Digest: Kansas proposes two-person crew requirement

News Wire Digest for July 30: Caltrain survey shows most riders will return; Reading & Northern steam engine to power first trains from Jim Thorpe
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Thursday morning rail news:

Kansas DOT proposes two-person crew requirement

The Kansas Department of Transportation has proposed requiring two-person crews for trains operating in the state. The regulation proposed earlier this week would require two people in the cab of a train’s lead locomotive, with exceptions for switching, brake tests, safety inspections, and setouts. In an announcement of the proposal, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, said, ““Kansas has faced issues ranging from crew member fatigue to derailments which pose a threat to our safety and security – but by maintaining the current practice of requiring a two-person crew we can ensure the health and safety of Kansas workers.” The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union Transportation Division (SMART-TD) said the proposal follows more than a decade of work by its Kansas state legislative director, Ty Dragoo, who called its introduction “the proudest day of my career.” If the regulation is approved, Kansas would become at least the eighth state with a two-person crew requirement. The surface transportation legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month would mandate two-person crews for most freight trains nationwide [see “House committee releases new five-year transportation legislation,” Trains News Wire, June 3, 2020, and “Amtrak to restore one …,” News Wire Digest, July 2, 2020], but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called that legislation dead on arrival.

Caltrain survey shows most rider will return after pandemic
A survey released this week by San Francisco Bay Area commuter railroad Caltrain says most riders plan to return after the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 55% of those surveyed say they anticipate riding the train as much or more as they did before the pandemic, while just 1% say they won’t return at all. The majority of those who are currently riding less say they are now telecommuting for work; almost half of respondents (45%) say they don’t know when they will start riding more often or at all, while just 37% said they anticipated using the train more sometime this year. The complete results are available here. The results are among those from several surveys by Caltrain that provide a look at ridership. The system, in dire financial straits, is hoping to ask voters for a sales tax to provide dedicated funding, but the proposed ballot measure is currently the subject of infighting among the three counties served by the system [see “Digest: San Francisco Oks amended version of Caltrain measure …,” July 29, 2020].

Reading & Northern steam engine to pull first trains of revived Jim Thorpe trains
The Reading & Northern says it will use its steam locomotive, 4-6-2 No. 425, as power for the first weekend when it revives its Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway service from Jim Thorpe, Pa., as of Aug. 14. The locomotive, built by Baldwin in 1982 for the Gulf, Mobile & Northern, was purchased by the Reading & Northern in 1984 and returned to service in 2007. Details on the passenger operations and tickets are available here. The railroad’s return to Jim Thorpe was announced earlier this week following a protracted battle stemming from disagreement over the borough’s amusement tax [see “Digest: Metra to add trains …,” July 27, 2020].

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