HIGH SPEED RAIL PASSENGER SERVICE FOR VICKSBURG?

One of our readers, Mr. Jack Ferry of Chicago (a man who evidently knows a LOT about the railroads), has written Senator Trent Lott with an intriguing proposal that includes high speed rail passenger service for Vicksburg. His letter is repeated below in its entirety; make your thoughts on the proposal known in the comments section below.

“Gentlemen:

The following was sent to US Senator Trent Lott on October 27, 2007.
Perhaps you would be interested in reading it. I also hope that the
City of Vicksburg would also support such an initiative.

Thanks.

Jack Ferry
5445 North Sheridan Road  # 2908
Chicago, IL  60640
(773) 271-0092
JackF66@aol.com

Dear Senator Lott,I want to thank you for all your dedicated efforts to save Amtrak and our rail passenger train network. In this
day of soaring fuel prices and and environmental situations, we must have alternative transportation modes and I firmly believe that passenger railroad trains can eliminate many of the problems facing todays traveling public.

I commend your efforts to get individual States more involved in their rail passenger needs. Local communities need to be a part of the transportation crisis solutions.

In this regards, I would like to propose an idea for high speed passenger rail in the State of Mississippi and hope that you would support such an initiative.

Canadian National Railroad has talked about abandoning the former Illinois Central  Grenada District line from just south of Memphis to just north of Jackson. This was the route of almost all passenger service to New Orleans with the exception of the Planter and Delta Express which were routed via Cleveland, Ms.

The Grenada line is basically straight and swift which helped the IC maintain some incredible running times for the Panama Limited and City of New Orleans Streamliners.

The State of Mississippi should purchase the Grenada Line from the CN and then request a government backed loan, similar to the one being requested by the DM&E Railroad to rebuild and expand their line in North Dakota.The new Amtrak funding bill has provisions for the States to become more involved with passenger rail transportation.

Upgrading the line to 125 mph, double track some or all as practical, and let Amtrak operate high speed passenger service between Memphis & Jackson (about 212 miles) in about 2 hours. Frequent, dependable, on time arrivals and departures with at least six or seven round trips, at various times, daily.
 
Now, to help repay the loan, both CSX and NS could be offered  trackage rights to operate over the line, non-stop, at off peak travel times, for a premium surcharge. A speedy route for intermodal  trains could benefits these carriers, even CN, if they care to use the line.

Okay, you say, you reached Jackson, now what? We have a couple of options here but probably foremost
would be for the State to assist the Kansas City Southern in upgrading a portion of their line from Jackson
to Vicksburg (about 40 miles) for 125 mph speeds with increased siding lengths and and double track where
possible. At Vicksburg, request another federally backed loan or subsidy to head south over the abandoned Illinois Central line towards Baton Rouge (about 140 miles). This line intersected with a line to Natchez at Harriston, Ms (about 20 miles) and at Roxie with the currently little used CN , ex IC, nee Mississippi Central line, also to Natchez.

Now, you would have frequent high speed passenger rail service from Memphis (Center of the South) to Jackson (State Capital) to Vicksburg (heavy duty tourist area with Civil War National Park) to Natchez (another major tourist area) to Baton Rouge (Louisiana State Capital). All the airport and driving hassles can be eliminated and drastically reduced with quick alternatives.

If it were possible for the State of Louisiana to get on board for part of this project, major improvements could be made to enhance the Kansas City Southern tracks from Baton Rouge to New Orleans (about 100 miles) to high speed rail service speeds and major destination end points. Plans at one time were to include passenger service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge following Hurricane Katrina along this line.

With high speed rail service connecting at least six metropolitan areas, the possibilities of growth and expansion are limitless.

With this initial phase in place, connections from Jackson, Tn over the former NC&StL and Little Rock at Memphis, both east and west out of Jackson, Ms to Meridian and Shreveport and on to Dallas, from Baton
Rouge to Houston and many destinations from New Orleans — Biloxi, Mobile, and Houston to name but a few.

Yes, I know this is high faluting and critics will say you can’t do this and that won’t work and trees are growing where there once were railroad tracks and Aunt Matilda hated to hear the horns blowing and the other BS, however you must begin somewhere and what better place to start and show the rest of the country what can
be done with a little under used rail line between Memphis and Jackson!

It isn’t necessary to begin with the largest metropolitan areas. Start small and think big then watch all the pieces begin to fall into place across the nation.

You don’t think so? Start it, stand back and watch.

Should you wish some additional clarification on this proposal, I will be happy to assist.

Thank You for your consideration.

Jack Ferry
 
October 27, 2007″

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Published in: on November 1, 2007 at 7:21 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Now that is interesting. Cool proposal to. Just imagine that high speed line running from Chicago to New Orleans. I call that thinking about the future.

  2. Without knowing anything about the logistics, the overall idea sounds excellent, especially in light of fuel prices. When my daughter’s boyfriend was going to school in Chicago, she often traveled from Jackson to Chicago by train. Before that, I didn’t even know the service existed, even though the terminal is very nice and right off the interstate in downtown Jackson.

  3. Come to think of it, Amtrak already services Memphis to Jackson on the “City of New Orleans”. Why can’t that just be tied in to Vicksburg? http://www.amtrak.com/timetable/oct07/P58.pdf

  4. Until September 10, 1995, the City of New Orleans operated on the Grenada line. When ICRR announced its’
    original intent to abandon this line Amtrak was forced
    to operate the train along the single track, very busy freight route via Greenwood and Yazoo City. The on-time
    performance of the City in the 1980s and early 90s was nearly 90%, one of the best in the entire Amtrak system. Currently, the schedule has been lengthened considerably to keep it within reasonable performance.
    The present freight line is a combination of former Y&MV RR branch lines that were used to limit interference with
    the Grenada passenger route.
    Canadian National would do most anything to rid itself of its responsibility to operate Amtrak service over this incredibly busy line. The line via Greenwood & Yazoo City would never be able to accommodate high speed passenger trains.

  5. I think this is a wonderful idea. Especially with the gas prices. And not having to fight traffic on the roads would be wonderful especially around the holidays!!!

  6. As a railfan of long standing — and of standing many hours around Vicksburg’s rail facilities over the past 40 years — I find creative and imaginative to be the two words that come to mind in regards to Mr. Ferry’s proposal.

    There are some roadblocks.

    First, the Memphis-Jackson line through Grenada is far removed from the criteria required for high-speed rail. It contains jointed rail in many locations, has numerous crossings that would have to be closed and ribbon rail would have to be relaid.

    High-speed rail — Mr. Ferry’s speed was 125 mph — requires a different roadbed than freight (50-59 mph). There were two reasons that caused Amtrak to move the City of New Orleans to the Memphis-Greenwood-Jackson line — one was the condition of the track and the other was the number of freight trains.

    America’s fastest trains, the Acela, only averages 89 mph and is on a line dedicated to passenger service. Upgraded the line, which includes the replacement of jointed rail with ribbon rail and rebuilding the roadbed, ensuring bridges meet passenger train code and addressing some of the grade issues around Grenada-Winona, would cost more than $1 million per mile (212 miles).

    There is no reason to double-track because you don’t need double-track until you get to areas where there is REAL rail traffic, like the UP (Union Pacific) main line from Chicago to California, the BNSF trough parts of the Southwest and the NS and CSX in the southeast.

    You won’t generate enough revenue from a Memphis-Jackson train to cover the costs of the rail construction, much less the costs associated with train sets (engine and cars) needed to run six or seven roundtrips a day … when Amtrak is currently pressed to have enough dependable equipment to run the routes they have.

    It is currently $68 roundtrip on Amtrak for a ride of 4 hours plus … what’s your market?

    If you offered trackage rights to NS and CSX, then you get back to the basic problem of having to run the passenger trains around the freights, who will be paying the bill … not to mention beating the tracks and roadbed to death with their heavier weights.

    I’m a diehard railfan and ride every chance I get, but how in the world did Vickburg and Natchez get tossed in to this pie-in-the-sky idea?

    Jackson-Vicksburg is part of what Kansas City Southern/Norfolk Southern called the Meridian Speedway … a direct connection from Atlanta to Fort Worth (Alliance Yard) via Meridian. There are $600 million in improvements ongoing, including the straightening of one of bridge approach curves in Vicksburg, and freight trains are the focus.

    To get from Vicksburg to Natchez to Baton Rouge you’ll have to construct new tracks to replace the ones that have been gone for years. That means purchase new right-of-way to replace that which was eighter sold or reverting back to the owner, be that individual, city, council, or schools.

    As much as I would love to have another train to ride on, this idea of Mr. Ferry’s is not “high faluting” … it just doesn’t make sense. Period.

    I fear Mr. Ferry has too much time on his hands and too many railroad maps to play with.

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