Friday, January 11, 2013

Illinois 110 mph operations are plagued with issues

From a posting by Gene Poon at Trainorders.com comes word that Illinois 110mph operations are facing some major issues.

For the most part, it's some technical bugs, scheduling conflicts, and speed limited curves. Cab signals in one area are dropping out regularly which has resulted in a speed restriction and a de facto loss of 5 miles of 110mph operation down to 90mph. That's not too terribly large of a problem as it only amounts to a loss of thirty seconds. More troublesome is a technical flaw in ITCS revealed by a bad meet with a Union Pacific intermodal train; the siding that it takes blocks a grade crossing and tricks ITCS into thinking that there is a potentially hazardous obstruction on the crossing with a resultant 15mph limit for  the approaching Amtrak train. While the immediate problem should be fixable with a scheduling change, this is a bug in the ITCS software which will need to be addressed in the near future.

More annoyingly, and in true "This is why Amtrak can't have nice things" fashion, there is the problem of the second locomotive with no power.

As to that second engine...someone decided that 110mph operation needs a second unit but the System General Road Foreman's office says that according to published Train Handling books and Road Foreman Notices, that second unit must remain off line for that size consist. None of the conditions listed for turning the second unit on are being met. Some engineers have been turning the second unit on; others are complying with rules so they don't run afoul of management, and leave it isolated...269,000 pounds of dead weight.
My understanding is that the second locomotive is required due to a lack of of cab cars certified for operation at 110mph. In itself, that isn't a problem. However, the fact that there was no foresight in clarifying this nor did anyone apparently bring it up and have it clarified is a strong indicator of major management and/or cultural problems within Amtrak. Alternatively, of course, it may very well have been brought up with a clarification that it was to remain off, though this would be the height of absurdity for a new and highly publicized improvement to service.

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