Freight Delays and Your Amtrak Service

Why is Your Train Delayed by Freight Trains?

Delays can happen for a variety of reasons, but the leading cause of delay to Amtrak trains is “freight train interference.”

What is Freight Train Interference?

This is usually a dispatching decision made by the freight railroad that requires an Amtrak passenger train to wait so that their freight trains can operate first.

Did You Know This is Against the Law?

Amtrak passengers are required by law to receive preference over freight transportation. Unfortunately, the law is often ignored by the freight railroads that own and control most of the rail lines Amtrak travels over. Freight trains caused 1 million minutes of delay to Amtrak passengers in 2019 – that’s equivalent to 2 years of passengers waiting for freight to go first.

We’re doing everything we can to put people before freight, but we need your help. You can let your Member of Congress know that freight railroads are ignoring the law, and Amtrak needs legislation so it can enforce the law for you and put people first.

Get More Information

Check out our blog post about why Amtrak trains are delayed by freight trains and frequently asked questions about freight train delays. To learn more about how we got to where we are today, read our white paper on the relationship between Amtrak and the freight railroads.

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. Each Amtrak route that travels on host railroads is also awarded a pass/fail grade based on how often customers arrive on time.

Two highlights from the 2019 Report Card:

  • Canadian Pacific was the best-performing host railroad for the fourth year in a row.
  • CSX was the most improved host railroad after they significantly reduced their delays to Amtrak passengers across the network.

Rail Passenger Fairness Act

On many Amtrak routes, freight railroads ignore the law and do not provide Amtrak preference over freight transportation. However, only the Department of Justice can enforce this law — and that’s only happened once in Amtrak’s history.

The Rail Passenger Fairness Act, introduced in Congress by Sen. Dick Durbin, would 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.