Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak delays on Norfolk Southern’

NS Track Work in Indiana to Delay Amtrak Trains

June 22, 2019

Amtrak, NS Trade Barbs Over Handling of Crescent

March 22, 2019

Amtrak and Norfolk Southern have been trading barbed comments in letters regarding the host railroad’s dispatching of Amtrak trains.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that a Twitter comment made by Amtrak prompted the exchange in which NS denied being responsible for delays to the Crescent, which NS hosts for Amtrak between Washington and New Orleans.

For its part Amtrak asserted that freight train interference was the cause of the delays while NS accused the passenger carrier of making misleading statements.

The tiff began after Amtrak Tweeted the freight train interference accusation.

The NS legal department responded by sending a letter to Amtrak officials that said that if Amtrak continued to post such misleading Tweets that it would be forced to consider further action.

NS contended that the delay to the Crescent actually was caused by a sleeping and dining car uncoupling shortly after the train left New Orleans.

The freight carrier said Amtrak’s Tweet promulgated “a misleading narrative that operates at the expense of Norfolk Southern’s reputation” and that further tweets would mean NS “will be forced to consider further action.”

In response, Amtrak told NS officials that after the mechanical issue occurred, No. 20 incurred three hours of additional delay due to freight train interference.

The Amtrak letter cited 11 instances of delays it said it had encountered because of NS freight train interference.

Amtrak’s letter suggested that Norfolk Southern’s “further action” should be “taking immediate action to improve the on-time performance of Amtrak trains on your railroad.”

Amtrak Takes Host Railroads to School

March 26, 2018

Amtrak has launched a quarterly “report card” on its website that evaluates the delays that it incurs on the tracks of its host railroads.  In the first report card, Amtrak said most delays are due to freight trains interference.

The implication is that such delays violate a federal law that gives Amtrak passenger trains preference over freight trains. However, the law has some exceptions.

Amtrak assigned letter grades to six Class 1 railroads that were based on delays per 10,000 train miles.

Amtrak defines that as the number of minutes of host-responsible delay, divided by the number of Amtrak train miles operated over that host railroad, times 10,000.

Canadian Pacific received the only A on the report card. Other railroad grades included a B+ for BNSF, a B- for Union Pacific and a C for CSX. Norfolk Southern and Canadian National both “flunked” by receiving grades of F.

Following are some Amtrak comments regarding hosts railroad performances on specific routes:

• 97 percent of passengers on Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee arrived at their destinations on time. Ninety percent of trips experienced no freight train interference.

• 90 percent of passengers on Carl Sandberg/Illinois Zephyr service arrived on time with less than 4 minutes of delay by BNSF freight trains.

• More than 57 percent of passengers arrived late abroad the Coast Starlight. On an average trip on this route, passengers experienced four separate instances of delay caused by UP freight trains, accounting for 48 minutes of delay on average.

• 50 percent of passengers traveling on the Cardinal arrived late by an average of 1 hour and 27 minutes. On 85 percent of trips, the Cardinal’s 350 passengers are delayed by CSX freight trains.

• Over 67 percent of passengers arrived late at their destinations while traveling on the Crescent. The typical Amtrak train, carrying 350 passengers, is delayed over 1 hour and 40 minutes due to NS freight trains. Many Amtrak trains wait as long as 3 hours and 12 minutes for NS freight trains using this route.

• More than 200,000 passengers arrived late at their destinations on the Illini and Saluki, which operate between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. Amtrak trains were delayed by CN freight trains on nearly 90 percent of their trips.

The Very Late Running Season

October 24, 2016

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It is August 2014 and Amtrak is in the midst of a nightmare summer on Norfolk Southern. It was routine then for the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited to operate several hours off schedule.

NS had instituted a new computerized dispatching system and things were chaotic for several months. It also didn’t help that it was the height of the summer track work season and in some places trains had to fit through a single-track stretch.

Yet another complication was that very late arriving Amtrak trains in Chicago meant late turns due to the need for crew rest and equipment servicing.

Although not good for passengers, it was good news for photographers living in places where Amtrak would under ordinary circumstances pass through in the middle of the night.

In the photo above, train No. 30, the eastbound Capitol Limited should have been through Brady Lake, Ohio, located between Cleveland and Alliance, about six hours ago. But on this date it was making a daylight run through Northeast Ohio.

Capitol Limited Down to 5 Cars, 1 Locomotive

October 22, 2014

The scuttlebutt on railfan chat lists these days is that an Oct. 6 letter from Surface Transportation Board Chairman Daniel Elliott III to NS Chairman Wick Moorman asking for a detailed explanation about what the railroad is doing to improve Amtrak on-time performance is responsible for an improvement in Amtrak timekeeping.

Those who follow the on-time performance of the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited have noted that the hours-long delays have begun to disappear.

The trains are still running late, but in the past week or so the tardiness has been more in the range of two hours or less.

The link between the STB letter and the uptick of on-time performance of the two Amtrak routes serving Northeast Ohio is at best circumstantial.

A number of factors have played a role in improving the fluidity of the NS Chicago Line. Amtrak has also taken steps to protect itself.

One of the steps Amtrak has taken is to alter the practice of having the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited equipment and Toledo-based operating crews make same-day turns in Chicago.

The habitual excessive delays suffered by inbound Nos. 29 and 49 meant that outbound Nos. 30 and 48 were delayed by hours because of the need for crew rest and equipment servicing.

One step has been to scrape together a fourth equipment set for the Capitol that can be sent out regardless of how late the inbound train is that day.

For now, that has meant shortening the consist of the Capitol Limited by removing the Sighterseer lounges in favor of 37000-series diner-lounges.  Half of the car is a full-service diner while the other half serves up lounge car fare.

On one occasion, the makeshift equipment set for the Capitol departed Chicago for Washington, D.C., just nine minutes past its scheduled 6:40 p.m. departure time and passed that day’s inbound No. 29 en route. That No. 30 was staffed by a Chicago-based operating and on-board crew.

Amtrak also has decided to have the Toledo-based crews that bring the Lake Shore Limited nto Chicago to layover there and handle the next day’s outbound Capitol Limited

Inbound Capitol Limited crews are expected to have sufficient rest time to make a same-day turn back to Toledo on the eastbound Lake Shore.

Since these crew and equipment assignments have been implemented, Nos. 30 and 48 have departed Chicago either on-time or less than 10 minutes late every day, something that last occurred back in April.

Another factor has been the opening earlier this month of the Englewood flyover, which separated the NS Chicago Line from Metra’s Rock Island District on the south side of Chicago.

Summer track work on NS has been winding down, meaning that there are fewer segments of single tracking occurring.

NS also has been increasing the number of operating crew members assigned to Chicago Line trains through new hires and transfers from elsewhere in the system.

The Amtrak Capitol Limited “self-help plan” has had pros and cons. Amtrak cut the number of coaches assigned to the Capitol Limited from three to two and eliminated the transition sleeper used by the crew.

Nos. 29 and 30 will continue to carry two sleepers, one of which will be used by the on-board crew. The lower level of one of the coaches will also be used to store checked baggage.

With the Capitol Limited now operating with five cars, Amtrak is assigning one P42 locomotive to the train rather than the customary two.

Amtrak expects to save money on fuel and labor cost due to the reduced number of on-board service employees.

It also means that last-minute travelers might find coach seats and sleeper accommodations aboard the train unavailable.

However, Amtrak only expects to continue using the shortened consists through Nov. 18 eastbound and Nov. 20 westbound.

STB Asks NS for Info on Amtrak Delays

October 14, 2014

The Surface Transportation Board has asked Norfolk Southern to address the on-time woes of Amtrak trains that it hosts in the upper Midwest.

The letter asked NS how it intends to the on-time performance problems of Amtrak passenger trains using NS tracks.

The STB cited serious delays that have occurred on NS, singling out Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington, D.C. Capitol Limited and the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited. Also adversely affected have been trains that operate between Chicago and various Michigan cities.

These routes collectively carried 1.5 million passengers in 2013 on 14 daily trains, an average of 294 riders per train.

Ridership had growing on these routes in most years since 2000, but has since stagnated due to the delays.

Federal law states that a host freight railroad that fails to meet an 80 percent on-time performance standard for Amtrak passenger trains in two consecutive quarters may be fined by the STB.

However, the measures used to determine Amtrak’s on-time performance are currently being challenged in court by the railroad industry. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in that case in December.

The STB letter, sent on Oct. 6, requested the NS provide information pertaining to:

  • The primary causes of delays experienced by Amtrak trains on NS lines.
  • Locations where delays occur most frequently.
  • Measures that NS is taking to improve Amtrak performance, including but not limited to expansion of network capacity and resources, changes to train dispatching protocols and procedures, and modifications of network operating plans.
  • NS’s expectation of when Amtrak service will improve.

The on-time performance of the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited fell to 4 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in August with the average delay per arrival being four hours.

All Aboard Ohio has reported that most of the delays occurred west of Toledo and in areas where track construction was occurring, much of it in Indiana.

The track work includes installing a third main track between Goshen and Elkhart, Ind., and between Porter, Ind., and the Illinois-Indiana border.

Although the Englewood Flyover in Chicago, which has recently been phased into service, separated the NS Chicago Line from an at-grade rail-rail crossing with the Metra Rock Island District, All Aboard Ohio noted that this project was designed in 2010 to address rail traffic levels of four years ago, not the boom in rail traffic which has occurred since.

Of late, the worst of the traffic congestion has been occurring between Toledo and Cleveland.

Amtrak and NS intermodal trains have had to snake their way around lower priority freight trains awaiting fresh crews.

Some observers have contended that the delays have been made worse by errors caused by NS’s new Auto-Router computer-aided dispatching software.

The Ohio passenger advocacy groups contends that all Northern Ohio stations are limited in their ability to process passengers from more than one track, requiring passenger trains to run against the flow of rail traffic half of the time to reach a station platform.

All Aboard Ohio contends that this “slalom” causes up to 80 minutes of delay per day to Amtrak trains and at least as much delay to NS freight traffic.