• Amtrak Vermonter (Montreal Greenfield Boston CT River Line)

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

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by CNJ
 
I'm ignorant on the Vermonter route through Palmer, so please excuse me...but is it physically possible at all to reconstruct the junctions so that the Vermonter would not have to do these reverse moves?

  by TomNelligan
 
CNJ wrote:I'm ignorant on the Vermonter route through Palmer, so please excuse me...but is it physically possible at all to reconstruct the junctions so that the Vermonter would not have to do these reverse moves?
Not without a large cost for property acquisition, since adding a wye leg in the northwest quadrant of the junction would involve building on non-railroad, developed land. There would also be some challenging geometry issues because of the sharp angle at which the former B&A and CV lines cross.
Container wrote: Now, regarding running a through train from St. Albans to Montreal, what is the obstacle here? Why did Amtrak stop running through to Montreal, only to replace this service with a bus? Could all-rail service be restored?
As I wrote a page back, they stopped because of the high incremental costs of running into Canada on CN, and all-rail service will be restored only if some govermental entity pays for it.

  by gprimr1
 
A better owner for the Conn River Line would be MassDOT. There may be a demand for service Greenfield-Northampton-Holyoke (I think the line passes right next to Holyoke mall)-Springfield-Windsor Locks (with either a railspur or shuttle connecting with Bradly Airport.

Amtrak could then tag onto the rebuilt root sending one of it's trains north on this route. Perhaps a DMU would do better on this route since I noticed some of the crossings were done away with (the BM Bridge in Northampton for one) so there are fewer ice flanging issues.
  by CVRA7
 
I also believe have Mass. purchase the Conn River Line would be a good solution - the most important need of this train right now is reliability and to speed up the schedule. The wandering route north (east) of Springfield may have made some sense in the days of CV ownership, but the NECR sadly has let their track condition seriously decline. A 59 mph Conn River Line Springfield to E Northfield would be a big improvement over the existing route and Northampton isn't that far from Amherst.
For those who think a change at New Haven will not harm patronage, take it from someone who has worked on this line since 1974 IT WILL. During the time we had all through cars/trains on the Springfield trains, we had some pretty good ridership even with high Amtrak fares. But with the loss of through service, ridership will suffer especially when the connection is not guaranteed.
IF the connection was ALWAYS MADE and at least two coaches were blocked out of Boston on the connecting train to allow for plenty of open seating, connecting would be less harmful. But I have been told Amtrak will not block any seats or cars for passengers boarding at New Haven.
For a few weeks. the southbound Vermonters have had over an hour added to their schedules between Amherst and Springfield so there have actually been trains ON TIME for the first time in several months, but for some unknown reason - perhaps a false promise by the NECR that their track will be repaired - the old guaranteed-to-be-an-hour-and-a-half-late schedules will return after the 28th of Oct.
Overall suggestions for the Vermonter service:
- keep through cars
- reroute the train on a rebuilt Conn River Springfield-E Northfield
- change the destination to Burlington
- develop feeder busses and/or vans to and from Rutland and Montreal, maybe St Johnsbury if warrented.
(how about this: run a bus Bellows Falls-Rutland- Burlington - Montreal and return designed with rail connections in mind)
- if DMU cars MUST be purchased run them Rutland-Albany to connect with existing service to NY - as most Albany-NY service originates there, seating problems would be far less than a New Haven connection. Plus the Amtrak shops are right there, ready to be contracted to maintain the DMUs and to substitute equipment for all the times the DMUs will be out of service!

  by John_Perkowski
 
Moderator's Note:

Split from the Colorado Railcar & Vermonter thread.

  by TomNelligan
 
The practical problem with a Massachusetts purchase and rehab of the Springfield-East Northfield trackage is that the state is absolutely broke at the moment regarding transportation projects... we're looking at significant gas tax and toll increases just to pay current debt service and infrastructure maintenance. So it's extremely unlikely at this point (as, for that matter, is the planned but unfunded restoration of passenger service to Fall River and New Bedford by the MBTA).
  by CVRA7
 
Just discovered this morning that the schedules of trains 55 and 57 WILL NOT revert to the former times as indicated in the new System timetable effective 29 October. According to the computer, the current schedules will continue, so that these trains will have the possibility of being on time.
The big question is why couldn't the schedule planners determined this with enough advanced time so that the timetable people could produce an accurate issue?
Train 437 will also remain on its current schedule, so please beware of printed timetable errors!
  by theozno
 
the vermonter could definately pick up a good 1/2 hr if they followed the old time schedule... I wish they did. It seems the vermonter n/b is in New have very early a lot... move the time to factor in all the construction/fixes in VT and adjust accordingly in the construction zones up there. maybe then the delays will be less than 1 hour in VT instead of 60-90 min.. thats just my suggestion and I could be talking just rubbish.
-OZ

CVRA7 wrote:Just discovered this morning that the schedules of trains 55 and 57 WILL NOT revert to the former times as indicated in the new System timetable effective 29 October. According to the computer, the current schedules will continue, so that these trains will have the possibility of being on time.
The big question is why couldn't the schedule planners determined this with enough advanced time so that the timetable people could produce an accurate issue?
Train 437 will also remain on its current schedule, so please beware of printed timetable errors!

  by shadyjay
 
Sunday/Monday, the NB was only 30 minutes late into Waterbury - which makes me think that things are improving. 30 minutes is a lot better than 90 minutes late. I'd settle with constant 15-30 minute delays arriving NB, but anything more than that is unacceptable to the general public.

  by Jersey_Mike
 
During the time we had all through cars/trains on the Springfield trains, we had some pretty good ridership even with high Amtrak fares. But with the loss of through service, ridership will suffer especially when the connection is not guaranteed.
That whole thing with through cars to Springfield was completely retarded. It was somewhat manageable for northbound trains, but for S/B they had to have the two cars sit on the relay track for 20 min for the corridor train to arrive. The whole scheme played hell with connections and was always a hassle having to roust BOS riders from the SPG cars.

As a heavy user of that service I can tell you that the current accross-the-platform system at NHV was a welcome relief and is much more convenient than the old through cars.

Regarding changes to the Vermonter I can say that right now the NEC portion of the Vermonter is a snare for the unwary corridor traveler. It's short consist at popular travel times is disruptive and leads to unpleasantly crowded conditions, especially on weekends. I avoid that train like the plague and always regret choosing it on the rare occasions I do (although it has a shorter schedule time).

Replacing the Vermonter on the NEC with a full Regional would not necessarily be a bad idea, but Amtrak needs to handle the connection at NHV properly or it will be a huge bust. If they could guarantee connection times at NHV of under 15 minutes I wold day more power to them, but I know they can't. There will probably be at least 30 min of padding there and transiting between the NHV platform and station to wait is rather irritating (although the layover would allow for a nice lunch stop).

The other issue is capacity. The Vermonter is often sold out during popular Vermont tourist seasons, which can actually be most of the year as Vermont has stuff to offer in Fall, Winter and Summer. Are we going to see 6-car DMU sets? If Amtrak leveraged this with an increase in service, perhaps 2 round trips a day, I would definitely take the additional trio over a through train.
  by CVRA7
 
Jersey Mike, maybe you prefer changing trains at New Haven but I can tell you the majority would rather spend the extra 15-20 minutes sitting in their existing seats and not having to worry about handling baggage and finding seats together on the connecting train. Many of our passengers on this line are elderly or families, and get nervous seeing that the connecting time in New Haven is so close. I try to tell them "changing trains at New Haven makes for are shorter trip" and "the trains are scheduled to connect with each other" but some of them do not want to hear - they just want one seat service.
I have thought that Amtrak be innovative and try to schedule a run or two from Springfield-N Y-Albany and return, if they had enough dual-mode diesels in service to cover the runs. This would place the majority of the passengers on "thru trains" to and from NY, open up a new combination of routes, and provide a way to deadhead equipment to and from the Renssalaer shops.
The New Haven Railroad added and subtracted cars for years at New Haven without problems, in and out within 10 minutes including switching both ends of the train in some cases. Todays railroads simply do not have the will or knowledge to handle this type of operation, and now with the re-configuration of trackage at New Haven it would be difficult to do in anything close to an efficient manner.
The N Y to New Haven train crews were often criticized by the Springfield Line crews for not making a better effort to assign passengers to the correct cars.

  by Jersey_Mike
 
I can't believe that you are advocating that Amtrak have to pay more for car knockers at New Haven as well as the hassle of wyeing engines and/or trainsets at both SPG and NHV just so a handful of special needs passengers don't have to get off their duff for an across-the-platform transfer at New Haven.

Tailoring service to certain demographics like the elderly is what kills transit systems what can kill Amtrak. Reducing speed and convenience for "comfort" will loose you far more riders than you will gain. Rail is faster than a bus and more comfortable than a place. You slow things down too much by worthless piddling around breaking up trainsets then you will see more and more defections to the cheaper bus and the faster plane.

You say the elderly feel the two seat ride is less comfortable? Well less comfortable than what, driving into oncoming traffic in their cars or getting a blood clot from the economy airline seating? You said that people with bags find it more of a hassle? More of a hassle than waiting for their bags (often in vain) at the luggage claim and/or having security confiscate their hair and nail care products?

Amtrak is already winning in terms of comfort. It wins hands down and doesn't need to devote any extra resources to comfort. What Amtrak needs to do is increase speed and increase service frequency.

I was a frequent rider between MDN and points south between 1999 and 2005. In the days before the 400 series shuttles the service was just plain poor. Often it was easier to take a bus to NHV than to try to catch one of the inland trains at Meriden. When Gunn brought in the push-pull shuttle suddenly most of the corridor trains had a 400 shuttle connection because the trains could be turned faster and thus complete more round trips per day. Gunn also dropped fares on the shuttle to a much more reasonable level.

The result of this "decreased comfort" was something like a 50%+ ridership increase (you can look up the exact figure in the National Corridors archives). I heard that the crews *COUGH*COUGH* didn't much appreciate the quicker turnaround times, but I as a passenger sure appreciated the increased service and time savings at New Haven.

  by gprimr1
 
If it's across the platform then wouldn't it have to be guaranteed? I can' imagine they would want passengers standing around on the platform for a while and NHV can be horrible to get to since the station connects via underground tunnels.

If it's done the way the 400 series Springfield Shuttles are done, the problems should be minimal.

You also have to remember that while you might loose a few customers, with the 2 round trips and new equipment, you might gain more. After all, Acela proved people like shiny new trains that look different.

  by TomNelligan
 
gprimr1 wrote:If it's done the way the 400 series Springfield Shuttles are done, the problems should be minimal.
If it's done the way it's done in Europe, the problems should be minimal! But timekeeping to the second has never been big over here (although as a historical note, the New Haven RR did once list the station time of a few crack trains like the Merchant's Limited to the second in its employee timetables).

The issue is when the southbound DMU Vermonter is running, say, an hour late. Does Amtrak hold a whole trainfull of corridor passengers at New Haven to make the connection, or potentially make the late-running Vermont passengers wait another hour or more for the next "regional" consist?
  by CVRA7
 
My experience is that Amtrak will hold Shore Line trains for up to 45 min if the Springfield line connection is late, other than that it's onto the next available train, sometimes even an Acela so in that case the passengers make out OK except for their delay.
The change at New Haven was so beneficial to ridership that we lost two frequencies each way, so now it's down to 2 thru and 4 change each way on weekdays.
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