The report is 78 pages. It is comprehensive and explores the three options previously reported; a stand alone daily train, a continuation of the “City” from Chicago, and a three times weekly extension of the existing Sunset. Here is a link to the Report which contains exhaustive operational notes, financial analysis, and proposed schedules.
Unlike some who rise to criticize this report before the ink is dry, I have attempted to take a measured approach. The report is a study in the complexities of passenger railroad operations. Some observations:
- Restoring each of the 13 “suspended” stops is presumed but not necessarily required.
- $10 million in station costs, including $3 million in Sanford, Fla. How close is that to Orlando?
- The option extending the “City” produces significantly more revenue and better “numbers” overall.
- The daily “stand alone” option produces less revenue than extending the present Sunset consist.
- $20 million for Positive Train Control and CSX wants increased “capacity”" for daily operation. CSX is clearly getting ready for negotiating by stating the firmest position.
- The Sunset gets “murdered” in total travel time New Orleans-Orlando, 18.5 hours. Not a surprise.
- 20 month lead time to extend the Sunset and 4 years on a stand alone train or extending the “City.”
- The option exists not to restore service.
- New stations are necessary at Mobile and Sanford. You can argue about Sanford, but the Mobile case is obvious and the solution is unclear. Report estimates 20 months needed for planning and construction.
- 13 options were originally considered.
- Schedules for restored Sunset three times weekly look pretty good. Four hours dwell in NO eastbound, 2.5 hours westbound. If only there were sufficient equipment to operate this schedule daily, life would be good.
- The schedule for extending the “City” is also good with reasonable times in Pensacola.
This report recognizes some hard realities, including the scarcity of available rolling stock and the potential availability of capital. In plain English, it is not very subtly suggested that restoring this service may have the effect of reducing service elsewhere.
It is unclear how any of the three options interface with upgrades of the Sunset west of New Orleans. It is also clear that the running time east of New Orleans, 18.5 hours, is a detriment, which is mitigated by overnight operation. I also think it is probably proven that Orlando must be the east terminal.
Finally, and I could be wrong but, this does not look to me like a case of Amtrak foot-dragging of an opposition to long haul trains. It is, however, a realistic assessment of existing difficulties.