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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

'Poor' freight-road practices key cause of Amtrak's OTP woes, inspector general says


"Improper" dispatching practices and "poor operating disciplines" by host freight railroads are among the key reasons Amtrak is registering lackluster on-time performance (OTP) with some trains, according to a report issued earlier this week by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General.

Federal law requires that, except in emergencies or otherwise ordered by the secretary of transportation, passenger trains must be given preference over freight trains on lines, junctions or crossings.

Conducted in response to a request from the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, the study found that, if issues with host railroads are addressed, Amtrak could improve its OTP and financial viability. Earlier this year, the inspector general issued a report that stated poor OTP on host railroad routes cost Amtrak more than $100 million annually. More than 70 percent of Amtrak's route miles are owned by freight railroads.

Meanwhile, the Illinois congressional delegation recently sent a letters to the CEOs of BNSF Railway Co., Canadian National Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad requesting that they prepare and deliver a plan to achieve passenger train OTP of at least 85 percent on Illinois-supported routes.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/26/2008