Can Union Pacific bring back their own passenger trains?

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Joined
Jul 16, 2023
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Can Union Pacific bring back their own passenger trains? What is the likelihood that Union Pacific will do this since they own the tracks that Amtrak runs on? And they can make a profit of it since they own most of the rail in the USA.

It would be cool to see a modern revision of the M-10000.

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They probably could, but they have shown no interest in it. Amtrak is operating most of it's routes at a loss, and UP is (AFAIK) doing well with freight.
Is it because Union Pacific has no interest, or does the federal government mandate that all passenger rail service fall under only Amtrak?
 
Is it because Union Pacific has no interest, or does the federal government mandate that all passenger rail service fall under only Amtrak?

But Brightline is not operating under Amtrak, nor are dozens of commuter rail lines across the US. So the government definitely allows other operators. UP, and none of the freight operators for that matter, have shown no interest to passenger rail. UP has been particularly hostile to Amtrak in the past. They're content doing what they're doing.
 
But Brightline is not operating under Amtrak, nor are dozens of commuter rail lines across the US. So the government definitely allows other operators. UP, and none of the freight operators for that matter, have shown no interest to passenger rail. UP has been particularly hostile to Amtrak in the past. They're content doing what they're doing.
Brightline trains run on tracks of the Florida East Coast, which did not join Amtrak, therefore the FEC has no contractual relationship with Amtrak. Commuter lines were specifically excluded from Amtrak from its beginning. The chance of Union Pacific choosing to operate passenger trains is less than zero. If they could figure out how to get the Amtrak trains that operate on their tracks to go away, they would be gone tomorrow.
 
they can make a profit of it since they own most of the rail in the USA.
The UP owns nowhere near most of the rail in the USA, and even if they did it wouldn't mean that they would necessarily make a profit on passenger service. The UP has other things to worry about, it owns little to no rolling stock for passenger service and hasn't run any for decades, why would they even be interested. They have plenty on their plate competing with BNSF and their other rivals. They would have to be desperate to even consider passenger service.
 
Union Pacific has absolutely no interest in running passenger trains.
Right now, they're in the process of turning over their Chicago commuter trains entirely over to Metra. Unlike BNSF, they have no other contracts to run commuter trains anywhere, they sure wouldn't want to get back into the long distance service they fought so hard to get rid of.
 
Free-runner UP engine on the east coast. Just to add a dirty splash of color for the rail fans delight.

Nice long train, I wonder when it gets filled up with passengers. Before or after the NEC? Up here in NY going from Buffalo the train will block off a coach for the Albany passenger. So minor deadweight, but that a 8 cars, so 7 coaches with passengers. Wonder what the load like?
 
Nice long train, I wonder when it gets filled up with passengers. Before or after the NEC? Up here in NY going from Buffalo the train will block off a coach for the Albany passenger. So minor deadweight, but that a 8 cars, so 7 coaches with passengers. Wonder what the load like?
A pretty standard Virginia train though. Some are even 9 or 10 cars specially on heavy load days.
 
Free-runner UP engine on the east coast. Just to add a dirty splash of color for the rail fans delight.

Nice long train, I wonder when it gets filled up with passengers. Before or after the NEC? Up here in NY going from Buffalo the train will block off a coach for the Albany passenger. So minor deadweight, but that a 8 cars, so 7 coaches with passengers. Wonder what the load like?
I suspect a lot of college kids use it as 156 is a weekend train. It stops at Newark, DE where the Univ of Delaware is located. Weather permitting I may go down to see it (without the UP engine, of course) . It's already running an hour late and will lose more time in Alexandria and DC for engine changes (UP engine does not have the necessary cab signals to go all the way to DC)
 
Is it because Union Pacific has no interest, or does the federal government mandate that all passenger rail service fall under only Amtrak?
There is no such federal mandate. Union Pacific or any other railroad could operate passenger service, but they don't want to, because it loses money. The very reason Amtrak was created was that private railroads like Union Pacific wanted to dump their passenger trains.
 
Wouldn’t it be interesting if BOTH of these were true:
A. Demand for 100+ mph intermodal develops, AND…
B. The only way to run that fast remains with passenger trains.

It would be fascinating to see how the class 1 RRs would react if, for example, Brightline West were to develop a way to add containers to their trains. That may not be the best example but you probably get my point. Would UP want to get in the game if there actually were profit in passengers — roundabout though it may be.
 
It wasn’t always so anti-passenger on the Union Pacific. During the Kenefick era in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, the Union Pacific was one of the better railroad hosts for Amtrak. I can’t begin to count how many times the UP would receive the SFZ late at Ogden from the SP, or Denver from the BN, and then with a heroic effort made up an hour or even close to two hours, albeit with some padding, on their portion. They earned incentive rewards almost every trip. They would often, on their own dime, add one of their own engines to the consist to expedite its run.
They did run some chartered passenger trains using their own equipment, such as steam excursions, but also several business trains for corporate sponsors. They also handled private car trains for the AAPRCO, but that was usually as an “Amtrak” sponsored move with Amtrak power.
I think their attitude changed after they grew much larger thru mergers and acquisitions…🤷‍♂️
 
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There is no such federal mandate. Union Pacific or any other railroad could operate passenger service, but they don't want to, because it loses money. The very reason Amtrak was created was that private railroads like Union Pacific wanted to dump their passenger trains.
I thought that UP and other RR's gave up right to reenter passenger business once they gave it to Amtrak. Am I wrong?
 
Yes, I have sometimes wondered if there would be price point that would make it profitable for BNSF to run an up to date version of the Santa Fe Super Chief and what that price point might be.
 
Yes, I have sometimes wondered if there would be price point that would make it profitable for BNSF to run an up to date version of the Santa Fe Super Chief and what that price point might be.
Take a look at what the Rocky Mountaineer charges. That would be at least a starting point.

Amtrak would fine if they only had an on-board OBS crew chief to keep service standardized at a high level. No need for the Class Is to do something they don't want to do, anyway.
 
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@jimdex is correct. There's no mandate. When Amtrak was created, two railroads OPTED to retain their passenger service for awhile: Southern Railway's Crescent, and D&RGW's Rio Grande Zephyr.

Passenger service is very labor intensive and runs liability risks, which is why the freight operators aren't clamoring to start up passenger service.
 
@jimdex is correct. There's no mandate. When Amtrak was created, two railroads OPTED to retain their passenger service for awhile: Southern Railway's Crescent, and D&RGW's Rio Grande Zephyr.

Passenger service is very labor intensive and runs liability risks, which is why the freight operators aren't clamoring to start up passenger service.
The ones that continued with their own service did not join Railpax (the name before Amtrak came about). There were several railroads that did not join Railpax. Santa Fe almost did not, but ultimately a quick calculation of projection of losses on its passenger service over the subsequent five years changed their mind and they joined. Those that joined were restricted from starting their own passenger service in competition with Amtrak for a period of time IIRC. There was also a clause about Amtrak having first right of refusal on any new passenger service. This was subsequently removed freeing up the field for any takers. Since then there have been several attempts to find takers for current LD service in terms of individual trains. None have come forward so far with a credible plan. Amtrak also retains the special disposition to gain trackage rights on the railroads (or their successor railroads) for passenger service. This is the reason why the Hoosier State deal involving Iowa Pacific was structured in a way such that Amtrak trackage access rights continued to be used. IP just provided equipment and OBS staff.

Incidentally Southern continued to run a couple of other trains in addition to the Southern Crescent, but they slowly fell by the wayside. Finally Southern threw in the towel and joined Amtrak when their rolling stock came up for major maintenance. They did hand over most of it to Amtrak which Amtrak largely disposed off within the next 5 years instead of spending a lot of money on PM. I think something like four Diner-Lounges were retained and HEP-ed.
 
Take a look at what the Rocky Mountaineer charges. That would be at least a starting point.

Amtrak would fine if they only had an on-board OBS crew chief to keep service standardized at a high level. No need for the Class Is to do something they don't want to do, anyway.
RM is a different type of passenger railroad operation - it is not destination oriented for travel between cities.
The RM is a day time rail scenic excursion rail - night time hotel accommodation.
The charges/expenses are far way and above first class rail fares and non-train sleeper accommodation.
 
@jimdex is correct. There's no mandate. When Amtrak was created, two railroads OPTED to retain their passenger service for awhile: Southern Railway's Crescent, and D&RGW's Rio Grande Zephyr.
You can add the Rock Island to that list. The Rock wanted to join, but could not afford the entrance fee. Their two remaining passenger trains went on for several years before they finally could drop them.
You can also add the mixed passenger-freight trains of the Georgia RR and the Soo Line…and perhaps a few more…
 
D&RGW was the third RR that did not join Amtrak. The reason was not that of the CRI&P (couldn't afford it) or the Southern (which as I recall had its doubts as well as resources to continue passenger service), but I forget D&RGW's reason or at least the one I did read at the time (perhaps in Trains magazine or the Passenger Train Journal).
 
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