Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

8,000 miles on Amtrak

We love those crazy kids in love.

Here is the story of some romantic honeymooners off to see America by rail. This is a multi-part series and it is lengthy. Probably worth a look over on the StreetsBlog. Here is a bit of what these neophytes discovered with absolutely no transportation background.

We took six Amtrak trains more or less through the entire length of their routes: The Lake Shore Limited, the Empire Builder, the Cascades, the Coast Starlight, the Sunset Limited and the Crescent. All of these trains left their departure stations on time to the minute. It wasn’t until we got moving that delays occured, and these were caused by chronic underinvestment in rail infrastructure that has left many lines with just a single track. The lines are owned by freight railroads, which Amtrak pays for the rights use. The freight railroads are in increasingly intense competition with one another for customers, and have a habit of having passenger trains wait at a siding while freight trains roll through. Despite this, the Empire Builder managed to travel 2,206 miles from Chicago to Seattle and still arrive 38 minutes ahead of schedule. If our national government invested in rail improvements just a fraction of the billions of dollars it spends annually on highway maintenance and widening, Amtrak would run on time and more people would ride it.


Filed under: Amtrak

Some intelligent transportation discussion in Georgia

The Athens Banner-Herald has a fine opinion piece about starting rail service between Atlanta and Athens. It includes plenty of background information.

First, as intermodal transportation committee Chairman Larry Walker, a former state legislator, noted after Wednesday’s committee meeting, it’s past time for the DOT to take a look at alternatives to road construction and expansion projects as a means of coping with transportation gridlock in the state.

“… (I)n my opinion, if we don’t do something positive … I think people are going to say it’s the same ol’ DOT, lost in the ’50s, building highways and that’s all they know,” Walker said Wednesday, a day before the full DOT board took his committee’s advice to look into an Athens-Atlanta line, according to a Morris News Service report.

The second political reality recognized by the DOT board in its Thursday decision is that there is a reason to move slowly toward implementing an Athens-Atlanta commuter rail line. Extending a line from Atlanta to Tucker as a first step is a fiscally prudent approach, one that could soften legislative concerns about the estimated $400 million price tag for an Athens-Atlanta line. As Walker pointed out Wednesday, according to an Associated Press report, if an Atlanta-Tucker line isn’t successful, “at least we won’t bankrupt the state.”

Here’s the clincher. The Athens Banner-Herald does something seldom heard of in transportation discussions. It takes an adult reasonable approach. You might even call it fiscally conservative.

It’s not unreasonable to suspect that legislators might find the costs associated with commuter rail at least palatable in comparison with roadwork. Consider, for instance, that the cost of the interchange project at Georgia Highway 316 and Interstate 85 – the prime traffic arteries between Athens and Atlanta – is $147 million, and that millions more would be required to smooth traffic flow along Ga. 316 by building interstate-style interchanges to replace the numerous at-grade crossings along the route. Given those numbers, a $400 million initial outlay for commuter rail becomes somewhat more reasonable.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Siemens to supply 37 trains to Porterbrook

When is the last time Amtrak purchased new rolling stock of any sort?

Here is the latest development on new fast trains in England.

oint press release by Siemens, Porterbrook and Govia

worth more than €240 million
End customer behind the order is the rail operator Govia

Erlangen, Germany – Porterbrook, one of the biggest companies on the British rail leasing market, has just placed an order with the Siemens Transportation Systems Group (TS) for 37 Class 350 Desiro electric multiple units. Porterbrook will lease these EMUs to the rail operator Govia, who was recently awarded the West Midlands franchise. The total order is worth over €240 million. The new vehicles will operate at speeds up to 160 km/h on the London to Birmingham route, the busy West Coast Main Line.

The Porterbrook order underscores the strong position held by Siemens TS in Great Britain and marks yet another success for the Desiro UK regional train platform, raising the number of these platform-based multiple units to more than 300. Delivery of the new Desiro trains is scheduled to start in October 2008. The 4-car units are to be built at the Siemens plant in Krefeld.

Hans M. Schabert, president of Siemens Transportation Systems, described the joint effort with Porterbrook and Govia “as an excellent basis to once again put the proven reliability of our Desiro trains to the test.” And he emphasized: “We are pleased to be able to offer the operators and passengers of the strategically important West Midlands franchise multiple-unit trains that combine economic efficiency and riding comfort to a high degree.”

Paul Francis, managing director of Porterbrook, said: “With this contract we have the opportunity to work with another proven manufacturer in Siemens to deliver a high quality train to enhance the traveling experience for the passengers of our associate Govia.”

Tom Smith, Managing Director Rail Development, said: “We are looking forward to taking delivery of these new trains. They will transform the traveling experience of passengers using the longer-distance routes on the new London Midland franchise and play a key part in enabling us to meet our targets for continuous improvement in punctuality and reliability.”

Rail Minister Tom Harris said: “Delivering new rolling stock was a key element of the new West Midlands franchise and I’m sure these new Desiros will prove very popular with passengers. The other benefit of this agreement is that it will free up existing rolling stock so that we can employ it elsewhere on the network, thereby boosting capacity across the country.”

The Transportation Systems Group (TS) of Siemens AG is one of the leading international suppliers to the railways industry. As single-source supplier and system integrator, the Group combines in its business segments Automation & Power, Rolling Stock, Turnkey Systems and Integrated Services all the expertise necessary to cover the spectrum from signaling and control systems to traction power supplies, as well as rolling stock for mass transit, regional and main line services. Extensive experience in project management and forward-looking service concepts complement our portfolio. In fiscal 2006 (ended September 30), TS generated sales of around €4.5 billion, according to U.S. GAAP, with around 18,800 employees worldwide. As part of Siemens in the UK, Siemens Transportation Systems employs around 1,000 people in the UK and firmly established itself as a reliable partner for the British railway companies. Further information on TS can be found at

Porterbrook Leasing Company Limited is a leading player in the rail leasing market. Porterbrook has a rolling stock fleet of over 5,500 vehicles on lease or on order, which includes about 4,000 passenger vehicles. These are supplied under operating leases to 17 of the 21 Train Operating Companies (TOCs) within the UK. The company also provides ongoing train maintenance services. Porterbrook has been highly successful in winning new train orders since privatization, investing in over 1,500 new passenger vehicles and over 1,200 new freight locomotives and wagons, and in the refurbishment of much of its in-fleet equipment. In April 2000, the Porterbrook group of companies was acquired by Abbey National (“Abbey”). Further information on Porterbrook is available at

Govia is a joint venture between the Go-Ahead Group (65%) and Keolis (35%) and operator of the Southern and Southeastern rail franchises. Govia was awarded the new West Midlands rail franchise by the Department for Transport in June. It will operate the business as London Midland from November 11. Further information on Govia is available at and

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Willington – Raleigh corridor gets boost

The North Carolina DOT has put $7 million into the state budget for “freight operations streamlining” that could have a positive effect on passenger travel. The Star-News of Raleigh reports.

If a short but controversial rail link is built in Pembroke – about 90 miles west of Wilmington – the N.C. State Ports would likely see more military trains from Fort Bragg and goods landed at the proposed N.C. international port near Southport would get quicker access to northeastern markets. The link might be key to the re-establishment of passenger rail service to Wilmington, with trains passing through Pembroke on their way to Raleigh.

Today in Pembroke, two rail lines cross at the center of town. And, street traffic is held up every 26 minutes throughout the day as trains pass through.

The proposed link, similar in shape and length to a highway off-ramp, would allow southbound traffic on a major north-south line to travel directly east toward Wilmington. A DOT estimate says it would shunt six trains a day away from Pembroke’s brick-fronted downtown.

Filed under: Uncategorized

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