• AMTRAK NEC: Springfield Shuttle/Regional/Valley Flyer/Inland Routing

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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  by WhartonAndNorthern
 
Jeff Smith wrote: Mon Mar 29, 2021 8:52 am Seems to me it may be a good time to put the "squeeze" on CSX for passenger train concessions to hasten their merger with Pan Am. More frequencies, new routes, etc.
Track updates could be key here. I may be venturing off topic here, but one of the barriers to an NY to Maine route is that one of the possible routes is Pan Am's line from Worcester to Ayer and points East is maintained at FRA Class 1 standards (10 mph). I believe a large chunk of Worcester to Ayer is also considered inside yard limits. Presently CSX is running a train on PAR tracks from Worcester to Ayer and back to interchange with PAR. I'm not sure why CSX runs the train rather than having PAR come down to Worcester on their own tracks.

I question for how long CSX will tolerate 10 mph trackage on their newly acquired New England connection. CSX may be pinching pennies with PSR, but they still have a lot of 60 mph intermodal trackage.
  by Trinnau
 
MA has no position to "squeeze" such passenger concessions out of CSX in terms of the merger process. The STB has already set the timeline, and they won't override the requirements of establishing new passenger service on a private carrier's tracks just because the state whines. Just see what's happening east of New Orleans.

CSX handles the trains Worcester-Ayer under an agreement where Pan Am handles CSX Boston traffic. It was essentially a swap of crews so CSX didn't have to run to Boston anymore.

Agreed that they will increase track speeds probably to at least 40mph. But there is simply too much freight traffic proposed for the Pan Am Worcester-Ayer segment, including the very busy yard at Ayer, to make that route viable. Plus it would skip Boston proper, which would be it's own driver of passenger volume.
  by BandA
 
Trinnau wrote: Wed Mar 31, 2021 4:55 pm MA has no position to "squeeze" such passenger concessions out of CSX in terms of the merger process. The STB has already set the timeline, and they won't override the requirements of establishing new passenger service on a private carrier's tracks just because the state whines. Just see what's happening east of New Orleans.
It's the perfect time - MA could complain about reduced competition and that the merger is not in the public interest, if CSX refuses to allow, say, CR to Springfield, increased Downeaster, increased trains to Greenfield, CR to New Hampshire, CR to Foxboro, new storage yards or south-side maintenance facilities, or won't budge on some random rail-trail negotiation. But this is imperfect timing for the MBTA & state who need to dig out of the Covid mess and will be preoccupied for a while just trying to stay afloat and get back to where they were.
...Agreed that they will increase track speeds probably to at least 40mph. But there is simply too much freight traffic proposed for the Pan Am Worcester-Ayer segment, including the very busy yard at Ayer, to make that route viable. Plus it would skip Boston proper, which would be it's own driver of passenger volume.
Is the Worcester Main single-track?

Routing this theoretical NYP-Maine train via Worcester-Ayer would keep it away from passenger train congestion, and the congested BOS and BON terminals. This route follows the highways rather than the shoreline. I assume it is shorter in miles too If people want to go to Boston there are many trains, this would be a new service. The only question is, is enough demand? I'm guessing the answer is "not yet, maybe in 15 years". Or next year if the price of gas goes to $5/gal.
  by Trinnau
 
MA "complaining" about competition is not having leverage. There has to be proof of it, and the STB has already indicated CSX needs to better prove the competitive aspect in re-classifying the merger. Go read the filings and counter-filings (and the STB re-classification ruling from March 19, posted the following week) yourself. It's very clear that MA does not have any kind of leg to stand on to get concessions. On another note, CR to NH is a NH issue (not a MA issue) as MA already owns the tracks to the state line and also already owns the tracks (and has already regularly run CR) to Foxboro.

Yes this would be the Pan Am Worcester Main. Mileage Worcester to Lowell Jct via Pan Am routing (Worcester-Ayer-Lowell-Lowell Jct) is just over 50 miles. Routing via MBTA (WOR-BON-Lowell Jct) just under 70 miles. There are hurdles to overcome with either (talked about extensively in this thread), but the majority of the MBTA route is double-track and currently good for 60-79mph passenger trains outside of the Grand Junction where the Pan Am route is largely single-track and probably only good for 15-30mph max (10-25 freight). NS and CSX put together a whole Ayer operating plan in the filing because of how congested it is. MBTA gets delayed there regularly, adding a new pair (or more) of passenger trains into this mixed-traffic mess is not a good idea.

On the other hand, using a proposed Springfield to Boston operating window and a Downeaster operating window to run a NY-NHV-SPG-BON-BRU type train actually works logistically and serves both markets. These windows are already planned for by both the MBTA and freight (for the Downeaster anyway) and it's much easier to mesh a new scheduled passenger train into existing passenger service as opposed to freight, even if it is busy. A train that skips Boston still occupies those slots between SPG-WOR and Lowell Jct-BRU on those two respective services.
  by Jeff Smith
 
An improved and expanded passenger rail line could add thousands of jobs to Hartford and Springfield, but it might cost $9 billion
It’s back to the future for regional planners promoting a rail line that would revive the Inland Route linking New York and Boston by way of Hartford, Springfield and Worcester.

The cost is estimated at between $6.4 billion and $9.4 billion over a 10-year construction period, according to a study commissioned by the Capitol Region Council of Governments. While there is no funding for the rail line, supporters are encouraged by President Joe Biden’s proposal to spend billions of dollars on the nation’s infrastructure.
...
Work would not have to start from scratch. The Hartford Line that connects New Haven, Hartford and Springfield opened in 2018. Remaining work includes electrification, a replacement of the Connecticut River Bridge at Windsor Locks, double-tracking in areas, five new or relocated stations and upgrading the downtown Hartford rail viaduct, the study said.
...
“These services nominally exist today, but with only one train in each direction ... unreliable performance and uncompetitively slow speeds — about an hour longer than driving in mid-day conditions,” the study said.

“Together, the East-West Line and the completed Hartford Line would reconstitute a 21st century version of the old Inland Route — regular train service from Boston to New York via Worcester, Springfield, Hartford and New Haven, which the region has lacked for decades,” the study said.
...
  by gokeefe
 
This corridor is probably the single most likely candidate for an electrification project. Specifically, between New Haven and Springfield.

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  by Jeff Smith
 
Does the new higher frequencies, including the Hartford Line, justify electrification? I think if you threw on inland regionals to Boston, maybe. The issue as far as the inland route goes is the stretch from Springfield to Boston not being electrified. All you're doing is moving an engine change.
  by Arborwayfan
 
Maine-Ayer-Worcester-Springfield-points south is an pre-car, pre-plane route that wouldn't make nearly as much sense today. Connecting at Boston, even between South Station and North Station, would probably still be the fastest way from, say, New Haven to Portland, since the NEC is the fastest, most frequent route in the country. If the inland route got going again, connecting at Boston would often be a faster way from Worcester to Portland than waiting for one or two trains a day that might go straight from Worcester up to Maine.

Bottom line: When the Worcester Main, or a passenger track next to it on the same ROW, or a new-built elevated high-speed line, is put into service as part of the circumferential component of a regional rail service for Eastern New England with hourly trains, then it'll maybe make sense to run a train to Maine over it, too, but until that magical day, better to focus on the best possible connections in Boston and the best possible times Boston-Worcester-Springfield. It's just not worth adding a whole other route for a one-a-day train that would still be pretty slow.

Also, tongue in cheek, one way to speed up the inland route is to move Worcester ten miles or so south so they can make the B&A as short as the Pike.
  by ElectricTraction
 
Jeff Smith wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 1:03 pmDoes the new higher frequencies, including the Hartford Line, justify electrification? I think if you threw on inland regionals to Boston, maybe. The issue as far as the inland route goes is the stretch from Springfield to Boston not being electrified. All you're doing is moving an engine change.
I wonder the same thing. I'm not convinced that there's enough demand to justify high frequencies or electrification. One part of me says it's part of the NEC operations, it should be electrified, but it poses a number of problems. Even with overhead wire dual-mode locomotives for through trains, it doesn't fully electrify the inland route, and it's basically impossible to justify electrifying that between Worcester and Springfield. With the Valley Flyer, the Vermonter, and CSOR freight, electrifying the route would only electrify some of the trains that run on it, or move the dual-mode switch point from New Haven to Springfield. And getting dual-mode equipment for the Valley Flyer would be massively expensive.

IMO, the money would probably be better spent building out a combined fleet of DMU/HMU 4-car trainsets with Amtrak-like seating that could be pooled for Amtrak, CDOT, and MN use for Hartford Line, Valley Flyer, Amtrak Shuttle, and Waterbury Branch operations, with inland route and Vermonter service switching to diesel locomotives in New Haven as the Springfield and Vermonter do now.

I think part of the reason that it doesn't justify high frequencies (although later service would be nice) is that it seems to mostly be successful as a regional rail type of system for occasional trips, not as a daily commuter service. SLE has some commutation, but seems to do very well, especially seasonally as a regional rail system as well. Also, with only 4-car trains, the justification for electrification may not be as strong as it otherwise would be.

But maybe I'm wrong and I'm underestimating the potential for traffic growth on the Hartford Line, and it does justify electrification? Or maybe I'm overestimating the breakeven point for electrification over using DMU or HMU trains?
  by Kilo Echo
 
The second Valley Flyer round trip will be reinstated on 26 July with the recommencement of Trains 495 and 478. Three SPG-NHV trains that were suspended since March 2020 will also resume service.

Read more: Amtrak and MassDOT Announce Re-Start of Second Valley Flyer Roundtrip Train Service in Western and Northern Massachusetts
  by daybeers
 
Yay, finally!

I think electrification can work. The Shore Line won't last long before it's flooding multiple times/year. Trip times would be greatly reduced to the NEC in New Haven and on the overall trip with faster acceleration. Why not move the stub train from New Haven to Springfield and have the Valley Flyers be a cross-platform connection like they are now in New Haven?
  by cle
 
The car lengths are short, for now, but the frequency definitely nods to electrification - and the additional stops planned will need better acceleration for end to end times.

Journey time improvements (and new stock) are how you move the needle on ridership, and the train capacity will be added accordingly. Most trips ate NHV-SPG and for the few outliers, a different approach will be needed - like bi-modes.
  by ElectricTraction
 
daybeers wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 4:59 pmWhy not move the stub train from New Haven to Springfield and have the Valley Flyers be a cross-platform connection like they are now in New Haven?
That's an interesting idea, although you'd still have a gap from Springfield to Worcester in electrification, if electrification of CTRail and the T were completed.
cle wrote: Wed Jun 23, 2021 11:09 amThe car lengths are short, for now, but the frequency definitely nods to electrification - and the additional stops planned will need better acceleration for end to end times.
That's a good point about acceleration. DMUs are faster than old diesel push-pull sets, but they're still nowhere close to electrics.
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