UPDATED: New Amtrak guidelines add details on private-car, special-train moves

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Two private cars bring up the rear on the westbound California Zephyr at Hinsdale, Ill, on June 24, 2016.
TRAINS: David Lassen

WASHINGTON — New Amtrak guidelines on special trains and private cars issued Wednesday provide a few exceptions from its original plan — to only allow private car moves between a train’s originating and terminating point — but will largely eliminate such moves at intermediate spots along Amtrak routes.

Amtrak originally revealed new limitations on these services in a March 28 memo to employees, saying its primary objective is to operate its core, scheduled service safely, punctually, and efficiently.

Under the guidelines issued April 18, Amtrak will only accommodate private cars moves at terminals where trains originate or terminate, or at facilities with sufficient dwell time to accommodate the time needed to switch private cars. The latter group of cities includes such locations as Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver; Houston; Kansas City; and St. Paul, Minn.

In all, the list includes 40 locations eligible for private-car moves. (The complete list is available here.) For those with cars currently located at stops not on the list, such as Huntington, W.Va., the railroad says it will work with private car owners on a one-time, one-way relocation move via Amtrak to a terminal or yard where private cars will still be permitted to operate.

Also, all private car moves will now require case-by-case written approval by Amtrak.

The guidelines also indicate Amtrak will limit maintenance service for private-car owners to FRA-required repairs of safety appliances as necessary on private cars in the consist of Amtrak trains. Amtrak will no longer allow private-car owners to pay Amtrak’s maintenance services for preventative maintenance and general repair services. Previously, Amtrak mechanical forces would repair privately owned cars and bill their owners.

Wednesday’s memo also clarified Amtrak’s restrictions on special-train operations.

Charter trains must operate on existing Amtrak routes. One-time trips — a special or charter that isn’t already established in the Amtrak system — will no longer be accommodated.

For instance, the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society could continue to run its New River Train excursion because it is an established train and operates on an Amtrak route.

Even so, additional restrictions could make it difficult for established special trains to continue. Charter trains proposing to use Amtrak locomotives, equipment, and personnel are subject to the availability of those resources and must not impact regularly scheduled operations. In addition, Amtrak says charter trains must generate sufficient financial benefit for Amtrak to justify the resources and assets.

Amtrak did not elaborate on how it calculates the financial benefits for such operations.

Similar to private car moves, Amtrak-operated special trains are subject to a final written agreement signed by Amtrak and the customer.

Trains News Wire will continue to follow this developing story.

— Updated 11:25 a.m. CDT to fix link.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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