Posts Tagged ‘Empire Builder schedule’

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.

Some Empire Builder Connections Restored

January 23, 2015

Amtrak has restored connections to the Empire Builder that were severed last year when the train’s on-time performance became erratic.

This includes same connections between the Empire Builder and the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight in both directions in Portland, Ore.

Also restored was a connection in Chicago to Lincoln Service train No. 307 for St. Louis.

Improved timekeeping and a shorter schedule that became effective on Jan. 12 enabled Amtrak to restore the connections to Nos. 7 and 8, which operated between Chicago and Portland/Seattle.

Amtrak’s policies for connections are that there must be at least one hour of dwell time between the scheduled arrival of a train and the scheduled departure of the connecting train.

However, Amtrak blocks connections in its reservation system if a particular train has proven to be unreliable in arriving at a terminal in time to make a connection.

In doing this, Amtrak avoids the responsibility of getting travelers to their destinations by chartering buses or housing passengers overnight in hotel rooms.

After the Empire Builder’s arrival reliability in Chicago became suspect, the only connections in Chicago that Amtrak continued to ticket from the Empire Builder were to trains leaving more than four hours after the arrival of No. 8. Only the New York/Boston-bound Lake Shore Limited and the New Orleans-bound City of New Orleans met that criterion.

Empire Builder ridership and ticket revenue fell last year by 16 and 19 percent, respectively. The completion of BNSF track expansion projects in Montana and North Dakota has resulted in the Empire Builder seeing a greatly improved on time record.

Amtrak to Track Train Delays Electronically

September 5, 2014

Amtrak has begun implementing an electronic delay reporting system that seeks to show the reasons why its trains are delayed en route.

Amtrak Vice President of Operations D.J. Stadtler discussed the delay reporting system at a Surface Transportation Board field hearing held in Fargo, N.D., to hear complaints from shippers about service on BNSF and Canadian Pacific.

Stadtler told Trains magazine that the railroad is testing the delay reporting system on the Fort Worth-Oklahoma City Heartland Flyer and Boston-Brunswick, Maine, Downeaster corridor.

Amtrak hopes to implement the delay reporting system on all route by the end of the year.

The passenger railroad already uses a GPS-based monitoring system to keep track of its trains. That system is accessible to the public on the “Track-a-Train” feature on the Amtrak website.

If Amtrak’s monitoring system detects a delay, the conductor of the delayed train will receive a prompt on his or her iPhone to report the reason for the delay.

That information will be sent to Amtrak’s Consolidated National Operations Center in Wilmington, Del., and relayed to the host railroad.

The thinking is that this will provide accountability for dispatchers and their supervisors as well as letting Amtrak personnel know about recurring trouble spots due to slow orders or rail traffic congestion. Currently, such information between Amtrak and its host railroads involves paper documents sent by fax.

Tardiness has become a problem for Amtrak this summer with systemwide long-distance train endpoint on-time performance falling below 40 percent in July.

Of particular concern has been the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder. Its all stations on-time figure was 9.9 percent, the worst for any train on the system. Schedule padding enables Nos. 7 and 8 to arrive on time at their endpoint number 24.5 percent of the time.

Stadtler said BNSF officials told him that slow orders on the Devils Lake and Valley Subdivisions in North Dakota would be removed in October as six track and signal projects are completed.

Amtrak has been talking with BNSF about a schedule that will be more realistic and reliable than the most recent adjustment to the schedule implemented last April that extended the running times in both directions.

Stadtler said, though, that systemwide year-to-date trends “have shown little signs of improvement” and suggested that the STB monitor the on-time statistics that Amtrak publishes as well as asking the host railroads to report periodically on their handling of Amtrak trains.

Host railroads need to “take Amtrak on-time performance seriously,” Stadtler said.

“Amtrak services nationwide and particularly the long-distance trains are experiencing growing levels of delay on host railroads,” Stadtler said. “If this is not addressed, it will translate into significant impacts to our service, our passengers and our bottom line.

“We want to avoid [delays], and we prefer to address and fix this system-wide problem by working cooperatively with our host railroad partners,” he said. “We do, however, have an obligation to provide the traveling public with the level of service mandated by the statute, and we therefore believe that the STB could significantly assist us by monitoring the statistics.”

Trying to Figure Out the Empire Builder Sked

June 1, 2014

If you are riding or planning to ride Amtrak’s Empire Builder this summer good luck figuring out what the schedule will be.

Amtrak’s website and the already printed national timetable to be issued on June 9 show the schedule that has been in effect until mid April, when schedules changed to reflect more realistic operating conditions in Montana and North Dakota.

Currently, the Empire Builder is scheduled to depart Seattle and Portland, Ore., respectively at 1:40 p.m. The scheduled arrival time in Chicago three days later is 3:55 p.m.

Westbound, the current schedule shows No. 7 departing Chicago at 2:15 p.m. and arriving in Seattle at 11:55 a.m. No. 27, which splits from No. 7 in Spokane, Wash., is scheduled to arrive in Portland at 11:40 a.m.

The current schedules, which went into effect on April 15, are posted at Amtrak.com. But if you click on the schedule dated June 9, you’ll get a schedule that may or may not be likely to be valid on that date.

Given the on-time problems that the Empire Builder has been having, it is anyone’s guess as to what the schedule will actually be come June 9.

The June 9 timetable, which is now available at Amtrak stations, hints that the schedule shown on that page might be “adjusted.