Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Saudis like HSR for pilgrimages

Of course, this had to happen. No surprise. For all the details, check out Khaleej Times Online.

The Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) has issued the Request for Technical Proposals (RFTP) for the Makkah-Madinah Rail Link (MMRL) project to the six short-listed companies, according to Abdul Aziz Al Hokail, president of SRO. “The RFTP has been issued to the six consortiums of Saudi Binladen, Al Rajhi (MADA), Saudi Oger, Saudi Japanese, Al Shola MMRL and OHL,” he said in a statement issued last week.

The railway project contract will also include the construction of passenger stations in the Holy City of Makkah, Jeddah Airport, Jeddah City and the Holy City of Madinah.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

The cure for air traffic congestion

The online edition of the New York Times carries seven letters from readers with some remarkable sensible thoughts on transportation. But, wait! Ordinary folks must not be allowed to make transportation decisions. That is only for the high and mighty airline and highway interests.

Anyway, here is the link, and a few highlights.

For example, numbers gleaned from the Port Authority’s “2006 Airport Traffic Report” for greater New York indicate that nearly 20 percent of domestic flights from the three major airports fly to the 17 most traveled airports within 350 miles. This significant share does not even include the numerous commuter flights to and from lesser, nearby centers, travel that requires nearly as much airspace as is used by the larger planes.

Even at only 150 miles per hour, a 350-mile railroad journey would take less time from door to door than an airplane ride, with greatly reduced stress, delay and cancellation. And let’s not forget the comparative carbon footprint.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

German railway fears toilet crisis

Fortunately, nothing like this could ever happen on Amtrak. EarthTimes.org filed the report.

Berlin – A smoking ban that began Saturday on trains operated by Germany’s main railway company, Deutsche Bahn, may trigger a crisis, with toilets constantly occupied by surreptitious smokers, a passenger lobby warned Saturday. Karl-Peter Naumann, chairman of Pro Bahn, said he was disappointed the company had not built powerfully ventilated “cells” on the express trains where smokers could resort when desperate for a puff.

“Heavy smokers will head for the toilets,” he said in an interview. “That is what happened when the smoking cars were abolished (on July 1) on regional trains. You have to accept that. It’s a fact whether you like it or not.”Deutsche Bahn, which voluntarily banned smoking, has set up smoking zones on 330 of its biggest stations, comprising sections of platform marked off by yellow lines.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Sunset difficulties at San Antonio

It is not our purpose at TFA to defend Amtrak under all circumstances, nor is it our job to condemn all negative press accounts. It is very true that reporters generally know very little about railroads and are under a lot of pressure to get more than one story done before a deadline. When you add in the seeming step-child status of the Sunset Ltd., there is a strong possibility to get things wrong.

By the time one group of inconvenienced passengers left San Antonio, their train was so far behind that it was not even on the right day of the week. I may a well admit that I was confused at first, so it is little wonder that Clear Channel flagship station WOAI TV had a few problems with the story.

News 4 WOAI’s Demond Fernandez spoke to those passengers about the delay.

“We’ve been over here for 12 hours already, going on 16 hours, now we got to wait,” said one passenger that waited while Amtrak tried to fix the problems.

“If you’re just sitting in one spot for 16 hours, that’s hard on anybody,” added Floyd, another passenger.

The travelers were stuck with no place to go.

“They broke the train apart. There is no dining car on the train. The toilets are overflowing,” said Anthony Verlec, on his way to Los Angeles.

“I’m missing a day of my reunion because I’m getting there late and I’m real unhappy about it,” said Ella Whitmore. She was on her way to Arizona.

Many of the riders said Amtrak was not giving any clear answers on when they would get back on track.

According to an Amtrak spokesman, the delay all started in Shrivner, Louisiana. That’s where the city had to evacuate because of a natural gas leak.

The spokesman says that leak set the train schedule back 12 hours. To top that, a passenger died of natural causes on a connector heading to pick up these people.

“The thing is there are no contingency plans. Only thing they tell us to do is wait,” said Verlec.

The people we talked to were heading to cities all over the country. Amtrak’s spokesman said the company regrets the delay.

He says they tried accommodating the passengers by offering them two complimentary meals.

(Deep breath)

The “stranded” passengers were not on the eastbound Sunset, but on the southbound Eagle from Chicago, St. Louis, and Fort Worth. Their cars would have immediately continued west on the Sunset to California had that train been on time, but the incidents in Louisiana caused the tremendous delay.

I feel very sure that Amtrak might have handled this better, although one should remember that the rail service is operating with not enough employees or equipment. Blame Congress and the various administrations which have starved this company since day one in 1952 1971.

According to my top secret source, “Deep Throttle,” taxis took the folks to a nearby Denny’s for breakfast on Amtrak. Later, a charter bus took them to a restaurant, again on Amtrak. I am reliably informed that some of the people waiting for the very late Sunset actually walked to nearby attractions.

Apparently, some unhappy passenger made a media call from the train once they were again underway Amtrak’s response was probably insufficient.

It’s hard to organize a full-scale witch hunt knowing that Amtrak employees are already overworked and demoralized. The minimal netowrk of long distance trains, especially the three times a week Sunset, is woefully under funded.

Amtrak management should develoop contingency plans. Congress should develop a realistic budget that includes, stations, track work, signalization, and employees on both the northeast corridor and the other 40 states.

Filed under: Amtrak, Travel Woes

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