Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak delays’

3 Amtrak Trains Were Most Delayed, FRA Says

February 16, 2022

Three Amtrak trains led the list of most delayed trains during the fourth quarter of 2021, the Federal Railroad Administration said on Monday.

In a report showing performance and service quality of intercity passenger train operations, the Cardinal (Chicago-New York), Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio) had the most delays.

The FRA used standards and metrics that it issued in November 2020 to compile the report.

The agency found Amtrak trains experienced more than 1.2 million minutes of delay during the fourth quarter, up 37 percent from the previous quarter.

Delays system-wide rose 33 percent at 8,168,324 train-miles. The FRA rules track delays by 40 categories, but the top three during the fourth quarter were those attributed to a host railroad, those attributed to Amtrak and those attributed to a third party. The latter includes weather-related delays.

The FRA said freight train interference accounted for 22 percent of delay minutes, an increase of 36 percent from the previous quarter.

Delays by train included the Cardinal (87,123 minutes), Sunset Limited (67,300 minutes), and Texas Eagle (42,965 minutes).

The report also found Amtrak ridership increased 48 percent during the fourth quarter to 5.1 million passengers.

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 Delays 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.

Tales From the Road of Late Amtrak Trains

March 26, 2016

I was riding Amtrak’s Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, Illini when a passenger asked the conductor how the train was doing.

He pointed at me and said, “ask that guy. He knows everything that is going on.”

I don’t know if the passenger understood that the conductor meant that I was listening to the host railroad’s radio conversations on a scanner.

On TransportationI take my scanner when I travel on Amtrak because I learn more that way about why a train is late than I would from crew announcements made on the public address system.

What I’ve learned from years of listening to railroad radio transmissions is that the reasons why Amtrak trains are late are quite varied. It is not always because the host railroad gave preference to its freight trains although I have seen that happen.

Signals and switches malfunction. Accidents occur. Trains ahead are slow to get out of the way even when the dispatcher is trying to get Amtrak by.

I’ve seen situations in which every opposing freight train that Amtrak encountered is waiting in a siding and yet we still lost time due to slow orders and/or extended and unexpected dwell times in stations.

Dispatchers sometimes gamble that a freight train on the main ahead will clear up before Amtrak arrives. But it doesn’t always happen that way.

I once sat for several minutes not far from my destination of Mattoon, Illinois, because a Canadian National local ahead had not yet finished its work and gone on its way.

I was aboard an already very late Lake Shore Limited that halted almost within sight of the Cleveland station. A switch at Drawbridge on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern wouldn’t move.

The railroad tried running a freight train over the switch in the hope that that would pry it loose. It didn’t. A maintainer had to be summoned and it took time for him to arrive.

At least twice I’ve been aboard Amtrak when a freight train ahead of us struck something and the railroad was shut down while police and EMTs responded.

I had been dozing aboard the eastbound Lake Shore Limited when I awakened to notice we had stopped just east of Toledo.

I saw flashing red lights moving on a nearby highway. A westbound NS freight had struck a vehicle at a grade crossing.

Railroads say with some justification that in making dispatching decisions they look at the larger picture in an effort to keep all trains moving and not just Amtrak.

One morning on a trip to Chicago, the NS Chicago East dispatcher during a conversation with the engineer of Amtrak No. 29 said, “you have just the one train to take care of. I have one, two, three, four, five . . . trains to take care of” as he counted on his computer screen the number of trains that he was dispatching. It was more than 10.

The greatest good for the greatest number comes into play when one of two tracks is out of service for maintenance.

Inevitably, Amtrak waits while one, two or three freights in the opposing direction go by on the open track.

Delays occur because of freight congestion. One morning west of Waterloo, Indiana, Amtrak No. 29 kept getting a series of approach signals, which meant moving at restricted speed on Track No. 1.

A heavy freight train ahead of us was moving slowly on the same track. A parade of eastbounds went past us on Track No. 2.

In theory, the Conrail Toledo West dispatcher could have halted that eastbound traffic until No. 29 could run around the slow freight. I can only presume that that didn’t occur because the chief dispatcher decided that it was better to keep those trains moving.

They don’t say it out loud on the radio, but dispatchers probably think “this is our railroad and by gosh we need to keep our trains moving. Ten, 15 or 20 minutes delay to Amtrak won’t make that much difference.”

One Conrail crew member knew what was going on and quipped on the radio, “you’ve been ‘Calvinized,’ Amtrak,” a reference to the former comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.

From a dispatcher’s point of view, it is a matter of balancing competing interests.

Of course, I’ve seen many instances in which Amtrak was run around slow traffic ahead or a freight train was held “to get Amtrak by.” It all depends on the situation at hand.

I’ve also seen Amtrak gamble and lose big time, too. I was aboard a Lake Shore Limited trip that departed Chicago on time but with an engineer who had just over two hours to work before outlawing.

Amtrak had a relief crew lined up but rather than putting them aboard No. 48, it sent them by van to South Bend, Indiana, the next station stop after Chicago.

The NS Chicago West dispatcher told the engineer of No. 48 that heavy freight traffic ahead made it unlikely that he would reach South Bend before outlawing.

They agreed that No. 48 would stop at Amtrak’s Hammond-Whiting station and the relief crew would board there.

It took awhile to reach the relief crew by cell phone to tell them of the change in plans and by then they had already reached South Bend. They headed west on the Indiana Toll Road, but got stopped in traffic due to a serious accident involving fatalities.

We sat at Hammond-Whiting for more than a couple of hours, which reduced a busy NS mainline to a single-track operation.

The Amtrak crew never made an announcement about why we were sitting there for so long.

Later, I woke up west of South Bend. We had halted short of a crossover because an NS freight was stopped ahead of us.

The Amtrak engineer had stopped short in the hope the dispatcher would line us to go around the freight. Instead, the dispatcher ordered No. 48 to pull ahead and stop just behind the stopped freight.

That might have been a bit of retaliation by NS for what had happened earlier at Hammond-Whiting. At least two NS trains following us crossed over and went around us, at least one of which was on short time.

No. 48 had to get another crew at Bryan, Ohio, meaning it took three crews to move No. 48 from Chicago to Toledo when it ordinarily takes just one.

I had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the dining car on that trip and didn’t reach Cleveland until almost noon.

My experiences riding Amtrak and listening to the radio conversations lead me to conclude that much if not most of the time dispatchers want to move Amtrak along or at least keep a passenger train moving.

Some dispatchers on CN, for example, will alert Amtrak engineers to locations where they might encounter freight traffic and where they can expect clear sailing.

But things happen on the railroad and not just Amtrak is delayed.

I was riding the westbound Empire Builder as it crawled its way on Canadian Pacific tracks through Milwaukee because of congestion.

An Amtrak Hiawatha Service train along with CP and freight trains of other railroads were also caught in the morass.

The CP dispatcher was discussing the matter with the hogger of one of those trains and said about the situation, “sounds like piss poor dispatching to me.” I don’t know if he was talking about himself or decisions made by someone else, but at least he was being honest.

CSX Track Work May Delay Amtrak in New York

August 13, 2015

CSX track work between Buffalo and Albany, New York, might delay Amtrak trains for up to 45 minutes, Amtrak has said.

Affected will be the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf, the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and Empire Service trains 280, 281, 283 and 288.

The track work is expected to be completed by late October.

N.Y. Track Work May Delay Trains 20 Minutes

April 28, 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.

STB Wants Info From NS on Amtrak Delays

October 15, 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 resolve 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 been 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.

WB Amtrak Trains Terminated in Toledo

October 7, 2014

Headed for Chicago on Amtrak? You might actually find yourself getting off in Toledo and taking a bus the rest of the way.

That happened Sunday and Monday when Amtrak annulled the Capitol Limited on both days in the Glass City and halted the Lake Shore Limited there on Monday.

All of the trains that were annulled were running hours late and rather than risk them becoming even later as they tried to navigate the congested Norfolk Southern Chicago Line.

Late westbound arrivals in Chicago turn into late eastbound departures because Amtrak lacks spare equipment in Chicago to make up replacement trains when equipment arrives late.

It also lacks enough engineers and conductors to have a train crew available to go to work. Amtrak crews turn at Chicago and must do so within the maximum 12 hours on duty federal regulations.

“If the train is late getting to Chicago, it’s most likely going to be late eastbound while we’re servicing equipment and getting proper rest for our crews,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. “The result is to drive up our costs, dissatisfy our passengers, and create ‘never again’ riders.”

Hence, if Amtrak turns trains at Toledo, it avoids the prospect of a 10-hour late inbound train turning into a nearly equally late outbound one.

Today (Tuesday, Oct. 7), the Amtrak website showed Nos. 30 and 48 having a service disruption, but the Track-a-Train function on the site showed that No. 30 departed Cleveland 2 hours, 45 minutes, while No. 48 was running two hours late into Sandusky.

In recent weeks, the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited have routinely been operating three hours or more behind schedule.

The major problem has been congestion on the Norfolk Southern tracks used by Amtrak in northern Indiana and northern Ohio where parked freight trains have forced Amtrak trains to wait for hours until relief crews can be ferried to the NS freights.

During the 12 months that ended in August, the Capitol Limited arrived in Chicago or Washington within 30 minutes of schedule only 22.5 percent of the time, while the Lake Shore Limited reached Chicago or New York on time 30.8 percent of the time.

Then August came and the congestion got even worse. The Lake Shore reached New York within 30 minutes of schedule 6.5 percent of the time. That is two trips.

The westbound Lake Shore was late into Chicago every day of the month while the Capitol arrived on time once in each direction.

David Pidgeon, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, said the congestion is a product of “more trains and capacity challenges in the corridor between Chicago and Cleveland” because the freight traffic exceeds what the company handled before the 2008 recession.

“We generally have a cooperative relationship with Amtrak because we are each other’s landlords,” Pidgeon said. “We run on their network and they run on ours, so there’s plenty of business and personal incentive to keep the cooperation going. We want to keep freight and passenger trains moving, period.”

NS is currently constructing a 30-mile third main track between Chesterton and Gary in Northwest Indiana.

However, construction work there has exacerbated the congestion problems in a heavily industrialized area of steels miles and oil refineries.

The track here also hosts Amtrak trains headed to and from Michigan points.

NS spokesman Pidgeon said that the third track combined with the expansion of the yard in Bellevue are expected to east some of the congestion.

That “will ease the demand for space in Elkhart and hopefully significantly reduce transit times for our freight trains, keeping us moving and the network fluid,” he said.

Pidgeon said that NS has also purchased new locomotives and is hiring 100 new conductors. To alleviate crew shortages, NS is transferring 120 additional conductors to the

Cleveland-Chicago corridor .

More than Amtrak passengers have been inconvenienced by the delays.

Dan McMackin, a United Parcel Service spokesman, told the Toledo Blade that UPS has recently changed some rail routes that it uses to move packages in response to delays.

He did not confirm if UPS has moved traffic away from the NS route.

“We have seen some recent lower reliability in several lanes and are adjusting accordingly, with guidance from our rail service partners as to appropriate network corrections,” McMackin said. “While there have been lanes affected over the last several months, we expect long-term reliability to return and most of our adjustments are seen as temporary.”

Amtrak Warns Passengers of Severe Delays

October 6, 2014

Amtrak has finally acknowledged what has been widely known for months. The Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited are subject to significant delays en route.

Amtrak posted the notice on its website late last week in the “Service Disruptions” section. The notice is in effect through Jan. 12, 2015, but it remains to be seen if the congestion on Norfolk Southern between Cleveland and Chicago will have been mitigated by then.

The notice said that trains in recent weeks “have typically encountered delays of more than four hours.”

Amtrak said it will continue to work with Norfolk Southern, CSX and other carriers to restore dependable service along these routes.

Amtrak Extends Delay Warning for LSL

September 23, 2014

Amtrak has extended through Oct. 29 its notification of possible delays on trains traversing New York State on the CSX Water Level Route.

The Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited, which serves Northeast Ohio, will be subject to delays of up to 45 minutes on Sunday through Wednesday due to CSX track work between Buffalo and Rome, N.Y.

Also affected are the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and the New York-Niagara Falls, N.Y., Empire Service trains.

Amtrak said passengers should sign up for delay notifications when booking their travel and to check the status of their train on Amtrak.com, its mobile apps or at 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245).