Amtrak exec: Freight delays hurt ridership

Amtrak exec: Freight delays hurt ridership
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An Amtrak executive told federal regulators on Thursday that delays on freight rail lines that it shares track with could hurt ridership on the nation’s passenger rail service. 

The comments came at a field hearing of the Department of Transportation's Surface Transportation Board (STB), which the company has asked to investigate the on-time performance of the Canadian National Railway (CN). 

Amtrak’s complaint contends that the Canadian freight rail company is "causing unacceptable train delays on the Illini/Saluki service that uses the CN line from Chicago to Carbondale, Ill.” 

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Vice President of Operations DJ Stadtler told the Transportation Department board at a hearing in Fargo, N.D., on Thursday that the repercussions of delays on shared tracks like the ones in Illinois are felt in other areas of the company’s business.  

“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.” 

Amtrak shares tracks with freight rail companies for most of its routes outside of the Northeast U.S., which is home to its most profitable routes. 

“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. 

“Amtrak publishes and asking the freight carriers to report periodically to the STB on their handling of Amtrak trains,” Stadtler continued. “We believe this would help us to ensure that the public interest in a safe, efficient and reliable intercity passenger rail service is safeguarded in the years to come.”