Amtrak California was supposed to be welcoming a whole new fleet of bi-level trains this year. or last year. Who knows. They were funded way back in 2010 as part of stimulus package. You know, the package intended to create jobs fast with shovel-ready jobs.
|The current two level trains and low floor platforms|
Well something odd happened with that contract. The winning bidder (Nippon-Sharyo) couldn’t deliver. Here’s an article from April 2016.
A Japanese company hired to build new passenger railcars for regional Amtrak service has fallen years behind schedule and likely won’t complete the order before federal funding expires.
The stalled production undermines an ambitious plan to upgrade Amtrak service in California, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri and has highlighted the complexities foreign companies face in complying with made-in-the-U.S. requirements. Funding for about three-quarters of the 130-car order is tied to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
After repeated failures, engineers are now redesigning the car’s body shell. That and additional testing will take about two more years to complete, according to people familiar with the matter. The entire job was to be finished in 2018, with the stimulus-funded portion due for completion in 2017. Now, Nippon Sharyo isn’t expected to start production until 2018, people familiar with the work say.
As a stop-gap measure, Amtrak California announced they would be purchasing two brand-new, but never used trains that were built for Wisconsin.
|California will now be getting these trains – a proven design,
but designed for high-platform stations
The initiation date for Morning Express Service (Morning Express) was originally schedule for January 8, 2018. However, staff was recently informed by BNSF that they are planning an extensive capitalized maintenance project between Stockton and Fresno to replace railroad ties and sections of track, similar to the work completed in September and October of this year. This work is scheduled to begin on January 15th, 2018 and take approximately 6 to 8 weeks to complete. As a result of this work, a bus bridge and ongoing slow orders will be implemented during the work period. SJJPA Meeting Notes
We start with the southbound schedule. The top section is the current schedule. The bottom is the proposed schedule.
When leaving Oakland, not much has changed. The first trip of the day is now a train, rather than a bus, and leaves 20 minutes later. As there is no transfer, this is now a faster trip.
At the end of the day, again nothing has changed. Which is a shame. 5:55pm is early for the last departure from the Bay Area.
In the middle, the train times were adjusted slightly to have a more consistent schedule, leaving at :35 (except the last departure). This is a minor, but nice change. We don’t know the new bus departure times from Oakland, but I really hope 704 is better. Right now, that bus leaves 10 minutes after the train, making it essentially useless. Because 716 leaves 5 minutes earlier, and 704 arrives in Fresno 22 minutes later, the bus should see a change so it is ever so slightly better.
For Fresno, not much has changed going south. Unfortunately, this is also true in Bakersfield. The earliest train now gets in at 11:52am, rather than noon. This still means you can’t use the train to get to Bakersfield for business.
If you’re going to LA, we don’t know yet if the train that terminates in Fresno will get a bus connection.
Now we look at northbound. Again, the first half is the existing schedule.
Here trains start in Bakersfield, and we get another small quality of life improvement, as more of the trains leave at a consistent time.
Going north, even though the first train of the day no longer exists, this actually only affects service at the end of the day. Folks from Bakersfield can still take a 4:20am train to head north (vs 4:25am). Additionally, they may be able to board a bus that will get them to Fresno in time for the connection. This in turn will actually help people coming up fro Los Angeles, that would have a new departure around 9pm.
But now the last train north leaves way too early at 5:10pm. The 9:25pm trip is intended for those coming from Los Angeles, so Bakersfield passengers cannot board the bus to Fresno.
Fresno sees a new early morning option to Sacramento, which presumably will include bus connections to the bay. But here too, the last train of the day now leaves northbound earlier, at 7:10pm, versus 8:27pm.
In conclusion, this is a loss of service for Bakersfield, a small gain for Fresno, and a big gain for the North Valley.
Once this new schedule goes into effect next April or May, I will follow up with the final bus details.
You can explore these proposals for yourself on this website.