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CSX and NS seek STB delay in proposed New Orleans to Mobile service restoration

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CSX and NS seek STB delay in proposed New Orleans to Mobile service restoration
Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, April 9, 2021 10:57 AM
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Posted by Overmod on Friday, April 9, 2021 12:50 PM

There's a thread on this already, but it actually makes better sense to study the situation with this post first and the situation with Alabama Governor Ivey second.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, April 9, 2021 2:11 PM

I see that, although that thread was originally about something else.  Several points come to mind.  1. The proposed route is interstate commerce and thus trump's the wishes of the Alabama governor.  2. This would be a restoration of service existing prior to the hurricane.  3. Is the route so heavily used by freight now (compared to pre-2006?) that it cannot accommodate two passenger trains each direction? 

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, April 9, 2021 2:33 PM

charlie hebdo
I see that, although that thread was originally about something else.

Not at all, as I read it: the Alabama Governor is acting is support of 'commercial interests' getting better perceived shipping, and I believe the story specifically mentioned the STB matter...  Whistling 

I doubt many Alabamians see advantage in lots of long, slow freight trains, or in the absence of what they previously enjoyed in access to passenger service... be interesting to see what actual public opinion turns out to be in the upcoming time before the STB hearings.

Several points come to mind.  1. The proposed route is interstate commerce and thus trumps the wishes of the Alabama governor.

Sure doesn't where allocating state money as a subsidy is concerned!  A better point might have been that it's part of the mandated national network -- but Amtrak itself failed to restore that service when CSX rebuilt the line after Katrina, so again, any 'article 1 section 8' argument compelling Alabama's participation likely falls to the ground.

2. This would be a restoration of service existing prior to the hurricane.

It would ... and I suspect that part of the service (incidentally, likely the only train with sleepers, as opposed to a 'day train' serving the various casinos and attractions) would likely, as with its precessor, largely serve Alabama in the nighttime hours, not particularly good for Alabamians either boarding or deboarding at the former stops.  But that may factor into...

3. Is the route so heavily used by freight now (compared to pre-2006?) that it cannot accommodate two passenger trains each direction?

I have never really figured out when the traffic on that line peaks, but nearly every time I've driven by way of DeFuniak Springs and bought food or supplies for the house there, or waited for trainwatching by its airport, there hasn't been any traffic... so unless things have changed at some point in the past, oh, year or 18 months, there shouldn't be allegedly PSR traffic that can't be 'pathed' around a couple of Amtrak moves, even if the traffic were to be run 'one speed' much slower than Amtrak peak 79.  The operating model I observed through Douglasville when I was working in Cobb County was that Amtrak would go through dispatched with 'nothing on its blocks, but would be followed closely at first by trains at somewhat increasing spacings, indicating they were scheduled and staged to be able to 'fleet' in the window behind the faster Amtrak service as fast as the railroad cared to run them.  While the situation may have been different with much higher number of trains and amount of traffic east of Austell, it was probably at least comparable in overall traffic to and from west of there to what I've seen of the Jacksonville line.  If the latter remains as empty as I've seen it so much of the time, and CSX actually understands some of the principles of real PSR, there should be little 'real' cause for concern over the restoration of what, as you point out, need cause no more trouble than it did before 2005...  

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, April 9, 2021 4:48 PM

At points in time in my career in Jacksonville the line segments beween Jacksonville and New Orleans were part of my territory.  Jacksonville to Chattachoochee as a part of the Tampa and later Jacksonville Division.  Chattachoochee to Flomaton to New Orleans as part of the Mobile and later Atlanta Division.

Jacksonville to Tallahassee is CTC; Tallahassee to Flomaton is Dark territory; Flomaton to New Orleans is CTC.  I have no knowledge about how much, if any, of the territory has been upgraded to PTC standards - standards that are required for Amtrak operation on the line. 

The dark territory between Tallahassee and Flomaton is not equipped to handle a high number of trains daily - double digits would be a High number, especially PSR sized trains.  When the Sunset Limited was running prior to Katrina it was a difficult proposition, especially the one night a week where the train was operating in both directions.

I last worked the territories sporadically as late as 2008 - after Katrina.

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Posted by York1 on Friday, April 9, 2021 5:07 PM

 

For years, Louisiana and Mississippi have tried to resurrect an Amtrak route from New Orleans to Mobile (and maybe Jacksonville).

New Orleans wants more tourist traffic from the east, and Mississippi wants train traffic across the southern portion of the state where the casinos are located.

Alabama has very little interest in paying for a train that would fill those wishes.  It's a lot of state money for a very small financial return.

Interstate 10 from Mobile to New Orleans is a two-hour drive.  Other than the wishful thinking of tourism officials and state officials who hope for federal money, there is actually very little interest in the three states.

York1 John       

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Posted by n012944 on Saturday, April 10, 2021 8:11 AM

charlie hebdo

  1. The proposed route is interstate commerce and thus trump's the wishes of the Alabama governor. 

The route is relying on money from Alabama, so she does have a say.

charlie hebdo

2. This would be a restoration of service existing prior to the hurricane.

Things change quite a bit over 15 YEARS!  This is also an expansion of service, when it was the Sunest Limited, it was triweekly, now they are looking at twice daily.

 

charlie hebdo

3. Is the route so heavily used by freight now (compared to pre-2006?) that it cannot accommodate two passenger trains each direction? 

 

Pre 2006 does not matter, as again 1 train a day 3 days a week vs the proposed 2 trains each way a day.  I am not an expert on the area at all, I can say there is a lot of traffic going into and out of the Mobile State Docks, and congestion results.  How that would affect the proposed trains I do not know.

 

However, from the article you linked

"Since Amtrak left the corridor in 2005 [following Hurricane Katrina], over $1.3 billion has been invested in the rail served public seaport terminals and related transportation infrastructure at the Port of Mobile. "

 

It does appear that things may have changed quite a bit since Amtrak abandoned the route.  (without proper 180 day notice).

An "expensive model collector"

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 12:21 PM
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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 12:51 PM

Note in the story the pledged-contribution amounts from other states and municipalities concerned with the passenger service, and the comments from Mobile that, although they are putting in a tax to widen the ship channel, they are pointedly ensuring no money goes to any 'freight rail' improvement that might be required to serve the expanded facility.

For those with interest, here is a PDF of a significant part of the working-group report to Congress:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5302778ee4b07a6f640874ef/t/596e10e1d2b8575f4b4dcc26/1500385510146/2017-07-17_Gulf+Coast+Working+Group+Report+to+Congress+%28Main+Section%29-+Final.pdf

Appendix A of this report apparently has the discussion of the 'independent' CSX study activity (with Henningson, Durham & Richardson) that seems to have produced this $2B cost (which may or may not be for just the service as far as Mobile -- see the ~94M cost for the day train to Mobile vs. under 9M all the rest of the way to Jacksonville with the sleeper train)

The actual text of Amtrak's response:

 https://www.railwayage.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Amtrak-Response-to-CSX-and-NS-Motion-to-Dismiss-PUBLIC.pdf

This is reminiscent of bickering children: the argument on whether to re-establish passenger service ought to be a concern for the STB, whether or not Amtrak picked up its marbles and quit the recent study effort (they unilaterally did so in January and now claim it's somehow unnecessary).

Meanwhile, the STB has just established its own passenger rail working group (oddly there is no link in any of the Railway Age material with actual discussion of this) which would be a highly logical place, within an acceptable amount of time however long that time is, to review the 2017 study and subsequent developments to inform a reasonable decision on restoring the service.

I see very little either in the CSX filing or in this Amtrak response that should have much effect in the actual STB decision here -- but I don't pretend to know how lawyers influence lawyers in this sort of proceeding.

I'm researching good sources for popcorn, though, because I predict the STB will (whether eventually or quickly) allow some form of the passenger service to start; CSX will demonstrate its "PSR" can't precision schedule seeping some of the traffic; their dispatch will cause delays to Amtrak; and Amtrak will use this as a test case about requiring railroads to reasonably expedite on-time passenger trains ... which we can reasonably expect CSX, and maybe other usual suspects, to try to get around once again.

 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 10:46 PM
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Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, April 29, 2021 6:20 PM

Overmod===  This report has one error that I noticed.  There is a movable  bridge between DeBarry and Sanford over the St Johns river.  That Bascule bridge had a major rehab before the track was transferred to Sun Rail  ( Fl DOT ).  I know there was talk to build a flyover bridge to the west but have never heard anything of it being replaced.?  . 

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5302778ee4b07a6f640874ef/t/596e10e1d2b8575f4b4dcc26/1500385510146/2017-07-17_Gulf+Coast+Working+Group+Report+to+Congress+%28Main+Section%29-+Final.pdf 

  Of course that section is not germaine to the NOL - MOB service

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