By Martin Wheeler, President, Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains

HIGH SPEED RAIL STUDY OUT FOR RICHMOND-RALEIGH LINE -- "An extensive study guiding future development along the North Carolina portion of the R2R Richmond-Raleigh high speed rail project is out. Not only is inter-city service planned, but regional and commuter applications for the corridor is also expected which prompted the extensive study. On a fast track the Richmond-Raleigh service might occur as soon as 2030. The link below will take you to the entire study document. Pages 7-8 of the document will get you started.” 2023-s-line-tod-study.pdf

TRANSIT CONNECTION COMPLICATIONS WITH NEW PIEDMONT TRAIN SCHEDULES -- “CAPT has uncovered some issues about bus connections to and from Winston-Salem from train stations in Greensboro and High Point.

“Persons wanting to go to Winston-Salem (for downtown, or Winston-Salem State University, or Old Salem, etc.) for a full day can no longer do so by using the High Point Station and the Amtrak Connector Bus for which Amtrak allows a combined train/bus ticket. Instead, the passenger must now buy an Amtrak ticket for Train 71 to Greensboro, and then separately buy a PART ticket for the Greensboro Express Bus (PART Route 2) with a transfer to the Winston-Salem Express (PART Route 1 ).

“If a prospective Winston-Salem visitor wants to travel from the Triangle Area for a full day of work or recreation, the Amtrak website completely omits Train 71 from the list of available trains, because it uses High Point as the only Amtrak Connector location, when in fact the visitor can go to Greensboro instead and still get to Winston-Salem by PART bus.

“The 'NC By Train' website links to PART's Amtrak Connector webpage which also states that High Point is the only train station where a combined train/bus ticket is available. Also, Winston-Salem residents wanting to travel to Charlotte for a full day must do say by purchasing separate tickets for PART and Amtrak via Greensboro for Train 71.

“The NC DOT Rail Division is working on the issues."

CHARLOTTE BLUE LINE LIGHT RAIL AND GOLD LINE STREETCAR RIDERSHIP -- "Ridership is continuing a slow rebound since the waning of the pandemic. Light Rail ridership in July was up 8.39 percent from the same month a year ago, and Streetcar ridership is up 17.25 percent in July from July 2022. Streetcar is still a free ride, and Light Rail remains pay to ride.

“Light rail ridership now is around 16 to 17 thousand riders weekdays up from around 9- thousand riders weekdays a year ago. Ridership was around 34-thousand riders weekdays shortly after the University Blue extension was completed in 2018. Before the start of the pandemic Light rail ridership had dropped to around 25-thousand riders a day. CATS continues to struggle with operational and management issues of late and changing work patterns after the pandemic."

CityLYNX Gold Line Service Change -- The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) is adjusting CityLYNX Gold Line frequency from 20-minutes to 30-minutes. CATS is making this temporary change so that we can better insure reliability and consistency of the CityLYNX Gold Line Service.

CATS is experiencing ongoing challenges with maintaining the current 20-minute schedule, and as a result, riders have faced uncertainty related to frequency of the CityLYNX Gold Line. These disruptions are due to several factors including, staffing constraints and summer events.

Read Press Release Here:

PALM BEACH – ORLANDO BRIGHLINE SERVICE DELAYED – Startup of passenger train service on Brightline between West Palm Beach and Orlando has been delayed. The Florida-based railroad has ceased selling tickets on this route for September 1-14. Industry reports say this “doesn’t necessarily mean the first day of revenue service will be Sept. 15.

Responding to a Trains News Wire inquiry, Brightline issued the following statement on Monday, August 7:

“We’re working through the final stages of certification and crew testing, but it is apparent that we won’t hit our opening weekend as planned (Sept 1-5). Knowing it’s a holiday weekend, we want to give guests as much time as possible to adjust their travel plans.

“We have already started engaging with them and will refund their tickets and provide a premium credit ‘on us.’ We hope they will rebook and enjoy the inaugural Brightline experience. We look forward to announcing an initial revenue service date as soon as possible.”

Brightline’s website says this about its expansion into Orlando: “Brightline’s new South Terminal at the Orlando International Airport (MCO) is part of the company’s Phase 2 expansion into Central Florida including a Tampa extension.”

When completed, Brightline Orlando service will connect passengers with five existing stations: Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach.

RARE MONDAY MEETING PROBABLE FOR CAPT'S BOARD ON SEPTEMBER 18 – It’s unofficial, but a Monday, September 18 meeting date, is probable for the board of directors of the Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains (CAPT).

Originally set for Saturday, September 16, in Charlotte, CAPT’s next bi-monthly meeting is postponed for three reasons -- train schedule changes, the unavailability of a suitable meeting location later that Saturday, and a vastly improved day for a tour of Charlotte’s Gateway Station site, according to President Martin Wheeler.

“Saturday is not a good day for tour of the Gateway Station site, better done on a weekday when appropriate people are working to take care of us,” Wheeler adds.

Although not confirmed, CAPT contemplates meeting on Monday, September 18. After a train arrival that day, a tour of the Gateway Station platform and site would take place (2:15-2:30) time frame. This would be done by Charlotte Area Transit System, a business unit of the City of Charlotte, he said.

After this we would proceed to Big Ben Pub for early dinner (4:00 pm) in our usual meeting room location. After eating the business meeting would take place (5:00 pm) and would conclude by 7:00 pm. in time for last Piedmont train northbound departure from the Amtrak station at 7:45 pm.

Agenda will be streamlined to include only most important business items. If needed I would suggest a zoom meeting for mid-October for other pressing business. Annual meeting is planned for the Raleigh area in mid-November, Wheeler said.

Look in your email for a final confirmation on the September 18 meeting.

PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE RETURNS TO DE SOTO, MO Amtrak will add a Texas Eagle stop in De Soto, Missouri, a community south of St. Louis that last had passenger rail service in 1982. The decision came at a council meeting on August 22. The Leader newspaper reports that the announcement comes after a five-year campaign to gain the station stop.

Council members have previously agreed to provide the matching funds necessary for construction of a station platform across from the city’s library at 712 S. Main Street. That platform was previously estimated to cost $1.7 million, although City Manager Todd Melkus told the meeting a better estimate would be likely once the city knows the requirements of host railroad Union Pacific, the Leader newspaper reported.

Melkus said the city will also work to secure funds from the state and from Jefferson County to help pay for construction of the platform.

The city of 6,449 (as of the 2020 census) last had train service in 1982, losing its stop when the town’s station was demolished. It will be between existing Eagle stops in St. Louis, about 45 miles to the north, and Arcadia, Mo., about 50 miles south, the article concluded.

RAIL USERS’ NETWORK ADVOCATES FOR NINE NEW ROUTES -- The following comment letter on Round 2 of the Federal Railroad Association Long-Distance Service Study has been prepared.

The Federal Railroad Administration has twice this year asked for input regarding passenger rail in the United States. As a nationally recognized rail passenger advocacy organization, the Rail Users' Network (RUN) answered the request for public comment on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study.

This letter was sent on August 20, 2023 (electronically) to Pete Buttigieg (Cabinet Secretary), Amit Bose (FRA Administrator), and Nuria Fernandez (FTA Administrator).

The full text of this letter is available at this link:

500 NEW PASSENGER RAIL JOBS COMING TO LEXINGTON, N.C. — Siemens Mobility broke ground Wednesday, Aug. 23, on its new Lexington, N.C., plant, which aims to begin production in 2024 and expects to employ more than 500 people by 2028, according to rail industry sources.

“The new facility, on a 200-acre site with room for expansion, will produce passenger cars as well as offering locomotive and passenger car overhaul facilities. It will include technologies such as robotic welding, 3D printing and virtual reality welder training. Siemens says the facility will be carbon neutral when fully operational, helping the company meet its sustainability objectives,” sources say.

In a Siemens Mobility press release found on Trains’ Magazine news wire, “Our new east coast hometown will soon be a powerhouse when it comes to rail manufacturing,” said Michael Cahill, president, Rolling Stock, Siemens Mobility North America.

“Complementing our operations in Sacramento, our bicoastal facilities will work together to manufacture the latest rail technology and transform the everyday for communities across the country.”

Said Michael Tyler, the company’s president, customer service, “I am excited to expand our customer service operations to Lexington and for the opportunity to better serve our east coast customers. At this facility we won’t only build and service trains, we will push the boundaries of innovation while combining the real and digital worlds.”

Siemens is receiving a Job Development Investment Grant from the state of North Carolina as part of choice of the North Carolina site, announced in March [see “Siemens to build $220 million railcar factory …,” Trains News Wire, March 7, 2023]. Over the 12-year term of the grant, the facility is estimated to add $1.6 billion to the state’s economy.