“The Rail Passenger Fairness Act” would allow Amtrak to sue the freight railroads for not giving passenger rail preference on freight rail-owned track as required by law, Durbin said on Nov. 21.
“This bill provides Amtrak with the power to improve its passenger rail service and efficiency,” Durbin said. “By empowering Amtrak to hold the freight railroads accountable when they don’t follow the law, we can improve Amtrak’s on-time performance and save taxpayer dollars. For too long, we’ve seen on-time performance decline as a result of freight interference. The people of Illinois – and Amtrak riders nationwide – deserve assurance that they can arrive at their destination in a safe and timely manner.”
Durbin’s bill follows a report from Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which found that Amtrak’s trains were late 27% of the time in 2018. The report also determined that nearly 60% of those delays involved freight rail interference, according to Durbin.
Durbin wrote a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in late October, urging that the federal agency press Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) for lackluster on-time performance on the Chicago to Carbondale trip on the Illini/Saluki route. On-time performance was as low as 6% for northbound Illini trains and 17% for northbound Saluki trains in 2018, compared with on-time performance of 29% in 2017, according to the report. Amtrak’s OIG defines on-time performance as “how a train performs compared with its published, scheduled arrival time at each station and final destination on its route.”
Canadian National said in late October in response to Durbin’s Oct. 22 letter to the FRA that once the speed restrictions on the line are lifted, Amtrak’s trains should run faster.