AMTK/MBTA/MNR: CSX PAR Lines Passenger Strategy Details

Capital investments that CSXT will make in the currently under-resourced PAR System will contribute to service reliability of all Amtrak routes

Key points of the Verified Statement of Mr. Andy Daly, CSX Senior Director of Passenger Operations, edited from the CSX Amended and Supplemented Application:

Springfield MA and North
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“[The] Proposed Transaction and the Related Transactions will not produce significant changes to the existing routes, patterns, or types of service for the PAR System, PAS, or CSXT, or redirect existing traffic over those systems [including Amtrak, MBTA, and MTA services //except for // minor traffic shifts on the PAS “Northern Route” between Rotterdam Junction NY and Ayer MA, and the CSX “Southern Route” between Voorheesville NY and Ayer MA … relating to the NSR Settlement Agreement]. // [These changes should have no effect on MBTA commuter rail operations on the Northern Route hosting, or on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited service running on the Southern Route.]

Springfield MA and South
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“Implementation of this deferred maintenance and delayed capital improvements will lead to increased reliability and fluidity, resulting in service improvements and operating economies across the PAR System.

“All rail users, including passenger services, will further benefit from CSXT’s experience with installing and operating positive train control.

“[The CSX Passenger Operations team is dedicated to close coordination with passenger operation in several ways that are not currently practiced on PAR System lines:]

  • Proactively works with dispatchers [ensuring] that passenger trains remain on schedule and [receive] the required preference. [The] team also:
  • Performs “check ride” [operational performance and safety assessments].
  • Holds regular calls with passenger agencies to review performance, evaluate root cause data against agreed upon performance goals and identify operational efficiencies, capital investments, and/or policies and practices that address the identified operational issues.
  • Works extensively with passenger agencies on station projects, including State of Good Repair, and bringing facilities into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Works with CSX Engineering to address slow orders, coordinate maintenance or construction on passenger routes

Amtrak

CSX Main line (B&A)

“[Capital investments that CSXT will make in the currently under-resourced PAR System will contribute to service reliability of all Amtrak routes on the PAR System.]

“Should customer on-time performance drop below 80% for two consecutive quarters for any of these Amtrak services, CSXT could be subject to an STB investigation under 49 U.S.C. 24308(f). Additionally, CSXT’s Amtrak performance levels have in the last several years hit historic highs. In 2020, CSXT achieved a 93.6% contract OTP performance vs. 92.4% in 2019.”

Downeaster

“[Downeaster] service runs between Boston North Station and Brunswick, ME (currently 10 daily trains, 5 southbound and 5 northbound). MBTA owns and maintains the line between Boston and the MA/NH State line. PAR subsidiaries own and maintain the line between the MA/NH line to Brunswick ME. The State of Maine owns approximately one mile of the line leading into Brunswick Station in Brunswick, ME. MBTA dispatches the segment from Boston to CPF LJ; PAR/ST dispatches Amtrak trains from and including CPF LJ (near Lowell Jct) to Brunswick ME.

“[The Downeaster will see major benefits from CSX’s capital investment plans] and the more efficient scheduled operations of the PAR System… . CSXT plans to restore the PAR System mainline track conditions from FRA Class 1 to FRA Class 2 track standards [and] to systematically upgrade the remaining PAR System freight mainline … based on rail testing data, tonnage, and CSXT’s standards.

“[The] settlement agreement between the State of Maine and and CSX agrees] to work cooperatively to complete two of the federal infrastructure grants [along] PAR System line segments in Maine, and to work together on future projects to increase capacity, enhance safety, and promote efficient railroad operations.

“CSXT and the have also engaged in positive discussions regarding, which CSXT is hopeful [of soon reaching] a settlement agreement with Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (“NNEPRA”) … CSXT is prepared to commit to NNEPRA to comply with all current agreements between the PAR Railroads, Amtrak, and NNEPRA that pertain to the Downeaster service, and CSXT will [discuss] improvement or expansion of the Downeaster service. In particular, CSXT would continue to advance the Wells Area improvement Project … and abide by the commitments of the PAR Railroads in the Annual Work Agreement with NNEPRA. Additionally, CSXT is prepared to … support NNEPRA’s planned relocation of the Portland Station Downeaster stop, and to … evaluate a potential station stop at West Falmouth.

Ethan Allen/Adirondack Service

“Amtrak operates the Ethan Allen Express service between New York City and Rutland VT, and the Adirondack Service between New York City and Montreal PQ. For each service, Amtrak operates 1 daily roundtrip (total of 4 trains), which travel on approximately 4.6 miles of rail line owned by Canadian Pacific between Schenectady NY at CPF 485 and Glenville NY at CPF 480, over which PAS has trackage rights in order to access Canadian Pacific’s Mohawk Yard.”

Lake Shore Limited

“Amtrak operates one of the legs of the Lake Shore Limited service between Boston, MA and Chicago, IL. As relevant to this proceeding, the Lake Shore Limited service runs over the CSXT Boston Subdivision (CP 45 at Worcester, MA to Ludlow, MA, east of Springfield, MA), the CSXT Berkshire Subdivision (Ludlow, MA to CP 187 east of Albany), and the CSXT Mohawk  Subdivision (Hoffmans, NY to Oneida, NY), each described in further detail in the Operating Plan. As of June 22, 2021, Amtrak operates two daily trains, one eastbound and one westbound.

“The traffic shifts on the “Southern Route” described above will not negatively affect Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited service. As relevant to the Lake Shore Limited service, there will be an increase of one NSR intermodal/automotive train pair per day on the portion of the CSXT line between CP 187, east of Albany, NY, and Worcester, MA. As detailed in Attachment 3 to Exhibit 4-A to the Amended and Supplemented Application, the gross-ton miles per year on this portion of the route will increase by 8% to 15%, depending on the line segment.”

Knowledge Corridor
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Knowledge Corridor

“The PAS Knowledge Corridor extends between milepost 183.4 at White River Junction, VT and milepost 0.0 at New Haven, CT, a distance of approximately 183.4 miles. Amtrak operates the Vermonter service between Washington, DC and St. Albans, VT. This service includes the Knowledge Corridor between New Haven, CT and White River Junction, VT, over which PAS has operating rights. The line between New Haven, CT and Springfield, MA is owned, maintained, and dispatched by Amtrak, while the segment between Springfield, MA and East Northfield, MA is owned by MassDOT and dispatched and maintained by PAS/ST.

Valley Flyer and related services

“Amtrak operates the Valley Flyer service between New Haven CT and Greenfield MA, on the same Knowledge Corridor lines described above. Amtrak previously operated 4 round-trip trains per day. Amtrak currently operates a reduced schedule for the Valley Flyer with 2 daily trains (1 southbound and 1 northbound) between New Haven, CT and Greenfield, MA.

“[Also on the Knowledge Corridor,] Amtrak operates passenger service between Springfield MA and New Haven CT (8 daily trains; 4 northbound and 4 southbound; Fridays 5 northbound) on this line. The Connecticut Department of Transportation, in conjunction with CTrail and Amtrak, operates commuter service between Springfield MA (or Hartford CT) and New Haven CT, over the same PAS Knowledge Corridor lines described above. CTrail operates (12 daily commuter trains; 6 northbound and 6 southbound).

“The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NY), through its operating agency Metro-North Railroad, operates commuter service between Waterbury CT and Bridgeport CT. This service includes operation over lines that PAS also operates over using a perpetual freight easement between Waterbury and Derby CT. The line between Waterbury and Bridgeport CT is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and maintained and dispatched by Metro-North Railroad. As of June 22, 2021, all trains on the Waterbury Branch have been suspended so that Metro-North Railroad can complete essential infrastructure work.

“[As PAS operator] B&E will [ensure] that any maintenance needs are fulfilled. If B&E is unable to complete any required maintenance, B&E will ensure that such maintenance is completed by a third-party contractor. [PAS co-owners] CSX and NSR reserve] the right to perform capital maintenance work.

“The CSX Main Line and Knowledge Corridor intersect only at CP 98 (mile post QB 98.5) in Springfield MA, [which is] controlled by a CSXT train dispatcher. [Dispatcher control of the at-grade diamond crossing will allow CSXT to … prioritize passenger train movements at this intersection. CSXT has successfully established dispatch preview screens to minimize delays to certain lines that connect with tracks that are controlled by other carriers … [and will install]  dispatch preview screens of the line crossing CSXT’s tracks at grade in Springfield [where possible]. With the preview screens, CSXT dispatchers will be aware of the passenger trains operating on the Knowledge Corridor approaching CSXT line in Springfield, allowing the CSXT dispatchers to more efficiently coordinate train movements and minimize possible passenger train delays.

“The proposed NSR train pair can be scheduled to operate at a time when no Amtrak trains are scheduled to run over the Knowledge Corridor.

MBTA

As described above, MBTA operates the Fitchburg Line commuter service on the eastwest PAS Patriot Corridor. The traffic shift described above will result in a decrease of one train pair per day on this route, with gross ton-miles per year reduced by 27% to 48%, depending on the line segment. This will reduce freight activity at the following MBTA train stations on this route: Wachusett, Fitchburg, North Leominster, Shirley, and Ayer. Additionally, the Canadian Pacific line segment described above that hosts Amtrak Adirondack service and Ethan Allen Express service will see a reduction of one train pair per day between Canadian Pacific’s Mohawk Yard and Mechanicville, NY.

MBTA Boston-Ayer-Haverhill
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Finally, the improvements that CSXT has committed to make to the Ayer Yard – described fully in the Operating Plan – will reduce create operational efficiencies and improve MBTA commuter service at that location. In particular, the addition of power-assisted switches on hand-throw electric lock universal cross-overs will enable intermodal trains running on the PAS Patriot Corridor to make head-end moves into Ayer Yard, rather than pulling past the east wye and making back-up moves through the Ayer MBTA passenger station.

CSXT commits to continuing to route traffic from the existing CSXT network onto the existing PAR network through Barbers Station and Ayer, rather than using the Grand Junction Branch. If CSXT sees the need in the future to consistently operate using the Grand Junction Branch from Worcester and Framingham, which CSXT does not currently foresee, CSXT is committed to working cooperatively with MBTA to implement capital improvements to accommodate any changes in CSXT freight service.

Dispatching operations of MBTA and MassDOT passenger trains will continue to be located in North Billerica MA (PAR Global HQ – Ed.) for the foreseeable future.

PTC

“CSXT has been a leader in the development, testing, and implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) systems since 1998, [and has been a] contributor to the Interoperable Train Control (ITC) consortium … . // CSXT typically runs 800 – 1,000 trains covering over 130,000 miles with PTC each day.

“Following the transaction, CSXT plans to install PTC on the PAR System line segment north of the MA/NH State line to Brunswick ME, which hosts the Amtrak Downeaster service. CSXT will commit to NNEPRA to work with Amtrak and NNEPRA on coordinating installation of PTC, and – once PTC is fully operational – cooperating with any effort to increase maximum allowable speeds for Downeaster trains and increasing Downeaster service frequencies.

“CSXT continues to [add] PTC enhancements to improve safety and reliability of railroad operations. CSXT will utilize its PTC expertise in integrating with the PAR System to ensure both that PTC is installed as required by law and that it runs efficiently and effectively.”