Seeking to force Canadian National to provide better handling of its Chicago-Carbondale, Ill., Saluki and Illini, Amtrak lodged an amended complaint with the Surface Transportation Board seeking an investigation of CN’s dispatching practices. Amtrak claims that these have caused unacceptable train delays on the Chicago to Carbondale corridor.
The complaint said that on-time performance of the State of Illinois supported Illini and Saluki service was 49 percent for the quarter ending June 30 and 42 percent for the prior quarter.
The on-time performance of the four trains has been less than 80 percent for three years and less than 60 percent for most of that time. Amtrak cited Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act which mandates that the STB initiate an investigation upon the filing of a complaint by Amtrak if the on-time performance of an intercity passenger train falls below 80 percent for two consecutive quarters.
Under federal law, Amtrak has a statutory right to preference in the dispatching of intercity passenger trains before freight trains. The amended complaint is part of the same case that Amtrak filed with the STB regarding CN’s performance in January 2012.
Those proceedings were stayed while Amtrak and CN attempted to address the issue of delays informally.
Amtrak said the recent poor performance of the Saluki and Illini prompted it to ask the STB to investigate the causes of delay and to award damages and other relief if violations of Amtrak’s right to preference are found.
CN spokesman Mark Hallman told Trains magazine that the railroad will respond to Amtrak’s investigation request to the STB. The City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans also uses the same CN tracks as the Saluki and Illini.