Former NARP Chair George Chilson sounds alarm

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This article echos my sentiment exactly. If Gardner cannot get congress to cancel the long distance routes he plans to sabotage them by not doing anything to keep them going. This article must be circulated to all house and Senate members otherwise in a few years there will be no LD service. I just hope that the RPA brings this matter to the attention of the Washington administration ASAP.
 
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I am sure I will get some flack for this opinion but this is essentially an opinion piece without a heck of a lot of evidence or context - it’s just belly aching in my honest opinion. We all have our opinions on what various managers intentions are and level of competency is and that’s all well and good but I see no evidence presented that Amtrak has truly ordered work at Beech Grove on Superliners to stop and for them to sit and do nothing. What I heard about the refresh is that Amtrak has put out proposals to see if an outside contractor could do the work given Amtrak’s workforce challenges.

It seems many are in denial of the fact that there are legitimate workforce problems plaguing the industry and that the only explanation has to be the evil boogey man clogging up the plumbing. Do i deny that management’s priority is the NEC? Absolutely not. Do I think there is dramatic room for improvement in the board to better represent the business lines? Absolutely. But a giant conspiracy simply does not legitimately explain all the problems. I think many would be disappointed that many if not all of today’s challenges would remain challenges even with a total changing out of 1 Mass Ave. And not all of them are a result of the furlough decisions early in the pandemic. For example even the Auto Train faces staffing problems even though it was never cut down to less frequencies.

There are things management can do long term - look at the pay scale, benefits, and work life balance of jobs - perhaps changes need to be made to compete for employees in today’s market. But it’s not like they aren’t trying at all - Beech Grove and the other shops have offered various generous sign on incentives and yet the workforce remains a challenge. My biggest criticism that management can deal with in the short term is in its handling of these mishaps in notification and accommodation of passengers. There’s certainly a lot to look at there - but the root problems are going to take time to deal with.
 

jis

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This problem is not peculiar to Amtrak or the US even. Extremely passenger train friendly countries still have service cut backs that they are desperately trying to recover from.

I think things are not getting fixed mainly because not enough people in positions of power from which they can initiate fixing really care enough. They are too busy trying to douse much much bigger conflagrations than a few trains getting canceled, while the outfit is run by a relatively inexperienced lot and a lot of institutional knowledge has been lost or disposed off for various reasons. It is a sort of a perfect storm, that is not necessarily being faced by many of the very large passenger railroads elsewhere in the world. But they are till suffering mightily..
 
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Hearing the video going around of Gardner speaking last week in VT regarding the Ethan Allen leaves me with mixed feelings. Yes, he’s in his element in the video talking about a corridor train but he comes across as likable and says all the right things. However it’s hard for me to think of him as a competent leader for Amtrak in its entirety with his hostile remarks towards the network trains and specifically the SWC in the not so distant past. The one thing we can all probably agree on is, it’s a mess for many reasons. Times change, people change so the jury is still out.
 
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I think people are really dismissing the very real labor shortages that are plaguing construction trades, which my guess would be spills over to the sort of work Amtrak is looking to do, either though it's own direct employees or potential contract employee's/service provider. In my business (architecture/construction) there is a shortage from top to bottom of the chain from grunt labor to professional services - every professional I talk to is overwhelmed with and often burned out from the amount of work and overwork and many building sites and low-skill carpentry job sites have signs begging for workers advertising paid vacations, etc, etc.... Products are taking months to arrive - if they are available at all - with no word from suppliers or distributers. I'm sure that this is part of what has stymied the refresh's, etc.
 

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As fo LD trains, my working hypothesis is that there are no plans for growing the LD network beyond where it is now. There are no plans to bring non-rev cars that are in Mothballs from the LD fleet out of that state over the next five years. Reluctantly it appears they will bring the VL-I Sleepers out of Mothballs over the next three or four years. In general we will be lucky to maintain the current LD network with a semblance of barely acceptable service level satisfying the squeakiest of wheels and not much else.

I think people who think that there will be growth in LD service without an explicit instruction for such from Congress are dreaming. The working consensus at present is ConnectUS, and the parties involved in that consensus are the Congress, the President, the SecDOT, Amtrak Board and Amtrak Management team. It will take incredible effort to break the consensus and change the way the needle points.

But just keeping 20-30 or so cars in Mothballs isn't exactly going to cause everyone in Beech Grove to lose their jobs. That bit is a bit of hyperbole IMHO.
 
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“But just keeping 20-30 or so cars in Mothballs isn't exactly going to cause everyone in Beech Grove to lose their jobs. That bit is a bit of hyperbole IMHO.”

Those 20/30 cars would make a huge positive difference in day to day operations and solve a lot of logistical headaches. I think you’re spot on with your analysis.
 

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Folks, I understand the whole "Amtrak wants to kill the LD network" thing. However the problem dates back to the massive furloughs that came in 2020 thanks to Covid. A lot of employees either found better jobs or jobs that they could work from home. Amtrak is now struggling to replace those workers. This is NOT exclusive to Amtrak. The worker shortage is a nationwide issue.

I do believe that the refresh is on hold. Simply because they don't have much equipment.
 

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I don't think Amtrak wants to kill the LD network. They actually can't without breaking the law. What is true is they do not want to grow the LD network or put in an effort to run it successfully. And that has nothing to do with the pandemic. That problem pre-dates the pandemic and even pre-dates Anderson. The cuts began under Boardman, even though Boardman personally may have been against them and hated them.
 
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One also shouldn’t discount years of underinvestment and cuts. Yes they got the $66 billion (though note much isn’t direct to the company) but that doesn’t fully make up for years of under investment. Like it or not Amtrak is a political animal and Amtrak’s management is going to ebb and flow with where they think the political winds are blowing - that’s necessary to their survival.
 
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As far as pure politics it doesn’t add up. We have the most political friendly Congress to Amtrak in its history, yet we have arguably the worst version of Amtrak we have ever seen. Management is so tone depth Congress literally had to write into law that they maintain routes and basic amenities across the country. Management sure didn’t read or realize the overwhelming support the US House and Senate have for long distance trains.
 

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As far as Amtrak management and the Board are concerned, they need only satisfy the NEC Congressional delegation, the federal funding for which they regard as an entitlement. Other than that, they will do what is minimally mandated by appropriation language, drag their fit, behave like a C-/D+ student, and play the Covid card, while they seem to have no trouble putting out 8 car Regionals and additional frequencies.

Game changer will be the next Congress, and perhaps they will all be shocked with what that Congess will regard as their entitlement.
 
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jis

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Hearing the video going around of Gardner speaking last week in VT regarding the Ethan Allen leaves me with mixed feelings. Yes, he’s in his element in the video talking about a corridor train but he comes across as likable and says all the right things. However it’s hard for me to think of him as a competent leader for Amtrak in its entirety with his hostile remarks towards the network trains and specifically the SWC in the not so distant past. The one thing we can all probably agree on is, it’s a mess for many reasons. Times change, people change so the jury is still out.
It is certainly true that Gardner is not an entitled arrogant person like Anderson. I also think he is somewhat less ignorant about trains than Anderson was.
 
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It is certainly true that Gardner is not entitled arrogant person like Anderson. I also think he is somewhat less ignorant about trains than Anderson was.
When he chooses to be, Gardner can be extremely eloquent, articulate and persuasive. We just wish he would be more so when talking about long distance rail.
 
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“But just keeping 20-30 or so cars in Mothballs isn't exactly going to cause everyone in Beech Grove to lose their jobs. That bit is a bit of hyperbole IMHO.”

Those 20/30 cars would make a huge positive difference in day to day operations and solve a lot of logistical headaches. I think you’re spot on with your analysis.
This weeks news of cancellations due to equipment brings managements refusal to bring equipment out of storage to another level. They really do have a duty to do basic maintenance so these cancellations don’t continue. It’s not like United canceling one RT ORD to SEA. One cancellation of the EB is a 5 day event literally with ripples across the country. Peak of summer canceling trains with less than 48 hours notice and for the most part not re accommodating passengers is insanity.

This article talks about the EB, playing with the website all Starlights are cancelled tomorrow too. (Both directions)
 

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jis

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Considering that they are having problem keeping equipment that is not in storage fully available due to shortage of mechanical staff, I cannot see what good it would do at this point to drag a bunch of additional stuff out of storage. In effect they would just come out and sit there unusable.

The thing that needs to be fixed is getting a full contingent of mechanical staff and maybe a few more than that so that cars that are already out of storage can actually be used in service, before worrying about cars in storage.

In this context it would be better if Amtrak management could be transparent and share what the actual staffing situation is. It is quite clear they are not alone. The airlines are also facing this problem in spades, but some of them have done better plannig and have been more effective at hiring than Amtrak, thiugh none of them are really out of the woods yet. Higher fares are making their financials look better than in 2019, but actually for fewer boardings by a very significant amount.
 
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Considering that they are having problem keeping equipment that is not in storage fully available due to shortage of mechanical staff, I cannot see what good it would do at this point to drag a bunch of additional stuff out of storage. In effect they would just come out and sit there unusable.

The thing that needs to be fixed is getting a full contingent of mechanical staff and maybe a few more than that so that cars that are already out of storage can actually be used in service, before worrying about cars in storage.

In this context it would be better if Amtrak management could be transparent and share what the actual staffing situation is. It is quite clear they are not alone. The airlines are also facing this problem in spades, but some of them have done better plannig and have been more effective at hiring than Amtrak, though none of them are really out of the woods yet. Higher fares are making their financials look better than in 2019, but actually for fewer boardings by a very significant amount.
I fully understand this analysis but while the corridor routes are making progress LD service is not.
 

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In this context it would be better if Amtrak management could be transparent and share what the actual staffing situation is. It is quite clear they are not alone.
While it is true they are not alone, Amtrak doesn't seem to have any motivation nor urgency in their hiring practices; this is well documented on the Careers with Amtrak thread.

At this point, I put most of the blame on Amtrak management, not on low staffing. Regionals with 9 or 10 cars is common nowadays, meanwhile some trains are still at 3x/week, being canceled, and having extremely short consists. It's just plain unacceptable.
 

Acela150

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I don't think Amtrak wants to kill the LD network. They actually can't without breaking the law. What is true is they do not want to grow the LD network or put in an effort to run it successfully. And that has nothing to do with the pandemic. That problem pre-dates the pandemic and even pre-dates Anderson. The cuts began under Boardman, even though Boardman personally may have been against them and hated them.
Not saying that I believe the whole "Kill the LD network" stuff, But I for sure agree that growing the network is an issue. The current thing is growing corridors.
While it is true they are not alone, Amtrak doesn't seem to have any motivation nor urgency in their hiring practices; this is well documented on the Careers with Amtrak thread.

At this point, I put most of the blame on Amtrak management, not on low staffing. Regionals with 9 or 10 cars is common nowadays, meanwhile some trains are still at 3x/week, being canceled, and having extremely short consists. It's just plain unacceptable.
Most regionals that have 9 or 10 cars don't have all of the cars open. In matter of fact Sunday I worked train 140 from Philly to NYP and it was 11 cars. All of which were open. I can't really publicly go into details on why cars are or aren't open on trains.
 
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