Amtrak asks DOT board to ease delays on Ill. route

Amtrak asks DOT board to ease delays on Ill. route
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Amtrak is asking federal regulators to help ease delays on freight rail tracks it shares in Illinois with a Canadian freight rail company.

The complaint, which was filed on Friday, calls for the Department of Transportation's Surface Transportation Board (STB) to investigate the on-time performance of the Canadian National Railway (CN).

The company 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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"In support of passengers, state partners and its own business operations, Amtrak is taking action to improve the on-time performance (OTP) of its trains that operate over tracks controlled by other railroads," Amtrak said Tuesday in a  news release about the complaint.

"Under federal law, Amtrak has a statutory right to preference in the dispatching of intercity passenger trains before freight trains," the company continued.

Amtrak said in its complaint that its on-time performance on its route between Illini and Saluki, Ill. was 49 percent in the second quarter of 2014 and 42 percent in the first three months of the year. The company added that the on-time performance rate on the route has below 80 percent for three years.

"Amtrak is taking this action under Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) which mandates that the STB initiate an investigation upon the filing of a complaint by Amtrak if the OTP of an intercity passenger train falls below 80 percent for two consecutive quarters," Amtrak said.

"The Amended Complaint is part of the same case that Amtrak filed with the STB regarding CN's performance in January 2012," Amtrak continued. "The proceedings were stayed while Amtrak and CN attempted to address the issue of delays informally, but OTP has remained poor on the Illini/Saluki service. Therefore, Amtrak is now asking the STB to investigate the causes of delay on that service, and to award damages and other relief if violations of Amtrak's right to preference are found."

Amtrak said it was filing the complaint about the CN freight rail delays because "poor on-time performance creates a major disruption for Amtrak customers due to delayed trains and missed connections. 

"It also negatively impacts Amtrak and state-supported services through decreased ridership, lost revenues and higher operating costs," the company continued.