Delayed by Freight
Why America Needs the Rail Passenger Fairness Act
Waiting for freight trains is the largest cause of delay to passengers.
Freight train interference — a dispatching decision made by a freight railroad to delay an Amtrak passenger train so that their freight trains can operate first — caused 700,000 minutes of delay in 2020.
Freight train interference happens because freight railroads ignore the law.
For nearly 50 years, freight railroads have been required by law to provide Amtrak with preference over freight. However, many freight railroads ignore the law because Amtrak is unable to enforce it, and as a result, people suffer.
The Rail Passenger Fairness Act will lead to more on time passengers.
Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. have introduced legislation in Congress to allow Amtrak to seek to enforce the existing right to preference. The law is already on the books. This new legislation would simply allow Amtrak to defend our passengers when the law is ignored.
Long Distance On-Time Performance Deteriorates Again in Spring 2021
The on-time performance of long distance trains has declined significantly in recent months as a result of freight train interference delays, further evidence of the vital need for the Rail Passenger Fairness Act. Take May 2021, for example:
|Percentage of On-Time Customers by Route - May 2021|
|Auto Train||Orlando – Washington, DC||31%|
|California Zephyr||Emeryville – Reno – Denver – Omaha – Chicago||42%|
|Capitol Limited||Chicago – Cleveland – Pittsburgh – Washington, DC||34%|
|Crescent||New Orleans – Atlanta – Charlotte – Washington, DC – New York||33%|
|Empire Builder||Portland/Seattle – Havre – St. Paul – Milwaukee – Chicago||43%|
|Silver Meteor||Miami – Orlando – Jacksonville – Charleston – Washington, DC – New York||25%|
|Silver Star||Miami – Tampa – Savannah – Raleigh – Washington, DC – New York||18%|
|Southwest Chief||Los Angeles – Flagstaff – Albuquerque – Newton – Chicago||27%|
|Sunset Limited||Los Angeles – Tucson – San Antonio – Houston – New Orleans||21%|
Who is Delaying Amtrak Passengers?
The Host Railroad Report Card grades the largest freight railroad hosts based on the delays that Amtrak customers experience while traveling on host tracks. The four-year GPA shows which railroads have delivered consistent service. Each Amtrak route that travels on host railroads is also awarded a pass/fail grade based on how often customers arrive on time.
The Host Railroad Report Card includes FAQs on why Amtrak trains are delayed by freight trains.
2020 End of Year Report Card Highlights
Host railroad performance generally improved from last year.
Delays began declining months before the effects of the pandemic were felt in the U.S.
Freight trains are still the #1 cause of delay to Amtrak passengers.
While the law has required railroads to provide preference to passengers over freight for nearly 50 years, freight trains caused 700,000 minutes of delay in 2020 alone — that’s more than a year of passengers waiting for freight to go first.
The amount of freight rail volume does not affect Amtrak delays.
By the end of 2020, rail freight volume was higher than in 2019, while many Amtrak passengers still arrived on time. Data analysis finds there is no correlation between the level of freight rail volume and the amount of delay to Amtrak passengers.
New legislation helped motivate better performance, but more must be done.
The Rail Passenger Fairness Act must be signed into law so that most passengers arrive on time.
What are Freight Train Interference Delays?
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