Vermont Rail System (VRS), which maintains tracks used by Ethan Allen Express passenger trains, has transitioned from the poorest-performing Amtrak host railroad in the nation to a top performer in 12 months, VRS officials said in a prepared statement.
Due to new track and ties and some track repairs, travel time between Rutland and Whitehall, N.Y. — the first leg of a trip to New York — is 15 minutes faster, and travel time north is 25 minutes faster, according to Amtrak. The number of minutes the Ethan Allen Express ran behind schedule dropped from 11,068 in December 2010 to 135 in December 2011.
“That improvement represents a 99 percent reduction in delays along the route,” wrote Joe McHugh, Amtrak's vice president for government affairs and corporate communications, in a letter to the Vermont Agency of Transportation. “In what may be a reflection on the improvements to the route, the Ethan Allen Express has gained more than 1,200 riders along the Vermont-supported segment between Albany and Rutland from October 2011 to December 2011 as compared to the same period in the previous year. That's a 10.8 percent increase in riders.”
A year ago, Amtrak issued a contract violation notice to VRS citing mounting delays for riders between Rutland and New York, primarily because of poor track conditions. Amtrak and Vermont transportation officials pressured the railroad to develop a “get well quick” plan, said VRS President David Wulfson. The railroad devised a plan and committed $750,000 to the project, which was scheduled for completion in late October 2011, he said.
"We would have been on time, but Tropical Storm Irene changed the railroad's priorities in early fall. Two other company lines, one running from Rutland to Bellows Falls and another running south from Rutland, suffered significant flooding damage,” said Wulfson. “We had 111 washouts and five bridges severely damaged. We actually lost 11 miles of track.”
VRS reopened the line to Bellows Falls in 13 days and the line south a few days later.
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