Crossing North Dakota On a Freezing January Night.

Yesterday I commented on how no one seems to care about the hardships being forced on passengers aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder – great long delays caused by a huge increase in freight traffic involving 100-car trains carrying North Dakota crude oil to refineries in various parts of the country.

OK, so how are things going for the Builder today?

Well, as I write this, there are actually four Empire Builders out there, a day apart – two eastbound and two heading west – with probably 200 passengers on each train.

It’s an ugly scorecard: an eastbound “Builder” in the St. Paul-Minneapolis station is six hours and eight minutes late; the other one just left Havre, Montana, and is running on time. (Of course, all that freight congestion is waiting for it up ahead in North Dakota.) One of the westbound trains is six hours 20 minutes late leaving Leavenworth, Washington; the other just departed Fargo and is now nine hours late.

So how could things possibly get worse than that?

Well, how does a 4-hour bus ride sound? In freezing weather. In the middle of the night. That’s what Amtrak has decided to do: bus people across North Dakota between Grand Forks and Minot, connecting with trains at each of those points. God, I hatebuses! But, realistically, Amtrak has no choice. They’re at the mercy of BNSF Railway because they own the tracks.

Never mind the people; the crude must go through!



(The outstanding photo is by Matt Donnely)

UPDATE: The National Association of Railroad Passengershas written to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking that he convene a meeting of the parties involved and use the power of his office to ease the hardship being imposed on Amtrak passengers.