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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Sen. Durbin asks STB to address Amtrak's performance delays related to freight rail

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has asked the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to increase efforts to improve Amtrak’s on-time performance after a recent report showed that the main cause of the passenger railroad’s train delays stems from freight-rail operations.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General released the report, which found several causes of Amtrak delays related to freight-rail operations, including speed restrictions due to poor track conditions, construction, congesting and track sharing, officials in Durbin’s office said in a prepared statement.

Other factors include capacity utilization and activities at Amtrak crew change locations that contributed “significantly” to delays throughout the system, but “considerably less” than the impact of freight-rail operations, they said.

“In 2011, Amtrak carried a record 30 million passengers, and passenger numbers in 2012 are expected to increase. However, consistent train delays caused by freight railroads cost Amtrak millions of dollars a year and threaten to turn passengers away from Amtrak,” Durbin wrote in a letter to STB Chairman Daniel Elliott.

Durbin asked STB members to use their authority under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 to “investigate and enforce” the on-time performance standards where a railroad fails to meet the 80 percent threshold.

Meanwhile, Amtrak, federal, state and local officials last week marked the opening of a multi-modal transportation station in Normal, Ill., serving Amtrak and bus riders. Durbin, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Amtrak Chairman Tom Carper and others attended a ceremony to dedicate the Uptown Station.

The $45.9 million station received a $22 million federal stimulus grant as well as $10.6 million in other federal funding, and more than $13 million in state and local contributions, according to a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/16/2012