from last summer:  Two PV's were cut out of the "Empire Builder" at Whitefish MT.  The entire train had to be backed into the yard to drop off the two cars, incurring about a twenty minute delay.  One PV was added to the southbound "Coast Starlight" at Oakland.  The train was routed into the coach yard to add the PV.  Fortunately, Oakland is a terminal with switchers assigned, minimizing the delay.

In both cases, the onboard crew made announcements over the PA system to advise passengers of these maneuvers.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Thursday, April 05, 2018 9:40 AM

CMStPnP
I see in todays news wire that amtrak wants to end doing maintenance on  private cars. Like I posted earlier it's seems a matter of Amtrak determining the cost of the part or srvices and charge a reasonsble mark up. It's how the rest if the world operates.  It's after all making running repairs  not performing major over hauls. 
 
ROBERT WILLISON

Every private car move I was ever involved in Amtrak billed the owners for the cost of the move. They were charged for the miles of the trip, switching and storage fees, enroute repairs ie brake shoes, air hoses marker lights. Unless Amtrak failed to determine the true cost of the services provided. it should be simple to haul private cars that do not  disturb the operation of the train, ie cutting cars out in the dead of the night in Cleveland causing delays.

 

Almost every Private Car is different and each of them are beyond the time period where it is easy to find spare parts.    Some hire specialized companies to custom make the spare parts......which is fine but do you think Amtrak has those parts on hand for it's regular fleet?     So for example, how many Vista Dome cars does Amtrak have in it's fleet?

Not trying to justify their decision though as they could have pushed that liability as well as maintenence operation to AAPRCO to handle to remove it from Amtraks books.    Logisitically they should treat AAPRCO as a railroad that interchanges.   Rebilling all relevant costs. fines, etc for AAPRCO to handle and manage.

 

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