Au revoir, Amtrak! It's official

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Monday, February 19, 2018

Hello, my name is Richard Anderson. I am president and chief executive officer of Amtrak. It is now clear that we are likely to face different scenarios where positive train control (PTC) is not yet operational by the end of the year. First, there will be carriers that have made sufficient progress to apply to FRA for an alternative PTC implementation schedule under the law. In these instances, Amtrak’s equipment will be ready for PTC operation, but additional work, testing or approvals are still required by the host railroad before the system is considered functional. We believe a significant number of routes outside of the NEC will face this situation. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we continue to operate over such routes until PTC is turned on and if so, what additional safety protections are appropriate to reduce risks? Second, there will be carriers over which we operate who appear unlikely to achieve sufficient progress to apply for an alternative PTC implementation schedule by year’s end. For any such route segments, Amtrak will suspend operations until such time as the carrier becomes compliant with the law.

Hello, my name is James Foote. I am chief executive of CSX. I regret to say that PTC will not be installed between Washington and Rocky Mount, N.C., nor between Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., by the end of December, 2018. We would be saddened for Amtrak to decide it cannot operate its trains over these tracks and thus suspend its train service. But when PTC on these segments is completed in 2020 we will welcome Amtrak back to our tracks. Unfortunately, because Amtrak would leave our hospitality for two years, we will need various infrastructure improvements to re-accommodate its trains, due to traffic increases we anticipate because of our famous Precision Scheduled Railroading. We anticipate that to be able to handle Amtrak trains reliably we will require Amtrak to pay for approximately $3 billion in capacity additions.

Hello, my name is Lance Fritz. I am CEO of Union Pacific. We are proud of our 47-year partnership with Amtrak and look forward to the next four decades. I have read Mr. Anderson’s statement. Unfortunately, Union Pacific will not be able to complete PTC on its line between Denver and Salt Lake City via Grand Junction, Colo., by the end of 2018. We expect this work to be finished in 2020. If Amtrak chooses to reroute the California Zephyr via Cheyenne and Rawlins, Wyo., we would be happy to accommodate its trains. On the other hand, should Amtrak not operate between Denver and Salt Lake City via Grand Junction, Colo., it is our intent to immediately abandon that portion of this line between Bond and Grand Junction, Colo., approximately 100 miles. That would not matter because of the rerouting. But of course for Amtrak to operate permanently via Cheyenne and Rawlins will require that additional capacity be added on the Wyoming route to reliably operate its trains. The estimated cost of these improvements is $2 billion. Please make your check payable to Union Pacific Corporation.

Hello, my name is Keith Creel. I am chief executive of Canadian Pacific Railway and proud to be a host railroad of Amtrak. In fact, Canadian Pacific has the best on-time service of any Amtrak host railroad. So it saddens me to report that PTC will not be operational between Chicago and Milwaukee until the end of 2020. For the safety of Amtrak passengers, we will cease to host Amtrak trains between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2020. But be assured that alternative service is still available between Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul over our esteemed competitor, BNSF Railway. Have a nice day and come see us in Calgary.

Hello, my name is Carl Ice. I am president and CEO of BNSF Railway. Now, I like Keith Creel—he’s a nice guy and I once taught him out to couple air hoses and cut in trainline air safely. But the man is way out of bounds to suggest he can just dump his damn Amtrak trains on our overcrowded Northern Transcon line between Chicago and the Twin Cities. It’s not my problem if Amtrak can’t get the Empire Builder to and from Minneapolis. So long, fellas.

Hello, this is Keith Creel again. Now Carl, don’t get so worked up. It was just a suggestion.

Hello, my name is Luc Jobin. I am president and CEO of Canadian National Railway. I bring you glad news and sad news. The glad news is that Amtrak is welcome to reroute any of its trains from U.S. railroads to our own tracks in Canada. We will give Amtrak trains the same careful and efficient handling we give VIA Rail’s Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver—not once in the past year has this train been more than 48 hours late. The bad news is that due to technical difficulties, we will not have completed PTC installation between Chicago and New Orleans to the degree that we can seek an extension after the end of 2018. It will be so sad to see the Amtrak trains on those lines disappear forever. So so sad. There is a phrase that we Quebecers have for such times as these. It is Au Revoir. See you later!--Fred W. Frailey

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