Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak delays’

Durbin Seeks to Hold RRs Accountable for Amtrak Delays

October 26, 2019

An Illinois Senator says Amtrak’s host railroads could do more to operate Amtrak trains on time.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said in letters sent to the passenger carrier and the Federal Railroad Administration that he wants to work with them on the issue.

Durbin said he acted after the Amtrak Office of Inspector General issued a report that concluded report Amtrak could save $42 million annually if its trains operated on time more often.

The report was created under the direction of an amendment that Durbin won approval of last year during the appropriations process.

Of particular interest to Durbin is the poor performance of State of Illinois-funded Amtrak trains operating between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, on tracks of Canadian National.

The report found that Amtrak must make penalty payments to crews as a result of poor on-time performance of the Illini and Saluki trains.

“As a firm supporter of passenger rail, I stand ready to continue working with Amtrak, as well as with the FRA, to push Canadian National to improve Amtrak’s reliability for Illinois riders,” Durbin wrote Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson.

In his letter to FRA had Ronald Batory, Durbin called on the agency “to take a more active role in ensuring improvements to Amtrak’s [on-time performance], particularly along its Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale routes.”

Durbin is calling for CN to be held accountable for repeated freight interference and speed restrictions imposed on Amtrak trains in the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor.

“As you are well aware, freight railroads continue to ignore their statutory obligation to provide Amtrak with preference on their tracks,” Durbin wrote to Batory.

“As a result, freight interference has hampered Amtrak’s financial stability as well as reliability for riders — and it caused roughly 60 percent of Amtrak’s delays in FY2018.”

Track Work to Delay Trains in New York

July 2, 2019

Eastbound trains 48, 64, 238, 244, 250, 252, 254, 256, 260, 280, 284, 290 and 292 will operate five to 15 minutes later than originally scheduled.

Westbound trains 49, 233, 253 and 259 will operate 10 minutes earlier or 10 minutes later than originally scheduled.

Empire Builder Subject to Delay

May 7, 2018

Track work being performed by Canadian Pacific in Wisconsin is expected to delay the Empire Builder through Oct. 3.

Train No. 8 will be held up to 60 minutes between Winona and La Crosse, departing no earlier than 11:47 a.m.

Train No. 8 will operate on a later schedule through to Chicago and passengers are advised to check Amtrak.com for the latest schedule times.

In a service advisory said that although delays of up to an hour are expected, the delay could be less at individual stations because trains can make up time.

The advisory recommended that passengers check the status of their train at Amtrak.com, with Amtrak mobile apps, speaking with station personnel or calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245).

Amtrak also offers text or email delay alerts when booking a reservation.

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.

Snow, Ice Pile Delay Wolverine Service Train

February 14, 2018

An Amtrak Wolverine Service train struck a pile of ice and snow left close to its tracks, damaging the locomotive and delaying passengers for more than four hours during which the train lacked heat and the restrooms were inoperable.

The incident occurred on Monday evening and involved Chicago to Detroit (Pontiac) Train No. 352.

The train struck ice and snow that a local snow plow crew had left close to the rails near Michigan City, Indiana.

A Chicago radio station said some passengers felt sick and one said she feared losing consciousness during the ordeal.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was forced to stop after striking the snow and ice while Amtrak personnel re-aligned the snow plow on the locomotive.

That task took nearly two-and-a-half-hours and during that time the head-end power to the passenger cars was disconnected.

Magliari said that Amtrak police and managers distributed snacks to passengers during the delay and provided what help they could. Two other Amtrak trains using the route were also delayed.

Amtrak will discuss with the unnamed town involved the need to avoid piling snow next to railroad tracks, Magliari said.

Mechanical Problems Delay Amtrak 29

August 25, 2017

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited arrived nearly five hours late in Cleveland today due to mechanical problems encountered shortly after the train left Washington.

No. 29 departed from Washington and Rockville, Maryland, on time, but got hung up in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, due to an emergency brake application east of the station in the vicinity of Sandy Hook that the crew was unable to release.

An on-line report said that the culprit was a trailing locomotive, P42DC No. 173, which was dead-heading to the Beech Grove Shops near Indianapolis for a repair.

No. 173 was damaged in a collision at Patrick, South Carolina, between the northbound Silver Star and a truck.

Amtrak mechanical department personnel were called to the scene

The train also had a dead-heading heritage dining car (8532) between the locomotives and baggage car. The other locomotives on train were 196 and 169.

No. 29 arrived in Cleveland at 7:38 a.m., which is 4 hours, 45 minutes off schedule.

CSX Denies Deliberately Delaying Amtrak

August 25, 2017

CSX is denying that it has been short-changing Amtrak trains in favor of its own freight trains.

In a statement, a CSX spokesman said that the railroad “recognizes the important benefits that passenger rail service can provide to the public.”

Spokesman Rob Doolittle said that CSX has a long history of supporting passenger service across its network and that it provides Amtrak preference in accordance with federal law.

But the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier reported that those comments are at odds with a directive given by a CSX supervisor to dispatchers.

“Give high priority to [freight trains] Q031/Q032,” the supervisor  wrote in an email obtained by the newspaper. “If we are meeting with Amtrak make the delay on Amtrak first. If Amtrak is running down one of these trains go ahead and get to the point Amtrak is seeing the (end of the freight train) before we get them around.”

The Journal & Courier said that Amtrak’s own on-time performance statistics show that delays have become frequent while on CSX.

“We are one of the customers who have been disappointed by CSX’s performance on this and other routes around the country,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, making a specific reference to the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor used by Amtrak’s Hoosier State and Cardinal.

“CSX has made a series of operational decisions and dispatching decisions that have not given these trains the priority to which we’re entitled and the reliability that we  expect.”

Magliari said Amtrak has begun tracking how much money it has lost across its network due to CSX’s problems. That includes compensation for displaced passengers, the cost of getting passengers to other train stations to make connections, and additional crew costs.

“There has not been improvement in August thus far [in on-time performance], and there’s only a few days left,” Magliari said.

Amtrak crews will communicate to passengers why delays are occurring. “The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and we are very transparent about how sweet or sour this pudding is,” Magliari said.

Southwest Chief Subject to Delay Due to Track Work

June 29, 2017

Track work being performed between Albuquerque and Lamy, New Mexico, is expected to delay Amtrak’s Southwest Chief through July 22.

In a service advisory, Amtrak No 3 may encounter delays of up to 2.5 hours at all stations west of Lamy while No. 4 may encounter delays of up to two hours east of Albuquerque.

The service advisory said that alternative transportation may be provided to passengers missing connections to Amtrak trains and Thruway buses at Kansas City, Chicago and Los Angeles.

N.Y. Track Work May Delay Trains by 20 Minutes

April 27, 2015

Amtrak is warning that trains operating in New York State are subject to delay through December due to track work being undertaken between Hudson and Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y.

This include the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited and all Empire Service trains. Trains may experience delays of up to 20 minutes in the work zones.

The $163 million project is part of a partnership between the New York State Department of Transportation and Amtrak that includes installation of a fourth track at the Albany-Rensselaer station — the ninth busiest terminal in the Amtrak system.

Amtrak said the additional track will alleviate congestion that results in trains having to wait just outside the station for a track to open during busy times.

A second main line track between Albany-Rensselaer and Schenectady will also be constructed that will eliminate train delays caused by bottlenecks over the 17-mile single-track route.

Also being installed is a new signal system that Amtrak expects will reduce the likelihood of signal outages due to weather.

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.