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More trains to Albany? Amtrak, freight line reach deal on expanding passenger service west of Worcester

Trains reports that Amtrak and CSX have reached an agreement that will let Amtrak start running more trains between Boston and Albany.

The deal, however, however, has yet to be approved by the MBTA, which owns the tracks the new trains would need to travel on between Worcester and South Station, tracks also used by T commuter trains.

Amtrak currently runs one train a day in each direction between Boston and Worcester: The Lake Shore Limited, which also extends to Chicago.

Part of the deal would give Amtrak trains priority over CSX freight trains on what was once the Boston & Albany Railroad mainline between Albany and Worcester. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, most tracks are owned by freight lines, and they typically give their own trains first dibs, which often leads to lengthy Amtrak delays as its trains sit on sidings waiting for freight trains to pass.

Why would CSX agree to that? Trains reports CSX wants Amtrak support for its planned acquisition of Pan Am, the un-airline owner of freight lines in New England.


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Legally passenger trains are always supposed to have priority over freight, however this is seldom enforced. Apparently DOJ needs to enforce it and it's only been done once in Amtrak's 50 year history.



CSX is now required to allow Amtrak to run one train in each direction between Boston and Albany. If you recall the issues that kept the Downeaster from starting, you'll know that Amtrak has to negotiate for each slot with the host railroad. Part of what causes delays is when an Amtrak train falls out of its slot for whatever reason.


I can vouch for the fact that if the Downeaster runs like 10 minutes late, it can add an hour to the ride, as they have to wait for their next "slot" in the timetable.


“The Late-For-Sure Limited”


As long ago as the mid 1960's, the Lakeshore Ltd. (and its Boston-to-Albany add-on, The New England States) was a slowpoke. The tracks in western NY were so bad train speeds were restricted. Approaching Buffalo it was 15 MPH according to the porter. Switching to the Santa Fe Super Chief in Chicago was like switching from a school bus to a Rolls Royce.


Though in an ideal world (or maybe just a different country), that type of operational limitation would be an added incentive to run the passenger trains on time.

It's like the 71/73 trolleybuses out of Harvard: the drivers tend to be incentivized to begin their trips on time (at least more so than non-trolleybus routes on the MBTA), so that they don't end up with 2-3 buses bunched up behind them, which inevitably leads to 2-3 of their colleagues getting frustrated because they can't pass...

Every day for years passenger trains were shunted to a siding in favor of freight traffic. Unbearably long commutes were made longer. Somehow that law never came up. How odd.

Montreal not Albany.

It would be exciting if they could double track the stretch between Worcester and Albany. It's pretty much a requirement for serious east-west rail service and has been discussed in the plans for that.

well many parts are double tracked. Pretty much Worcester to west field is. Between westfield and chester is single track, then reopens double track until pittsfield. After that i am unclear if it is or not. If you look on youtube and watch the "Chester train station live" channel, you can see trains often stop waiting for a train to pass. I've seen freight wait for the lake shore limited in the past.

In Europe, quiet branch lines are able to run every hour or better on a single track with strategic passing sidings. We have a long way to go before we have that level of service west of Worcester.

It would be good to have morning departures from Boston and Albany added to the schedule.



I think I have been there four times. Once to see a friend at SUNY Albany, the other times for work. I drove each time. No chugging throw the Berkshires at 35 MPH. 70 on the Pike.

Is there some William Kennedy cult that needs expanded train service?

There is that map circulating on the internet which has high speed service from Boston to Montpelier in an hour. Who needs to go to Montpelier? Does anyone?

North / South rail link first please.


At least a few times a year to go to the Berkshires and Vermont. And I know many others who would too.

But I think it is a waste of money. I love trains and hate Amtrak. There's much better uses for public transportation funding that will help a lot more people. The bus is fine for long distance intercity service apart from the Northeast coast.

Trains work in Europe in part because their cities are a lot closer together.

For comfort as much as for the fact that trains are more environmentally friendly.


Boston, Worcester, and Hartford are close enough. Trains work in Europe because they exist, and they've figured out how to build and run them at a reasonable cost. The American way is to spend so much on construction of a few lines that there's no money left to run the trains or finish the network (hello, billion dollar GLX, and $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall which increases scheduled train capacity by approximately zero).


…. and stay off the trains, please.


Give it up. You sound like a child trying to insert himself into an adult conversation.

Shorter, a good link to Springfield would be great.

...then what?

and maybe all summer long for Six Flags?

I guess an Uber would work. Still, that's not much to offer.

I used to live right next to Six Flags, then Riverside Park, with stock car racing on Sat nights. Crazy noisy.

Like this one.

That said, for the heartier amongst us, downtown Springfield to the Big E isn't the hardest of walks.

as it looks like the train tracks go near it.

You can simply jump off the moving train when you get close by.

Local shuttles are a pretty common solution to issues like this. The train doesn't have to go directly to every destination people might be interested in, in order to be useful.

I want neither more 5-hour trains to Albany, NOR a North-South Rail Link that will cost many billions of dollars to save a small amount of time for the very few people who need to take a train across Downtown.

I'd rather have more frequent service and lower fares on the existing Commuter Rail. After that, I'd electrify. Then I'd reactivate train service to the town centers inside 128 that used to have it, like Watertown, Medford, Lexington, Woburn, and Marblehead. The Green Line D was such a big success in 1959 that it should have been a model for rail service in all inner suburbs.


Dude, you do realize the N-S link isn't just... like.... subway service across downtown, right? It's a major piece of infrastructure linking all the heavier rail from the north (like, say, all the COMMUTER RAIL) to the infrastructure on the south. It would allow the MBTA to totally overhaul schedules and provide that more frequent service at a lower cost, because you have trains bouncing from one end of the suburbs through the city to the other. It's a complete game changer in terms of Commuter rail, scheduling, availability of train sets, maintenance options, all of that.

I don't know anything about this proposal - does this actually mean through traffic for commuter rail?

The NSRL isn't about moving people through the city - though that would be a great benefit. If it were possible, more people would do it, too. "You don't justify a bridge by the number of people swimming across a river".

The NSRL is about moving trains. Without it, there can be some better frequency on the commuter rail, but to really amp it up on all lines you need to have through-running trains.

If you're describing it as saving " a small amount of time for the very few people who need to take a train across Downtown."

NSRL has _nothing_ to do with enabling commuters to ride from the north to Back Bay and beyond, or the south directly to Lowell.

With the NSRL the north side and south side are no longer constrained by the number of tracks at the terminal stations, and therefore many, many more trains can run on each line. This gives you exactly what you want, more frequent service, and potentially with more riders, lower fares.

Really? Building a full NSRL seems like a horribly expensive and convoluted way to boost terminal capacity.

They should look at operational practices. How many trains per hour can run out of a stub-end track in other cities and countries? After that, see if any small modifications to the interlockings on the station approaches would increase capacity. That's how to get it done on a reasonable budget, and have money left to run the trains.

If we had a manager from Japan Railways observe South Station for an afternoon, I'm sure they'd have a lot to say about ways to improve efficiency.


Albany? Really??

Maybe stop at the Berkshires, but without a car, what do you do when you get there?

Springfield? Sorry, I lived in that area for 4+ years, no desire to go back. Northampton area and the valley are great, and we go out there often (asparagus!), but not close enough to Springfield.

It would be cheaper to just pay the Uber fare for the three people that want to go there every year.

Frequency is key. After that is trip time. The existing bus service totally beats the train on both counts.

If you're going to Amherst and you really want to ride a train, a new option is the Commuter Rail to Worcester, then the PVTA B79 bus. Except if it's a Tuesday or Wednesday

13 hour trip from Boston to Buffalo. Train leaves at 8am Friday and in Buffalo by 9pm.

Boston to NYC, NYC to Albany and then to Buffalo.

$112 bucks for a coach seat, $250 for business class.

$326 round trip with one stop at LaGuardia. 4 hours Logan to Buffalo.

Is $76 more worth 18 hours of your life on a train than on a plane? Not for me.

Was curious though to see how long and how much it would cost.

With the train just hop on and off in the center of town. No security lines to wait in, no travel time to and from the airport to the center of town.
Plus you actually have legroom on the train, wide seats, toilets that aren’t the size of coffins and a club car.

If we started in Foxborough, home of the Patriots, distances to the mode would be a wash.

If I were planning the trip by rail (and might, for kicks), I'd take the direct train Boston-Buffalo.

… by going that direct route.

Or if I’m using it correctly. But the “direct” train is still 11.5 hours. Assuming there are longer stopovers in worcester or Albany. I also put in the 128 station for my first search, so that probably is why there was no “direct” route. also noticed that South Station to Buffalo direct was $54. That’s not a bad price.

Searching with 128 as start would have to involve a change.
The time involved on the direct train surprised me. I thought when I searched it earlier today that it was something more like 9 hours. That might be because I searched it for a Friday departure. Searching now Friday night, the next direct departure is midday Saturday and that does take something like 11 or 12 hours as you said. It may be programmed to take longer on the weekend run for any number of reasons.

Considering some of the commuter trains right now take you over an hour to get back to (majorly expensive) suburbs, having an hour trip to Vermont would open up housing and commuting distance way out where it's still cheap. It would make Vermont more attractive as a day trip destination for tourists.

People bitch and moan about how expensive and crowded and blah blah blah Boston is but then don't support anything that will make living outside of Boston reasonable.

I'd be more interested in taking the train to Buffalo than Albany, and would do so if a reasonable service were available. But I do agree with your main point. If we are going to spend a few billion dollars on trains (and we definitely should), let's spend that on NSRL and MBTA commuter rail electrification. Why help dozens of daily riders when we could instead help a few hundred thousand?

is the only system in Massachusetts actually making money, and leaving customers satisfied.

Although it might be cheaper to go to Buffalo than the trip around that cranberry bog.


Spending money on service to Albany seems like a tourist train that virtually no one would take. Expand CR out to Manchester, NH and New Bedford. Make service more reliable and on time, in all weather and improve Commuter Rail service to Rt. 2/Gardner/Wachusett, Worcester and Providence.