Digest: Point Defiance Bypass service to resume in spring or summer 2021

News Wire Digest fourth section for Dec. 4: SMART gets approval to take over Northwestern Pacific; Vancouver transit agency hit by ransomware attack
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An Amtrak Cascades train passes the connection to the Point Defiance Bypass in Tacoma, Wash., on June 19, 2018. The bypass could reopen in spring or summer 2021.
TRAINS: David Lassen

Friday late morning rail news:

Washington's Point Defiance Bypass likely to reopen in spring or summer 2021

The Washington State Department of Transportation projects Amtrak train service will return to the Point Defiance Bypass in spring or summer 2021. The website Urbanist, reporting on an online presentation by WSDOT Operations Program Manager Jason Biggs, says Amtrak will begin testing and crew training on the bypass in early 2021. Sound Transit, owner of the inland route that will move trains off the longer BNSF line along Puget Sound, is treating the resumption of service as a new start, subjecting operation of the line to a rigorous set of criteria. Still to be determined is equipment to be used when Amtrak Cascades service is fully revived, to replace the Talgo Series 6 trainsets retired by WSDOT. Amtrak has offered two options: leased Series 8 trainsets — those originally built for Wisconsin but never put in service — or conventional Amtrak equipment. The route has now been closed for almost three years, since a fatal Amtrak derailment involving the first train to use the bypass in December 2017 [see “Washington closes Point Defiance route to passengers pending PTC installation,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 22, 2017].

SMART gets approval to take over Northwestern Pacific operations
The California Transportation Commission has approved Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s takeover of the freight service that shares its route. The Marin Independent Journal reports the commission voted unanimously on Thursday to approve SMART’s assumption of freight-hauling responsibilities from Northwestern Pacific, as well as 21 miles of rail line between Healdsburg, Calif., and the Mendocino-Sonoma County line. The decision gives SMART access to $4 million in state funds to buy locomotives, other equipment, and operating rights from Northwestern Pacific. Federal approval is among other requirements that still must be met. The move will give SMART full control of its right-of-way and leave the agency to decide whether to operate the freight service itself or find a contract operator [see “Digest: Bay Area’s SMART may buy Northwestern Pacific …,” Trains News Wire, May 20, 2020].

Vancouver's TransLink hit by ransomware attack
The “unusual network activity” reported earlier this week by TransLink, the transit agency for Vancouver, British Columbia, is a ransomware attack. Global News reports the agency received a letter threatening publication of data and other damage that would cost “hundreds of millions” of dollars to repair unless the agency pays a ransom to the hackers responsible. The message does not specify a ransom amount. Among the systems involved are TransLink’s payroll system, which could affect today’s scheduled payday for employees. TransLink first reported the issue Tuesday; some services have been offline since [see “Digest: Preliminary investigation of DC Metro separation …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 2, 2020].

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