Trains For America

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Texas Eagle safe (maybe)

The Longview, Texas News Journal runs an excellent story on a visit by the president of Amtrak, Alex Kummant, who says HE won’t do anything to take away the route. Of course, after the discontinuance of the Sunset bad things might happen. Other dominos might fall.

I am being completely speculative. I am NOT saying that something is about to happen to the Sunset. I AM saying that bureaucrats do tend to excell in what I call “the artful telling of the truth.” Heck, if the Amtrak board says the Eagle must go, old Alex never told a lie. He did not do it.

Kummant promises to replace aging equipment. How will that be possible in the face of fierce opposition from the people who put him in his position? More equpment would mean a daily and coast-to-coast Sunset, Amtrak’s number one long distance priority.

Nonetheless, this is fiarly good news and God knows Dr. Pollard deserves a higher place in heaven for advancing the cause of sensible transportation.

Here are some highlights from the story.

Amtrak’s Texas Eagle passenger train is not in jeopardy.

During the 10th anniversary celebration of the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization on Saturday, Amtrak President Alex Kummant pledged that the future of the local railroad route was sound.

“I’m not going to do anything to take away that route,” he said.

Kummant was guest speaker for the event.

He joined other Amtrak personnel, representatives from freight railroad companies, association of railroad passengers, public officials and TEMPO members in Marshall at the city’s newly renovated Hotel Marshall.

TEMPO was initially formed in September 1997 after Amtrak representatives announced the Eagle would be discontinued. Starting at the grassroots level, the organization secured $5.6 million from then Gov. George Bush to help save the passenger line.

Through their efforts, the money was paid back to the state three months early, and 10 years later the Texas Eagle is still going.

Today, TEMPO’s role has expanded. Still a rail advocate, TEMPO provides input to Amtrak on marketing, operating and service-related issues for the Texas Eagle. Members represent cities along the route, Amtrak employees and rail advocacy groups. TEMPO also assists communities in their efforts to develop tourism through increased ridership.

“Amtrak has a lot of respect for this group and for the things the members have accomplished,” Kummant said. “There are other groups like this around the country, but yours is one of the best.”

A member of TEMPO’s Revenue Management Team, Griff Hubbard, said revenue and riders in the last few years were declining because of connectivity problems and delays.

“The Texas Eagle is the only long distance train that requires an overnight layover at the passenger’s personal expense when traveling to and from cities,” he said.

It was important, he noted, that Amtrak partner with freight railroads to facilitate a solution to rail station bottlenecks, which cause delays.

The Texas Eagle’s delay time can be anywhere from two to six hours, he said.

“We are doing OK, but when you look inside, there are weaknesses and trouble spots,” Hubbard said.

Kummant spoke about the company’s future, which includes the development of the corridor service.

“The Texas Eagle and other long distance trains will have a dual role as vital parts of national networks,” Kummant said. “The expeditious timely handling of passenger trains on freight lines is a key component of this vision.”

Kummant said the company planned to begin replacement of its aging fleet. On average, Amtrak cars are 22 years old.

“We run the wheels off our equipment,” he said.

At a banquet Saturday night, several groups and organizations were honored for their efforts and contributions to keep the Texas Eagle on the track.

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

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