New Agreement between Amtrak and CSX

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jis

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As part of the wheeling and dealing for getting approval for acquiring Pan Am Railway (erstwhile Guiford), CSX has struck a new deal with Amtrak with some very attractive elements. The following two articles describe the new lay of the land resulting from the agreement:


Among the conditions CSX agreed to:
  • Cooperate with proposed expansion of passenger service between Albany, N.Y., and Boston via CSX’s Boston & Albany main line from the Albany area to Worcester, Mass.
  • Work with Amtrak and the Northern New England Passenger Authority to expand and improve Downeaster service linking Maine and Boston, including the addition of positive train control on trackage in New Hampshire and Maine.
  • Host seasonal Berkshire Flyer trains between Albany and Pittsfield, Mass., this year as special trains, pending construction of a 1,000-foot station track in Pittsfield.
  • Give Amtrak trains priority over freight traffic.
  • Ensure that Norfolk Southern intermodal and automotive trains, which are shifting from Pan Am Southern to new trackage rights over CSX’s B&A, do not interfere with current or proposed Amtrak service between Albany and Worcester.

State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, called the recent discussions between CSX and Amtrak “encouraging” and cited those talks as a reason that he supports the deal.

“As discussed in a call last Friday between CSX, Amtrak and Senator Hinds of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, CSX agrees to the operation of the Berkshire Flyer from Memorial Day to Columbus Day 2022 on the schedule that was provided to CSX,” CSX President and CEO James Foote said in a letter attached in the filing.
 
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rs9

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As a bit of a newbie here, would this address persisting on-time issues/lengthy scheduling issues with the Lake Shore Limited between Boston and Albany? Is lack of priority with freight traffic the problem, or more so track restrictions and speed?
 
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It sounds great, but it’s infuriating that CSX is now waving around this attractive new deal which basically says “sure, yeah... I’ll obey the law now...”

And really only in New England. Maybe my most recent LSL delay is just annoying me though.

Does anyone think that the most recent deal with the CP made other freight carriers nervous?
 
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  • Give Amtrak trains priority over freight traffic.
I love it! CSX is so generous that they are giving Amtrak something Amtrak is entitled to have anyway.Nice move, Amtrak! Bargaining away your advantage for something they have been required to give you. Now, if the deal offered Amtrak $10M for every delayed train caused by freight interference then that would be a different story.
 

fdaley

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My concern is: If CSX winds up controlling both east-west routes across Massachusetts, does that mean a shift in traffic away from the ex-B&M route through the Hoosac Tunnel, and potential downgrading of that route?

If part of the deal involves shifting Norfolk Southern's trains, which now account for a significant share of traffic on the northern route, onto the ex-B&A route through Springfield and Pittsfield, that suggests it would be more difficult to expand Amtrak and commuter service on the southern route, despite CSX's assurances to the contrary. There will be more trains competing for space on a mostly single-track line where the once-a-day Amtrak run already has reliability issues.

There also has been periodic discussion of extending passenger service westward from Wachusett on the northern route. A state senator from the Pioneer Valley has lately been pushing this idea, and her efforts have led to a state study that's currently under way. But that effort also could become more difficult if the freight traffic winds up being consolidated on the southern route with resulting downgrading of the northern route.
 
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CSX won’t be running the northern route directly (or any other part of PAS.) PAS will be operated by a new Gennessee & Wyoming subsidiary railroad Berkshire & Eastern (B&E) - CSX and NS as owners will presumably have to contribute to maintenance on it. CSX may also eventually want to sell its share. A portion of Pan Am’s equipment is also going to G&W to operate the territory. Also Pan Am employees will be divided between G&W and CSX.
 

jis

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Looks like Amtrak is being careful this time....

 

neroden

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Looks like Amtrak is being careful this time....

Seems like how this turns out is the key question: will the terms be enforceable against CSX, which has a record of breaking the law and breaking contracts without consequences? Glad to see Amtrak is trying to explain this to the STB.
 
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Looks like Amtrak is being careful this time....

“We will need CSX to explain why it believes capital investment is necessary for Amtrak to operate 80 passenger trains a year over a 40-mile segment of CSX’s Albany to Worcester line when CSX has agreed to allow Norfolk Southern to operate 730 nearly 2-mile-long trains a year over the entire 160-mile line without any capital investment or capacity study,” Newman says.
I love this!
My thoughts exactly.

Glad Amtrak is not only being smart about service, but is also looking to protect its investments.
 
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"Board members questioned why conditions would be needed when existing regulations and laws already cover Amtrak access to freight railroad lines, passenger train priority over freight traffic."

Do they live under a rock? Or perhaps they've never ridden an Amtrak train.
 
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John Bredin

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I love it! CSX is so generous that they are giving Amtrak something Amtrak is entitled to have anyway.Nice move, Amtrak! Bargaining away your advantage for something they have been required to give you. Now, if the deal offered Amtrak $10M for every delayed train caused by freight interference then that would be a different story.
You noticed the CSX-Amtrak agreement has other provisions to Amtrak's benefit, right? More service Albany-Worcester than the Lake Shore Limited sounds pretty good to me. I agree that a "we'll obey the law" clause is essentially pointless, but it doesn't hurt to put it in if you're agreeing about other things anyway.

I suspect if that clause wasn't in there, some here would interpret that as Amtrak not being diligent about preserving its rights. D*mned if you do...
 

neroden

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I am salivating over a second Albany-Boston frequency (provided it connects with one of the Syracuse-Albany frequencies). I like going to Boston.

Two frequencies should also make same-day connections possible in both directions from the Vermonter at Springfield to points west. With the Ethan Allen to Burlington connecting to points west, the interconnections between upstate NY and Vermont should start being somewhat robust for the first time.
 
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