Amtrak seeks investigation of Canadian National over routes through C-U
WASHINGTON — Amtrak is seeking an investigation of the Canadian National Railway for what it called "consistently substandard" service on Amtrak's Illini/Saluki trains over the Canadian National tracks through Champaign-Urbana.
Amtrak filed an amended complaint with the Surface Transportation Board, charging that the on-time performance of the Illini/Saluki service was 49 percent for the quarter that ended June 30, following a first quarter performance of 42 percent. The on-time performance of the state-supported Illini/Saluki trains has been below 80 percent for three years, Amtrak said.
The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act mandates that the Surface Transportation Board investigate, if Amtrak files a complaint, when an intercity passenger train service falls below 80 percent for two consecutive quarters.
The CN had no immediate response to Amtrak's amended compliant.
"CN will be responding to Amtrak's investigation request to the STB," said CN spokesman Mark Hallman.
On Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, wrote to the chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, Daniel Elliott, urging him to investigate the issues "and ensure the reliable performance of the Illini and Saluki trains."
"The Chicago-to-Carbondale route has become the train with the poorest on-time performance of its kind in the country," Durbin wrote. "The main problem along this line is freight train interference by the host railroad, Canadian National. The law gives Amtrak preference on our nation's rail lines but despite this right, freight train dispatchers make Amtrak trains wait while long, slow trains pass them on the tracks."
The amended complaint focuses on the Illini and Saluki trains. It "narrows the scope of the proceeding to a single Amtrak service that is consistently substandard," Amtrak wrote. "Particularly in light of the importance of the Illini/Saluki service to the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale areas, the Illini/Saluki service is a prime example of the negative effect substandard performance of Amtrak trains can have."
The Illini/Saluki trains served 340,741 passengers in fiscal year 2013, Amtrak said.