Amtrak's Vermonter was 100% on time in March of 2012!! Given murphy's law, that's pretty amazing! The Ethan Allen did well too, at 85.5% on-time. Averaged together, Amtrak trains in Vermont were 92.7% on-time. The 12 month average for the Vermonter is 95.6%, which is pretty darn good.
This is big. Worth a celebration! (Worth a ride!)
On-time performance tops everything. We'd like a faster train. We'd like more frequent trains. We'd like trains to Montreal and up the Western Corridor to Burlington. But The only thing worse than a slow train is a late train! We'd rather get there on the advertised.
This is not just me talking. When the New England Central Railroad improved dispatching and track and the Vermonter started running on-time ridership started climbing and climbing and was up 30% over three years. Now that the Vermont Rail System has improved the track of the Ethan Allen, ridership on that train has started climbing as well (up 9.9% in March). (In Vermont as in most of the country, Amtrak operates as a tennent over railroads that are maintained and dispatched by freight railroads).
This achievement did not happen by accident. It reflects the recent investment in track on both routes -- and the commitment of both of Vermont's freight railroads, the Agency of Transportation and Amtrak. And thank you to the conductors and engineers who keep everything moving on-time every day!
The Vermonter is benefiting from the track work funded by stimulus funds. Seventy five percent of the project in Vermont was done last summer; work on finishing the rest is now underway. When it's done, and after a visit from the track geometry car (measuring to make sure everything is aligned), then the speeds in Vermont will be increased in time for the fall timetable change which will see 27 minutes removed from the schedule within Vermont.
Fair warning: the work this summer will mean an up to 30 minute delay some days (less than half the time). When new ballast and ties have been installed it takes a few days for the track structure to settle and slow orders over those sections will be in place. Check the train status at amtrak.com or 1-800-USA-RAIL.
In Massachusetts we can look forward to the end of the Palmer backup move, probably in another year and a half (although last I heard the final agreement had not yet been signed). This will save an additional 25 minutes or more. Connecticut will be raising their portion of the route to 110 mph by 2016, saving more time.
The Ethan Allen is benefiting from $750,000 of investment by the Vermont Rail System into it's line to Rutland and grants by the state of New York as well. After the work was done, the Vermont Rail System went from worst to first in timekeeping (although the train still suffers a bit from congestion on the Canadian Pacific between Schenectady, Saratoga and Whitehall).
The Vermont Rail System was recently awarded the prestigious honor of "Shortline of the Year" by Railway Age Magazine, a 150 year old industry publication. The award recognizes the quick recovery from Irene and for the upgrade in performance with Amtrak. Railway Age's announcement is here:
Railway Age Managing Editor Douglas John Bowen wrote: "Vermont Railway also stands as testament to the idea of shared, proactive community involvement, in good times and in difficult moments"
VRAN awarded it's Jim Jeffords award to VRS President Dave Wulfson last October for the same reasons as well as recognizing both railroads for their Irene recovery with its Herb Ogden award.
The New England Central Railroad (which won "Shortline of the Year" itself in 1995) has snagged a two significant awards of it's own: The American Shortline Railway Association's President's Award for the best safety rate in it's class and the most number of hours worked without a reportable injury. The end of March marked 500 days without an injury. Besides being glad everybody got home OK (and what matters more?), we know that a safe railroad is typically a profitable railroad, which means being here for us in the future. We also know that an injury is a delay in the worst way.
[The fine print . . . Amtrak's definition of on-time gives them some wiggle room, so it's not *actually* 100%, just 100% under their reporting methodology. Regardless, it's an excellent achievement, one I've never seen elsewhere and I'll get into the details some other time.]
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Best, Christopher Parker, Vermont Rail Action Network Executive Director