Intercity

Cuomo to Trump: Take Amtrak off Gateway

The Gateway Project to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River connecting New Jersey and New York has been mired in political controversy for years, going back to its first iteration, the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project, or “THE (Trans-Hudson Express) Tunnel,” dubbed by critics as “the tunnel to Macy’s basement,” and killed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the latest politician to add fuel to the fire.

Hours of Service: Where we’ve been; where we need to be

Work exhaustion and lack of effectiveness to properly carry out job functions to the highest standards put people at risk on a railroad. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) makes it a strong priority to know when employees are on the clock working on the movement or function of a train and when they are not. These regulations and time tracking fall into the Hours of Service (HOS) law. They must be met within FRA standards; railroads face fines and penalties if they aren’t met.

FRA finalizes HSR rulemaking

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Nov. 21 issued a final rule establishing what it’s calling” modern, performance-based safety standards for railroad passenger equipment.” The rule, characterized as a “deregulatory action” under Executive Order (EO) 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” is expected to save more than $475 million in net regulatory costs.

Brightline goes Virginal. What next?

Everybody has been watching Brightline, the bold upstart operator of private-sector passenger trains in a nation where every other scheduled train is operated in the public sector, either by Amtrak or by a local transit authority. There has been a lot of news about Brightline lately, and this writer originally intended to focus on the customer experience and the railroad’s plans for the future.

Branson buys into Brightline

Florida’s Brightline private higher-speed passenger rail service has a new investor, Virgin Group, headed by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Virgin Group will make a minority investment in Brightline, which will be managed and operated by Brightline’s executive team and affiliates of Brightline parent Fortress Investment Group. Brightline will rename itself Virgin Trains USA in November and transition to Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019, “leveraging the Virgin brand and marketing expertise for existing and future developments.”

Amtrak touts performance, financial records

In the midst of controversy surrounding scale-backs in meal services; widely held beliefs that current management is targeting long-distance trains for elimination, or at the very least, truncation; and accusations of questionable accounting methods, Amtrak on Nov. 16 announced preliminary “record revenue and earnings” for its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018. “Strong management and improved product delivery and customer service led the company to its best operating performance in company history, despite challenges during the year,” Amtrak said.