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Senator introduces bill penalizing sub-standard on-time performance

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) has introduced a bill that would allow Amtrak to sue the freight railroads for preventing Amtrak from meeting suitable on-time performance standards.

“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.


  1. Noble1

    Nutrien to temporarily shutter largest mine as CN strike drags


    In my humble opinion ……….

  2. Noble1


    check this out :
    Railroad Song – Made by an Ex-Conductor for CN on youtube

    Then check this out on youtube : VIOLATION! CN 2865 at Sparrow Lake (04OCT2014)
    Fast forward it to 6 minutes 40 seconds and listen very carefully . CN forces employees into violating Federal laws !

    PSR(Precision Scheduled Railroading) There isn’t anything precise in their railroading “schedules” now ,EXCEPT , CN has “PRECISELY” proven how ” vulnerable” their PSR BS is if they mistreat employees and force them to walk off the job .

    I’m surprised Bill Gates would put up with this sort of “people” mismanagement . If CN stock takes a wild dive as I anticipate it will , B.G. will surely recommend Michael Larson at Cascade make some noise in the matter .

    After all , Bill Gates is a philanthropist who believes in promoting the WELFARE and quality of PEOPLE’S LIVES !!!
    He should take a good look at how he can improve the WELFARE and quality of employee life at CN !

    Where’s is HIS “philanthropy ” IN THEIR & CLIENT REGARD ??? And CN employees and clients help BIll Gates generate profits , NOT CURRENT management through their decision to force a strike and create a clientele uproar in the process !!!

    Cascade recently bought 672,540 CN Common Shares between august 8 & 13 . They over paid in my opinion . Had they waited a bit , they could have paid approximately $10 less per share(approximately just under $7Million less) .

    Quote :
    “Updated Tuesday Aug 13, 2019 02:42 AM EDT
    Cascade Investment, a 10% Holder, acquired 278,622 Common Shares on a direct ownership basis at prices ranging from $90.770USD to $91.925USD on August 7th, 2019. This represents a $33,912,351 investment into the company’s shares and an account share holdings change of 0.3%.”

    “Updated Wednesday Aug 14, 2019 01:45 AM EDT
    Cascade Investment, a 10% Holder, acquired 672,540 Common Shares on a direct ownership basis at prices ranging from $93.009USD to $94.060USD between August 8th, 2019 and August 13th, 2019. This represents a $83,349,113 investment into the company’s shares and an account share holdings change of 0.7%.”

    If I’m not mistaking , I believe Cascade currently holds 25% of the outstanding or very near to it .

    In my humble opinion ………..

  3. Noble1


    Mr.Bill Gates has more power in the current CN situation than the Canadian government has .

    Recent CN management choices are a disgrace in regards to what a gentleman like Mr.Gates stands for : THE WELFARE OF PEOPLE !
    Recent CN management has caused massive suffering among its rail workers and its clientele and its client’s workers !!!

    With one simple phone call to CN management , Mr. Gates can rectify the wrongs current CN mismanagement has created !
    Mr.Gates should take a step forward and show the people what a true hero he can be for their WELFARE in this unfortunate situation caused by CN mismanagement .

    Mr.Gates ! , Mr.Gates ! Mr.Gates ! Everyone REPEAT and call on Mr.Gates !

    In my humble opinion ………………..

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.