Amtrak 'Cascades' schedules adjusted again

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An Amtrak Cascades trainset at Amtrak’s Seattle Maintenance Facility in 2013.
Bob Johnston
SEATTLE — Fewer passenger trainsets means Amtrak will operate fewer trains in the Pacific Northwest for the foreseeable future.

Two additional round-trips between Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., that were to begin Dec. 18, 2017, have been withdrawn in the wake of the derailment that day of train no. 501 south of Tacoma, Wash., on the route that was supposed to facilitate the frequency increases.

Because the Talgo trainset involved in the accident was destroyed and another is being repaired after a July derailment, only five sets are now available to regularly rotate through the Seattle Maintenance Facility.

“Talgo is currently evaluating damage (from the July accident) to Series 8 trainset Mt. Jefferson and will provide a schedule for placement back into revenue service once the evaluation is completed," says Washington Department of Transportation spokeswoman Janet Matkin.

She says that even after this trainset returns, capacity constraints on the BNSF Railway-owned route between Tacoma and the junction with the new line at Nisqually, Wash., will preclude any round-trip increases until positive train control is implemented and certified operational by the Federal Railroad Administration on the Point Defiance Bypass.

The new schedules, which became effective on Jan. 2, replace an interim plan that kept the Dec. 18 scenario intact but relied on substitute Amfleet cars in place of normally assigned Talgo trainsets on some trains to and from Eugene, Ore. Passengers at Portland had to change to the replacement equipment, which did not offer business class or food service. Amtrak Superliners will continue to substitute for Talgos on the round-trip departing Seattle for Vancouver, British Columbia, each morning and returning the same evening.

On the new schedule, Amtrak Cascades trains that had been set to depart Seattle at 6 and 8:40 a.m., will be replaced with a single rescheduled train no. 501 at 7:25 a.m. Amtrak has dropped the 7:45 p.m. departure for Portland.

Northbound, an early morning train to Seattle is also cancelled, but now a four-hour afternoon rush gap occurs between the 3:20 and 7:25 p.m. trains, only filled at irregular times each day by the Coast Starlight, which is often delayed in its all-day and overnight trip from Los Angeles.

Schedules roughly mimic those in place prior to Dec. 18, except they have been shortened by about 10 minutes into Seattle and Portland. Overall travel times are about 10 minutes slower than what had been projected on the route where the accident occurred.
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