Metroliner upgrade

Amtrak has started upgrading 90 loco-hauled Amfleet coaches in a bid to increase ridership on the Northeast Corridor Metroliner trains between Washington and New York. In the year to September 30 1996 the Metroliners carried 2 million passengers and earned $155·7m in revenue, 10% up on 1995.

Two refurbished seven-car sets were in use by the end of November, with further trains due to follow at three week intervals. Among the improvements are brighter halogen lighting and electrical sockets at every seat, allowing business travellers to use laptop computers. All carpeting, wallcoverings, ceilings and seat cushions are being replaced, and the catering cars are being freshened up.

The trains will remain in premium service until 1999, when they are due to be replaced by American Flyer tilting high speed trains. The refurbished vehicles will then be cascaded on to lower-fare Northeast Direct diagrams.

Greyhound accord

Amtrak has signed a marketing and ticketing agreement with inter-city coach operator Greyhound Lines Inc, following 25 years of often bitter competition. Since November 10 Amtrak and Greyhound have been offering through tickets, co-ordinated schedules and bus-train reservations on key routes.

As a first stage, more than 20 cities without direct rail service have been linked to the nearest Amtrak station. Elsewhere, Greyhound buses have been timed to provide service on Amtrak routes where the trains run less than daily, such as Chicago - Indianapolis - Cincinnati.

Amtrak President Thomas M Downs seeks ’to benefit our passengers and the hundreds of towns and cities that our trains and buses serve ... by making changes as small as providing Greyhound stops at rail passenger stations.’

Illinois to change operator

The state of Illinois is planning to call tenders for the operation of regional rail services out of Chicago, in a bid to get the costs down. Current law allows only Amtrak to operate the service but its contract expires on June 30.

Illinois Department of Transportation has prepared legislation to allow for tendering of the trains to St Louis, Springfield, Quincy and Carbondale. These carry about 300000 passengers a year, but lost $18·2m in the last financial year. The state is providing $6·5m in subsidy, but is anticipating that it will have to pay more.

Under the DOT proposals, the state would purchase or lease locos and coaches, and hire a contractor to operate them.

Rutland returns

On December 2 Amtrak extended one of its New York City - Albany services to Rutland as the Ethan Allen. Designed to bring skiers to resort areas in southern Vermont, the train is subsidised by the state. There has been no scheduled passenger service to Rutland since 1953, and the scheme has involved reconstruction of Vermont Railway’s 38 km line from Whitehall to Rutland.