Amtrak goes straight to STB to restore Gulf Coast service.

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hastybob

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To give an example of what the railroads want - here is some of what the NS is stating today that they need.
Extend the freight lead 9000 ft across 5 new bridges, making it a total of 12,000 ft.
At Elysian Fields where CSX ends connecting to the NS back belt, change out the diamond on one track and make that a switch with a crossover.
Rebuild at least 1 crossover and change it from hand throw to power switches.
Add 3-5 new powered crossovers
Redo the signals to handle all of this.

They showed video of the back belt and how the operations work. Trains stopped to change crews blocking one of the mains east bound, and another stopped changing crews westbound. With this happening both mains are blocked. AND, they say there is not operational changes that can be made to lessen the delays.

Watch it on Youtube and enjoy.

Bob
 
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Care to illuminate that comment? Not that I totally disagree with you, but I'd like to better understand your comment.
My response was meant to be more rhetorically funny than anything else.

Neroden is right. Given that CSX is under siege so to speak, leaving a luxury exec train on the Amtrak siding is akin to leaving a gate open. It’s plain dumb.
 

neroden

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To give an example of what the railroads want - here is some of what the NS is stating today that they need.
Extend the freight lead 9000 ft across 5 new bridges, making it a total of 12,000 ft.
Freight problem. Not Amtrak's problem. Only benefits freight. NS can run shorter trains, and should be if they aren't willing to lengthen the freight lead themselves.

An embarassing thing to request: a good way to get slapped down by the STB.

At Elysian Fields where CSX ends connecting to the NS back belt, change out the diamond on one track and make that a switch with a crossover.
Rebuild at least 1 crossover and change it from hand throw to power switches.
Add 3-5 new powered crossovers
Redo the signals to handle all of this.
That is all within reason and Amtrak would have been willing to negotiate about that if not for the utterly unreasonable requests

They showed video of the back belt and how the operations work. Trains stopped to change crews blocking one of the mains east bound, and another stopped changing crews westbound. With this happening both mains are blocked. AND, they say there is not operational changes that can be made to lessen the delays.
Try having your trains change crews in the yards like a normal railroad, NS

Frankly, if NS claims there are no operational changes that can be made, I'll be happy to prove them wrong. Fire the CEO, make me CEO, I'll have it done in a month (considering the need for potential new hires).

And I'll make their stockholders a lot of money, too, by saving them the unnecessary expense of the multimillion dollar salaries which their moron executives are collecting for claiming that they can't do things which any untrained person could do successfully.

Surface Transportation Board should relieve the management of NS of the duty of running a railroad, since they're clearly incompetent. STB has the power to assign operations to someone else, in order to keep the freight moving, and anyone could do better than NS. STB should just take the railroad away from them.
 

hastybob

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To clear up a couple of things that was said - The NS would have a hard time changing crews in their yard. It is off the mainline and not directly along the mainline. A train would have to enter the yard, change crews, reverse out or change ends with the engines and then depart. They are unable to change crews on the other side of the river because they don't have trackage rights and crews are not qualified on the UP.
The NS stated that they only want to be able to keep the "status quo" after the Gulf Coast trains are started. If they don't have this infrastructure changes, it would delay the Gulf Coast trains an average of 18 min and reduce the freight train speed average from 14.9mph to 14.4mph.
They are also projecting the affects now and in 2039 and what would need to be done. It sounds like they want some now and others later.

Basically, I see this as the railroad is not updating their infrastructure to accommodate the changes they have made in train handling - ie: PSR doubling the length of trains. A lot but not all would not be a problem if they were not running such long trains.

Bob
 

neroden

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To clear up a couple of things that was said - The NS would have a hard time changing crews in their yard. It is off the mainline and not directly along the mainline. A train would have to enter the yard, change crews, reverse out or change ends with the engines and then depart.
Like normal then.

So, some perspective here: New Orleans is a dead end for NS. West of here NS owns NO TRACK. Anything going west of New Orleans is on foreign rails. If they're changing crews, they're doing one of two things:
(1) Handing the train to a completely different railroad. Good time to put it in the yard and inspect it for the handoff.
(2) Doing switching on the local branch lines in the New Orleans local region. Good time to put it in the yard and inspect it.

Are they handing off to UP? Do it in the UP yard. Are they handing off to BNSF? Do it in the BNSF yard. Are they handing off to CN? Do it in the CN yard. Are they handing off to KCS? Do it in the KCS yard. These are all a few feet from the end of NS track. Or they could hand off at the NS yard at the other end of their track, and let the foreign roads run their crews across the "back belt".

Their current practice is idiotic.

There's something utterly weird about NS's current practice; it's not normal and seems to have been invented as an excuse to mismanage the railroad.
 

neroden

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They are unable to change crews on the other side of the river because they don't have trackage rights and crews are not qualified on the UP.
Let's put this quite simply: the STB has the power to order UP to grant trackage rights on those couple of hundred feet of the UP and NS can qualify their crews. Lazy dumbasses in NS management.

I suppose the UP has trackage rights on NS and is qualifying its crews on NS, so there's no reason not to do it the other way. And UP has every incentive to grant those rights, since NS isn't *required* to let them do run through trains (it's perfectly legit for NS to drop the train in their own yard and have a switching job move the cars to UP)

This is a bogus, phony, lazy objection on the part of NS and the STB should slap them around hard for making such a complaint. "We're too lazy to run a railroad properly and we don't want to be forced to" is not a reasonable reason to object at the STB to Amtrak running passenger service.

"We want to delay things and switch crews on a busy mainline because we can't be bothered to lift a finger to run a railroad properly" is a good reason to revoke NS's operating licence and transfer it to a different manager, frankly. NS management are losers. I repeat: I could run the railroad better in my spare time. Unbelievably bad.
 
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Surface Transportation Board should relieve the management of NS of the duty of running a railroad, since they're clearly incompetent. STB has the power to assign operations to someone else, in order to keep the freight moving, and anyone could do better than NS. STB should just take the railroad away from them.
Has that ever been done before? It's not exactly nationalization, but it might make a difference in the way railroads are managed.

I wish the government had the legal authority to do something like that to the management of all "publicly-held" private sector companies to keep management from looting the company at the expense of the shareholders.
 

amtrakpass

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During WW 1 the railroads were nationalized and operated as the United States Railroad Administration for a few years. It is a different time of course nowadays and that probably won't happen again, but I do think it is way past time for the federal government to do a more forceful job of exercising their existing powers over the railroads to protect the interest of the travelling public, shippers and railroad workers who are being harmed due to the cancer of the PSR philosophy and ultra focus on short term profits at the expense of everything else that has taken over the railroad industry in the last 5 years or so much more than any time in living memory.
 

neroden

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Has that ever been done before? It's not exactly nationalization, but it might make a difference in the way railroads are managed.
Interstate Commerce Commission did it REPEATEDLY.

The STB inherited the power though I don't think it's been used since the rename.
 
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Has that ever been done before? It's not exactly nationalization, but it might make a difference in the way railroads are managed.

I wish the government had the legal authority to do something like that to the management of all "publicly-held" private sector companies to keep management from looting the company at the expense of the shareholders.
There is precedent in the takeover of the Conn River line from B&M where Amtrak seized the line via eminent domain on account of poor track conditions for the Montrealer. This was upheld by the US Supreme Court.

National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Boston & Maine Corp
 

hastybob

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The NS crews would have to qualify about 5.5 miles from the end of the NS Back Belt to Avondale - UP/BNSF. This is across the Huey P. Long Bridge which is owned by the Public Belt railroad. A little more than a few hundred feet. Also, there is a lot of traffic across the bridge, so it would - in the railroad world - take several hours to run.
And, we are not accounting for CSX trains that run across the NS as a bridge route. They get stopped at the Industrial Canal with the 10,000+ ft trains, blocking the NS mainline and the Back Belt. I'm not saying another way can't be found just that these are some of the problems they encounter.

Another thing that hasn't been mentioned is that there is proposal in New Orleans to eliminate a portion of the Back Belt, from East City Jct (where the NOUPT tracking starts) to the end of the NS track. The NOUPT trackage would be upgraded and double tracked to Carrollton Ave on the East connector and take the West connector (via a new wye connection) back to where the NS track currently ends. Probably a non starter-and should be, but it is still a proposal.
 

Amtrak25

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There is precedent in the takeover of the Conn River line from B&M where Amtrak seized the line via eminent domain on account of poor track conditions for the Montrealer. This was upheld by the US Supreme Court.

That was during the era of the first 25 year contract. When that expired in 1996, I am not sure weather or not such condemnations rights any longer apply.
 

joelkfla

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Just finished watching the STB hearings up to now on YouTube. After 8 days of testimony and questioning thru 4/19, they ran out of days when all the parties had time to meet, so the next session is scheduled on 5/9. CSX, NS, and the Port are done, and Amtrak is about halfway thru its case.

The railroads' experts have said that Amtrak's experts don't know how railroads operate (Amtrak's chief consultant has something like 52 years of transportation consulting), and Amtrak's experts are saying that the railroads' experts don't know how to gather data and build a model for the simulation software.

It's hard to tell how the Board is leaning. The railroad lawyers have accused the Board chair of advocating for Amtrak, but in fact there has been hard questioning of both sides.

Chair Marty Oberman is kind of funny. The railroad lawyers will object to something based on standard courtroom procedure, and Marty will say, in so many words, "This isn't a courtroom, I want the information to come out, and I'll do whatever I darn well please."
 

acelafan

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Just finished watching the STB hearings up to now on YouTube. After 8 days of testimony and questioning thru 4/19, they ran out of days when all the parties had time to meet, so the next session is scheduled on 5/9. CSX, NS, and the Port are done, and Amtrak is about halfway thru its case.

The railroads' experts have said that Amtrak's experts don't know how railroads operate (Amtrak's chief consultant has something like 52 years of transportation consulting), and Amtrak's experts are saying that the railroads' experts don't know how to gather data and build a model for the simulation software.

It's hard to tell how the Board is leaning. The railroad lawyers have accused the Board chair of advocating for Amtrak, but in fact there has been hard questioning of both sides.

Chair Marty Oberman is kind of funny. The railroad lawyers will object to something based on standard courtroom procedure, and Marty will say, in so many words, "This isn't a courtroom, I want the information to come out, and I'll do whatever I darn well please."
It was good to watch...the funniest part I found was on Day 6 at 4:10 on the timeline when Oberman was asking the rail modeling witness about "operational changes" that the freight RRs could make to avoid interfering with the passenger trains (like, running the freights earlier or later, etc). Trying to get a straight answer out of the witness was really comical.
 

joelkfla

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The STB hearing wrapped up today -- sort of.

After 11 days of testimony spread over 6 weeks, the Board told both parties to go away and come back in 30 days with more data, or more accurately, the right data. Or even better, work it out and settle amongst themselves.

A tool called RTC is used to model a railroad's operations, and to test the effect of changes. The railroads modeled 2019 operations and anticipated operations in 2039, without Amtrak trains, with Amtrak trains, and with Amtrak trains and a bundle of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of infrastructure improvements. Amtrak submitted no models, claiming the data they got from the railroads was incomplete, inflated, and unreliable.

Chairman Marty Oberman said he doesn't care about 2039, because the statute in question says nothing about mitigating alleged future impacts of Amtrak running, and it's not the taxpayers' responsibility to fund improvements to support freight growth. He wants the railroads to model the near-term effects of a smaller package of improvements suggested by the Southern Rail Commission. He suggested Amtrak model the effects of operational adjustments if they think that will be enough to avoid unreasonable impairment of freight, using the railroads' data even if they don't completely agree with it.

Marty and other board members said the optimal solution would be for the parties to try to get along and work together for a settlement, since they have a lot more expertise in running railroads than do the board members.
 

Anthony V

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Considering the reasons Amtrak started this case and took NS, CSX, and the Port of Mobile to the STB in the first place, does this mean that the Gulf Coast Amtrak service case is stalled indefinitely, and that the STB won't continue the case unless the host railroads provide the railroad operating information they've been trying so hard to hide from Amtrak?
 

joelkfla

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Considering the reasons Amtrak started this case and took NS, CSX, and the Port of Mobile to the STB in the first place, does this mean that the Gulf Coast Amtrak service case is stalled indefinitely, and that the STB won't continue the case unless the host railroads provide the railroad operating information they've been trying so hard to hide from Amtrak?
No, they have 30 days to provide more info, which may be extended for good cause. The hearing will be resumed sometime after that, regardless of whether or not the parties submit more evidence. Then the Board will issue a ruling: for the railroads, or for Amtrak, or somewhere in between.

The issue. as stated by the Board, is not the railroads' refusal to give Amtrak their data. IMO, the issue is that each side was presenting evidence for their own most extreme position, with no room for compromise. The Board wants evidence on the effect of less extreme options, like making operational adjustments or building a subset of the requested infrastructure improvements, and focused on the near term, not 17 years in the future.

The Board chair, Marty Oberman, seems like a no-nonsense guy who has said more than once that the public interest is the highest priority. I don't think he will allow this slip indefinitely.
 
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Anthony V

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No, they have 30 days to provide more info, which may be extended for good cause. The hearing will be resumed sometime after that, regardless of whether or not the parties submit more evidence. Then the Board will issue a ruling: for the railroads, or for Amtrak, or somewhere in between.

The issue. as stated by the Board, is not the railroads' refusal to give Amtrak their data. IMO, the issue is that each side was presenting evidence for their own most extreme position, with no room for compromise. The Board wants evidence on the effect of less extreme options, like making operational adjustments or building a subset of the requested infrastructure improvements, and focused on the near term, not 17 years in the future.

The Board chair, Marty Oberman, seems like a no-nonsense guy who has said more than once that the public interest is the highest priority. I don't think he will allow this slip indefinitely.
That's reassuring. Thank you.
 

DonNewcomb

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Considering the reasons Amtrak started this case and took NS, CSX, and the Port of Mobile to the STB in the first place, does this mean that the Gulf Coast Amtrak service case is stalled indefinitely, and that the STB won't continue the case unless the host railroads provide the railroad operating information they've been trying so hard to hide from Amtrak?

Does anyone else believe that perhaps Amtrak could get the information they need from state traffic cameras or other available sensors?
 

CCC1007

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Does anyone else believe that perhaps Amtrak could get the information they need from state traffic cameras or other available sensors?
Like the live stream camera that Amtrak put up and streamed to the internet?
 
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