Durbin sets hearing on Amtrak delays

Durbin sets hearing on Amtrak delays

CHAMPAIGN — Weeks after calling for a study of the potential for increased service along Amtrak's Chicago to Carbondale route, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is holding a hearing in Champaign Wednesday on freight train interference along the corridor.

The meeting between Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliott, Amtrak board member Tom Carper and local officials is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign. The Illinois Terminal is the local Amtrak station.

Does Durbin have a point? Ask Tom Wednesday at 10 on WDWS.

Elliott is meeting with communities throughout Illinois at Durbin's urging. Wednesday's meeting will focus on concerns associated with freight train interference and rail delays that have made Amtrak's Chicago-Carbondale route, along Canadian National Railroad tracks, the most delayed train route of its kind in the nation.

In a July 31 letter to Elliott, Durbin wrote, "I also encourage you to visit Illinois to investigate ways the STB can take a more active role in improving the on-time performance (OTP) for Amtrak trains. Amtrak OTP has suffered significantly this fiscal year along all lines, but none worse than the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route owned and operated by CN. The Illini and Saluki trains are consistently delayed by freight trains, resulting in trains arriving on-time only 54 percent of the time this fiscal year, including one scheduled train arriving on-time only 34 percent of the time."

Durbin called the delays "unacceptable," and said they deserved the surface transportation board's "immediate attention and action.

"Amtrak recently filed an updated petition with the STB citing CN's obstructions and delays that resulted in the dismal OTP for Amtrak passenger trains. I strongly encourage you to visit Illinois to investigate this matter further and use your authority under the 2008 Amtrak Reauthorization law I promoted to enforce OTP standards when a railroad, like CN, fails to keep passenger trains on-time at least 80 percent of the time."

Amtrak's monthly report for June showed that Illini and Saluki trains were on time 63.3 percent of the time that month, down from 81.7 percent a year earlier. For the year so far, on-time performance has been 54.8 percent, a drop from last year's 76.4 percent.

Freight train interference and passenger train interference were cited as the main reasons for the delays on the corridor, which is primarily a single track route.

Earlier this summer Durbin sent a letter to CN president and CEO Claude Mongeau, urging him to address ongoing traffic and safety issues along CN routes in Illinois.

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sanjuan wrote on August 20, 2014 at 6:08 am

This is absolutely correct.   I prefer to use the train to travel to Chicago, both for business and to see the grandkids, but I've had runs experience multiple delays, sometimes nearly doubling the scheduled travel time.   The removal of the double tracks years ago could not have been more short sighted. 

wdlandsaw wrote on August 20, 2014 at 12:08 pm
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Removal of the ATS collision avoidance system that used to allow pasenger train speeds on that line to be above 110 mph didn't help either.