All Aboard Ohio Asks Amtrak Passengers to Complain to the STB About Late Trains

Although Amtrak trains serving northern Ohio have been subject to long delays all summer, the Surface Transportation Board claims to have not received any complaints about freight railroad caused delays. Now, All Aboard Ohio is calling on Amtrak passengers to document and complain about length delays en route.

The passenger advocacy group is calling for passengers to send email complaints to the STB at

rcpa@stb.dot.gov and provide the following information:

  • The train’s number
  • Approximate time(s) and location(s) of the delay(s)
  • Date(s) of the incident(s)
  • A brief explanation of why the delay was caused by the freight railroad.

The latter could include such things as an Amtrak train stopped while freight trains rolled by, a report from the conductor that a signal problem or track work was to blame to the delay.

“That’s still the freight railroad’s responsibility as they own, maintain and manage the tracks/signals for nearly all of America’s Amtrak trains, including those that pass through Ohio,” All Aboard Ohio said in an email sent on Thursday. Most of the delays have been occurring on Norfolk Southern west of Cleveland.

The Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited have been incurring delays of 60 to 90 minutes between Cleveland and Elkhart, Ind. Over the 101 miles between Elkhart and Chicago delays can last for hours. It is not out of the ordinary for an Amtrak train to need five hours to travel 45 miles.

Take, for example, the case of the westbound Capitol Limited, which left Cleveland on Thursday morning a mere 12 minutes late. Under normal circumstances, the schedule padding would likely ensure that those 12 minutes and then some would be made up before halting at Chicago Union Station.

But that’s not the case anymore. No. 29 promptly lost more than an hour and a half between Cleveland and Elyria. It continued to hover close to two hours late as it made its way west, leaving Elkhart 2 hours and 16 minutes late.

It would lose another two hours before arriving in Chicago at 1:14 p.m.

As bad as that was, its eastbound counterpart had an even tougher time of it. No. 30 got out of Chicago 3.5 hours late and lost three more hours before it reached South Bend. By the time it finally left Cleveland it was nine hours late.

Why the late departure from Chicago? The equipment for No. 30 turns from the same day arrival of No. 29. On Wednesday, No. 29 reached Chicago at 3:49 p.m., 7 hours, 49 minutes late.

The departure time keeps getting move back as the crew must get its rest and the train needs to be cleaned and restocked.

Amtrak passengers are not the only ones complaining about late trains. NS shippers are also suffering because freight is also experiencing horrific delays.

In some cases, freight trains get backed up when one or more of them must stop for to change crews. But the new crew isn’t ready to come on duty and everyone sits.

Even when trains are moving they are subject to delay due to track work in Northwest Indiana that is supposed to add additional track capacity and, in theory, relieve traffic congestion.

How did things get to this point? All Aboard Ohio pointed to record shipments of intermodal freight and crude oil. With a bumper crop expected this year, grain shipment could also set records.

The railroad industry has talked much about its rising freight business, but NS has talked less about a new dispatch software package that installed last January.

All Aboard Ohio said the software needs a lot of debugging.

Unique to Amtrak is the reality that many stations between Chicago and Cleveland can only be access from one track. Thus, the dispatcher must weave Amtrak trains over and back to halt next to the platform in such cities as Elyria, Sandusky, Bryan and Waterloo.

Writing on his blog on the Trains magazine website, columnist Fred Fraley described what is happened on the Chicago Line as not a railroad in meltdown, but rather in dysfunction. “Everything gets done, but slowly and at great cost to the railroad and inconvenience to its freight customers and those of tenant Amtrak,” he wrote.

What happened this week on the NS Chicago Line in Indiana is happening on a lot of railroads right now.

“And it is happening because railroads are not prepared on key routes with the crews, locomotives, or track capacity they need to handle a surge of new business,” Fraley wrote.

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